Kick-Ass | movie review

Kick-Ass lives up to its name.  Best movie I’ve seen at the theater in months.  I had pretty high hopes going in–all the bad reviews I saw were focused on how violent it was, which just made me more excited–and sometimes that kind of anticipation makes the actual movie experience a let-down.  Not so in this case.  I had a smile on my face throughout the movie, which, while in some ways exactly what I was expecting, also managed to surprise me with its take on the superhero phenomenon.

Aaron Johnson plays the high school student comic geek who decides to become a masked hero (Kick-Ass) just because he can.  His first foray lands him in the hospital with bones that need plates to heal and damaged nerve endings, but that is only a boon for his new line of work.  When he’s back on the streets again, he meets a father-daughter duo (Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl) who are real masked hero types–vast and astonishing collection of weapons, constant training with them, and a plan for their vigilante justice that involves taking down the biggest crime lord in New York City and taking sweet sweet revenge for the death of Chloe’s mother in the process.

Up front, I am not familiar with the comic book this movie is based on, other than knowing it exists. But there was I thought some very strong referents to comics.  Some was simple self-awareness of a contemporary “superhero” story acknowledging the familiarity in our popular culture with the masked avenger but the rather startling lack of them in real life, and the frequent comic references from the high school geeks who hang out at the local comic shop.  There were also scenes that were framed and colored like comic panels, along with as much ass-kicking as the title and premise suggests…just like any good superhero comic.

The biggest surprise to me in this movie was that it wasn’t completely farcical.  The commercials make it seem like maybe a bit of a tongue in cheek violent romp through the park, but it in fact has a serious side.  Essentially, that what Kick-Ass starts off doing is basically a stupid kid out to have an adventure; the situation he gets wrapped up in with Big Daddy and Hit Girl frightens him enough to want to quit putting on his mask.  But by then it’s already too late; he’s been targeted by the crime boss (Mark Strong) and has to suffer the consequences right along with them.  I was actually happy to see him presented in a way that made Big Daddy’s quip that he should called himself Ass-Kick so pertinent–not that many people are actually all that good at fighting, especially not when put up against those who have trained for a lifetime to do so.  It gave the movie a much-needed edge of danger and reality to keep the story grounded.

Because there was definitely some flights-of-fancy awesomeness going on, most of it surrounding Hit Girl.  She was the real star of this film, and Moretz played the part brilliantly, flipping between excited daddy’s-little-girl, teasing kid, and all-business superhero putting down roomfuls of grown men.  Some of the best death sequences I’ve seen since Shoot ‘Em Up came with her pointing the gun.  Also one of the best-filmed shoot-out scenes I’ve ever watched.  It’s in a room that is completely dark, and it has four different motifs to keep the long–it was about 4 minutes–shoot-out interesting.  First she puts on night-vision goggles and goes into a video-game first-person-shooter look.  Then she uses a strobe light to make herself a hard target and we see what it looks like to be staring down at death in that form.  Interspersed with these two styles are camera shots of empty blackness punctuated by flashes from the various guns.  Finally someone lights a fire and she uses the strobe as a decoy, and we watch her come up from the side in strobe effect. And all of this was overlaid with one of my favorite pieces of cinematic music from the last decade, the intense, building, and dramatic “Sunshine, Adagio in D Minor” from the Sunshine soundtrack.  It. Was. Awesome.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t an intensely bloody movie. There was a high body count and plenty of explicit violence, but relatively little blood spray and almost no use of blood for an artistic effect.  The filming was good enough that it didn’t need to have pools of red adding color to an otherwise neutral room or anything like that, so despite the “hard R” rating it’s much more for the amount of violence and the fact that it shows a lot of deaths rather than because it has a high gore factor.  I’m guessing that most of the “too violent” criticisms actually come from the 12-year-old girl being the center of so much death and mayhem.  Swearing, as well, as she cracks jokes about the mayor having a sky signal that “looks like a giant cock” and ends one of the shoot-outs with the line “show’s over, motherfuckers” before she takes out the camera.  But all of this is in keeping with her character as the beloved and well-trained daughter of a dangerous man bent on revenge, and I personally found her charming.  All the characters were played well and cast well, actually, from the villains to the high school kids.  She was the stand-out, but they all did a great job.

The music used was well-chosen throughout.  As I mentioned, they used a John Murphy piece from Sunshine; I also picked out more Murphy from 28 Days Later, and some Ennio Morricone from For a Few Dollars More, along with pop music that complemented scenes either by being humorous (“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley) or emphasizing the attitude of a character (“Bad Reputation” when Hit Girl is hitting it).  This was a movie that was intentionally referencing other pieces of popular culture, which was only fitting when the storyline is based on someone trying to make a piece of that fantasy culture real.

If you’re thinking about seeing a movie with an R rating named Kick-Ass you have to have some expectation of violence.  So, if you’re thinking about seeing it at all, that probably means you’re okay with a bit of the ole ultra-violence, in which case–go see this movie. Now.  It was everything it should have been, and it left the ending wide open for sequels.  If they’re going to be like this first installment, I say bring it.  The world could use a little more ass kicking.


  1. We saw, appreciated and assessed the same movie though the same eyes, emotions and reflections. Great job.

  2. This move looks really lame.. if I want kick ass I’ll turn on Tarantino movie.. or even a western, shit anything looks better than this. I really hate that kid from Superbad.. also,

  3. Jim, you’re a goddamn moron.

    This movie fucking kicked ass! Hit-Girl was by far the greatest thing about it.

  4. If you’re into Morricone, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called “Showdown at the BK Corral.” It’s basically a Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks – very influenced by Morricone. I’d love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at

  5. Jim, this movie is more entertaining than anything Tarantino has ever shat out.

    Here is a comedy that is a better action movie than most action movies these days, pure popcorn fun from start to finish.

  6. Wow, this is one of the best reviews I’ve read about this movie. Spot-on agree with everything. The movie rocked my world as I know it and I’m never the same. Great job.

  7. I don’t think Jim actually saw the movie.. he was judging it based on commercials and trailers..

    that in itself is pretty stupid.. go jim!

  8. As somebody that walked out of the theater during Hancock, I went into the movie not expecting much, but because of the rated R rating I figured it could be a cool movie. Then it turned out exceed my best expectations. Your review was pretty much how I saw it. The only thing is I’m glad I did not read your review before I saw the movie. As I knew nothing going in. When Hit Girl gets shot by the dad I knew I would like this movie. I hope people go see it because I want good movies like this to be made in the future.

  9. Can’t remember laughing so hard in years… literally. Hit Girl was absolutely amazing and completely absurd and endearing, and of course sad. I did not want to ever hate McLovin, but you can’t have everything. Super fun movie, but DO NOT BRING CHILDREN to this film under any circumstances. There is no way for a child to process this story. Lines are crossed back and forth so often that you really have to commit to laughing at it and with it rather than getting caught up in some of the more tragic and serious elements. Deserves the R rating and it should be respected.

  10. Just when I thought there was no originality left in Hollywood, something a little daring comes along. Yet at the same time it still manages to give us all the titular kick-ass popcorn action we love so much. It’s such fun you’ll even forgive, nay applaud, the rampant cliches! It’s pretty much a cross between “Mystery Men” and “Equilibrium”, so if you liked either, you’ll love “Kick-Ass”. v(^^)o

  11. Just saw the movie recently and was blown away with how good it was, I didn’t read any reviews prior but stumbled across this piece afterwards and I totally agree with everything that’s been said here spot on. 😀

    Only thing I like to add, for some reason I wasn’t too keen on Nicholas Cage for his role, don’t know why he just doesn’t fit but other then that great movie.

  12. This movie is fantastic! They better make a sequel with the same director and cast. Everything fit together so perfectly, the actors, the soundtrack, the violence and the director made it beautiful. This will be a cult-type movie by the end of the year, once everyone who saw it makes everyone else see it. I will buy this the day it comes out on DVD! Everyone else should too. Show them we need the sequel and it will be a hit!

  13. I just finished watching this movie and I… want to see it again. That’s happened only once, or twice in my life. After laughing my guts out and cheering for the ‘real’ kickass heroes, the length of the movie, I feel exhilarated and totally spent. What an experience.

    Can’t say enough good things about the character that stole the show. Of course, Hit Girl. Chloe Moretz is absolutely adorable and if she stays away from trouble (read: Lindsay, Hilton, Spears & Co.) they will be talking about her into the next century.

  14. This is by far the best review and comment board I’ve read on Kick-Ass.

  15. That is the most stupid movie ive ever watched. There is no sense in, with this stupid scenes of meaningless killin and boring action. Everything in that movie looks so stupid and lame, that i couldnt watched to the end, i stoped the movie and throwed it to the trash… Sorry if im offending someone, but its my personal view about it. About the Tarantino movies, they are far far away better and unattainable, its another space…

  16. Jim is a stupid doofus. He hasn’t even watched it.
    I feel sorry for Valeri. She can’t see any meaning in it. Very low IQ especially for being sorry she might offend someone.

    The thing many people commenting here are missing is that the movie is not really a comedy. Black comedy is not simply comedy. You can feel sad in parts, or shocked, or maybe laugh. It’s not meant to be scoffed at when Big Daddy is burning to Death, or when Kick ass says he would rather die than let 3 assholes beat up 1 guy… and they want to know what is wrong with him when everyone else is watching and doing nothing.

    This is the best movie I have seen in a while.

  17. Great, great movie. Not for everyone, though. If you are not into the superhero genre, you might not appreciate all the references and moral cunundrums that are present. I can see why Valeri did not like it. However, I can see why many other people did. Great music, great acting, great characters and character development. I, too, had to watch it again and that hasn’t happened in a long time(just like Sheikh commented). When the action occurs, it’s spot on. When the jokes come at you, they hit the mark. When the pathos shows itself, you indeed feel it. I, too, hope they make a sequel. Haven’t seen such original movie making (and attention to such detail!) and great ‘not-the-same-old-remake-crap’ that’s been coming out of hollywood in a long time. Great film. Go see.

  18. How can anyone like Tarantino movies and not like this one? Valeri please stop being an idiot. And Jim- Go see the movie you won’t regret it! I didn’t want to see it because yes, the trailer looked stupid to me and yes- I don’t care too much for the kid from Superbad myself. I saw it from word of mouth and I can honestly say it’s in my top ten favorite movie list!! INCREDIBLE!!!! ( I think this kind of action is what people expected from Watchmen…)

  19. I didn’t like the movie. The violence wasn’t exhilarating like Tarantino’s Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, (movies I loved). It was just misplaced and uncalled for. I expected to see action and humor along the lines of Hellboy, Xmen or Wolverine, and was disappointed. My fault: Didn’t check the rating. But I know a good violent, dark movie when I see one, (dawn of the dead e.g.) and Kick Ass just isn’t one. It falls flat.

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