kick-ass

Lionsgate held a round of test screenings in the last couple days for Matthew Vaughn‘s big screen adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book series Kick-Ass. I’m not quite sure why they are testing the film, as I know the studio knows they have a great movie on their hands. Also, I heard about screenings in both Los Angeles and London. Lionsgate released a batch of character teaser posters, launched the film’s official website iamkick-ass.com, and the trailer will be online on Sunday November 15th (at least according to the countdown clock, although the weekend date seems a bit odd).

A friend called it “one of the best movies” he’s “EVER SEEN” and claimed that he got more of a movie high off of that than the first MATRIX. Someone else called it a cross between Matrix and Shaun of the Dead (you will see that the Matrix comparisons are pretty consistant) and called it “the best superhero movie ever made.” We received two anonymous reviews overnight, which you can read after the jump. Both are extremely positive, and fairly spoiler free.

As always, the usual disclaimers apply: The /Film readers below are not professional reviewers/film critics (as far as we know…), and their opinion does not reflect that of /Film. The print that was screened appears to be an early cut of the movie, and thus is not a 100% accurate representation of the final film. That said, here are the reviews:

The first review is from “IG”:

Avoiding spoilers I worry it just sounds like ranting and raving summing up to “THAT WAS AWESOME….” but what can I say? That’s where my head is at, all over the place cause my mind got blown…

I’m sure you’ll be getting lots of emails on the subject as Lionsgate is cranking out Screenings like gang busters but I just came from one and hot damn, what a flick. I never read the comic but this movie was a great fun incredibly violent ride.

The cut I saw was very much R rated, they did not pull back from violence or language in the least. Graphic violence and language for all sexes of all ages, equal opportunity obscenity. Seeing the mayhem on the screen tonight I’m glad the filmmakers acquired independent financing rather than make sacrifices in the major studio system for PG13 demands. A child dropping F-bombs, C-bombs, and committing acts of mass murder… OK I suppose its understandable to feel hesitant about that. But sometimes you need to take those chances and not pull punches and here it pays off. The action throughout the film is superb and there are sequences where my eyes were absolutely glued to the screen. I fear over hyping, but I’d say not since the Matrix Lobby Shoot Out have I had so much fun watching the bullets fly across the screen.

The mayhem was set to pure temp track, Superman, Batman and Sunshine being three stand outs. Hopefully the completed score will live up to the energy I felt tonight. Effects were still in progress but looking good. I had heard from a previous screening that the ending was all anamatic so they’ve made lots of progress since then. The only stand out was a “comic strip” sequence giving some much needed backstory on a particular character, this sequence was all in pre-viz form.

For some reason I find it very refreshing that I can be proud of Nicholas Cage on the screen again. Nice to see him putting in effort in a great film once more. The entire cast was wonderful to watch, the standout of course being Chloe Moretz playing Hit Girl. Her dynamic with Cage is pure entertainment (in a twisted kind of way) to watch.This leads me to my only complaint for the film, Kick Ass himself. Nothing in particular was wrong with the character or actor with exception that his arc seems in a way so standard that standing next to the assortment of colorful characters he becomes less interesting. Reflecting on this point too long feels like nitpicking, and to explain further may lead to spoilers so… moving on.

Overall this movie lived up to its title. It simply… kicked ass… and I can’t wait for more. Again, I haven’t read the comics but a world is introduced here in a way that I look forward to a healthy dose of sequels. The crowd tonight was cheering and applauding throughout. Hopefully this film will catch on and be successful enough to teach the larger studios that sometimes you need to go for the R. (What Watchmen?) If it’s not a commercial success for whatever reason this is guaranteed cult classic status, period. I can not rave about this movie enough and await the final cut in April. I’ll have to wait till then to begin urging all my friends to check it out. It’s been discussed on the Slashfilimcast before that there’s a tendency to over-hype oneself for being one of the first to see/experience something that’s still awaiting its release on the world. Only time will tell for sure if the hype is deserved. Until then I can only say I had a fantastic evening viewing, Kick-Ass.

The second review is from Ranjit R:

First off, let me preface this by saying that I have not read any of the Kick-Ass comic books. I am an avid comic reader and a film geek, but reading that particular comic is something I haven’t gotten around to yet. That being said, after seeing an early screening of the new Kick-Ass movie, that comic has now jumped to the top of my list.

As I write this, I’m desperately trying to refrain from making what is an inevitable statement from at least one critic as the release of this film draws nearer – that “Kick-Ass truly kicks ass!” But simply put, it’s a statement that I can’t argue with. Equal parts Spider-Man and Superbad, Kick-Ass is a terrific film filled with the level of action we’d desire from any good superhero movie while possessing comedic dialogue and storytelling that had me laughing harder than I have at any other movie in 2009. It’s rare to see a film take multiple genres and meld them so well, but Kick-Ass manages to make it so, creating an overall mood more satisfying than any given moment in Hancock (the last film to attempt such a mix).

Though Hancock may have made enough money to satisfy the studio, the film was rife with problems, especially because it seemed that the drunken, Bad-Santa-esque superhero we were hoping for was replaced by the watered-down, politically correct version. And here is where Kick-Ass stands alone. Learning in the first five minutes that Dave Lizewski (the character who eventually becomes Kick-Ass) spends the majority of his lackluster teenage life wacking off to internet porn and that his own origin story bears no semblance to the likes of Spider-Man (no vengeance story, no super powers, no responsibility), we quickly realize that we’re in for something we haven’t seen before and, dare I say it, a superhero movie that doesn’t pull its punches (or jokes).

These early moments with Dave are followed by a quick “meanwhile…” over to an abandoned lot where we are introduced to Nicholas Cage’s character, Damon Macready, aka Big Daddy, and his daughter Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl (played by Chloe Moretz). We watch as Damon shoots his daughter in the chest at close range to prep her for the shots they may take in the field. Shortly after, they talk over hot fudge sundaes as Mindy casually doles out f-bombs and we are hit again with message that this is a both a comedy and a superhero movie unlike anything you’ve seen before.

What’s more is that the film can actually back up these early statements. Where Spider-Man appears to be relatively successful on his first few attempts at fighting crime, Kick-Ass is a complete failure, getting into fights that are bloody and brutal, landing him in the emergency room. But these early fights aren’t a total loss, as they garner him a cult following around the city – the impetus that aligns Dave Lizewski’s story with those of the other characters and transcends Kick-Ass to the level of doing more than fighting petty crime.

Though these scenes are pretty fun, I have to say that by far the best scenes in the entire movie are those that involve Mindy Macready fighting crime as her Hit Girl persona. The mere concept of seeing an 11-year-old girl beat the shit out of hoards of thugs and criminals is entertainment enough, but the excellent choreography and the fact that Hit Girl is actually maiming and killing these villains brings to fruition the idea that Hit Girl is an absolute bad ass. And while one would think that seeing her encounter groups of criminals only to leave them in a bloody mess would get old, Vaughn continues to up the ante throughout, resulting in what can only be described as one of the best climax action sequences I’ve ever seen.

On a side note, props to the producers and casting for picking (relatively) unknowns for these lead parts that managed to deliver terrific performances against their co-stars, especially when they could have cast Zak Efron,

Okay, so now that I’ve lavished enough praise, I have to note the cons. No, Kick-Ass was not perfect, but I will say that its problems are few and far-between and most lie in the story structure. The movie tends to lag in the middle. Despite the fact that the film is called Kick-Ass, there are significant portions that don’t feature Kick-Ass at all. This combined with the multi-story writing makes it feel like the movie is twice as long as it actually is. The first half of the movie alone is filled mostly with the Kick-Ass origin story. While a great deal of comic geeks and film geeks hold the general opinion that origin stories should be left out of the feature presentation (and I tend to agree with that sentiment for the most part), it’s difficult to argue its inclusion in this particular film. The simple point of the matter is that Kick-Ass is NOT a known property on the level of Iron Man, Spider-Man, or the X-Men. Therefore, some degree of an explanation appears to be necessary, at the very least to allow for the audience to truly associate with this adolescent vigilante.

Furthermore, the movie is also bogged down by its structure. From very early on, the film is divided into three stories. So we’re not just following Kick-Ass, but simultaneously following the subplots of Big Daddy and Hit Girl AND Red Mist and Frank D’Amico as well. But rather than having those subplots occupy just a scene or two each with the absence of the main character, as any typical film would do, one could almost argue that any of these supporting characters – Big Daddy, Hit Girl, or Red Mist – could be the main character or at least on the same level as Kick-Ass. This could be read as a good thing or a bad thing, as this allows for all the characters to feel more complete, more human, but at the same time, any greater focus on other characters draws away from the focus on Kick-Ass himself.

Despite having not read the comic, I feel that this aspect is actually directly tied to the stylistic choices of the director, Matthew Vaughn. One aspect I noticed when watching Vaughn’s previous film, Stardust, was that the villain is not necessarily as bad as you’d expect her to be and the other supporting characters are fairly human. That is to say, they’re good, they’re bad, and most of all, they’re fallible. Such is the case with Kick-Ass, in which we don’t just see a bunch of kids running around and fighting crime, but we see how these actions impact the relationships between these characters and their respective parents, whether the parents be the heroes or villains, eventually establishing the dichotomy of two generations of superhero struggles and ending with the ushering out of the old and the ushering in of the new.

Such is the level that this movie speaks on in terms of the superhero genre. And while some may say that making such statements is overestimating the depth of this superhero-comedy, as I watch the main character shove a copy of Watchmen into his backpack, I can’t help but think that it was all intentional.

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