KICK ASS (SD DVD)
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2010
RATING: R for Strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use--some involving children
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
VIDEO: 2.40:1 Anamorphic widescreen
AUDIO: 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, with English and Spanish subtitles
Dangerous as this might be, I am going to make the assumption that the majority of people who will read this review are aware of Kick Ass. I will dispense with a summary of the plot and just say that I had a hell of a good time watching Kick Ass. The theatrical release of the picture was preceded by an advertising blitz that generated a lot of excitement and chatter. While the box office numbers did not appear to reward the investment, the film's modest budget resulted in avoiding red ink..barely. Upon release, much of the press about Kick Ass focused on what the advertising didn't show us: the drama behind the (seemingly) comedic action about a boob in a wet suit and a little girl in a mask dispatching bad guys with a one-liner for each punch or kick. The buzz became blow-back as shock was expressed about the little girl's language and the bloody death she inflicted on the bad guys. Did this kill the box office? Who knows. Was the point of the film missed? I think so.
Kick Ass IS a great time. The Dark Knight might be hailed as "the first great superhero movie," but I think Kick Ass might be the best representation of a superhero comic book on the big screen. If it wasn't based on a comic book, I think folks would have praised the picture's "comic-like sensibilities." The action is way out there as is the blood and gore. Despite their lack of powers, our heroes behave in ways that only comic book characters can. Hit Girl/Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz, who is a revelation. I cannot wait to see her in Let Me In) is able to amputate a thug's left leg with a swipe of her blade, despite her diminutive physique. A first act beating and stabbing by two muggers leaves the title character, also known as mild-mannered Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson) with a load of metal screwed to his bones and desensitized nerve endings that jump up his pain threshold. There's revenge to be had, gangland execution by microwave, escape by jetpack, and--most important in a superhero first chapter--the origin of the good guy and his costumed nemesis.
What elevates Kick Ass in my view, is the quality of the characters. Hit Girl and her costumed father Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) have a VERY complicated relationship. His love for his child is affected by his need for vengeance. While they have a very snappy patter going, what stuck in the back of my mind was the thought that Big Daddy has turned his very little girl into a tool that brings death...in very entertaining ways. The relationship seemed so real that I began worrying about the child's psyche (as, apparently, did many reviewers) until I remembered that this was a comic book and, sure enough, when Hit Girl became Mindy again, she was all ponytails and smiles.
Kick Ass/Dave gets chewed up and spit out by bad guys several times in the story. In true comic book fashion, he is able to come back for more, time and again. Yet, when he is rescued from the clutches of a drug dealer by Hit Girl, he is horrified by her Terminator-like killing spree. Body parts fly and blood sprays while Kick Ass dissolves into Dave, who cowers in a corner, his eyes wide with fear and disbelief. The character, and the actor, make it all so real...until it isn't and Hit Girl is flashing a smile and encouraging Dave to follow her across the rooftops of the neighborhood, joyfully bounding over the gaps between flat roofs. It's these frequent, momentary injections of reality that raised the adrenaline response for me. Big Daddy and the gangland chief he stalks are comparatively one-note when put against the youngsters who are the heart and soul of Kick Ass.
I found Kick Ass to be a very satisfying combination of superhero formula thrills, teen comedy laughs, and jaw-dropping shocks with the last mostly provided through Hit Girl/Mindy. It's familiar and it's fresh and I want MORE.
Unfortunately, I cannot be as generous about the video presentation as I was about the content. The image is frequently muddy and lacking in detail. Characters in long shots are somewhat difficult to follow as they become blur. This is particularly distracting in night shots or indoor scenes with low light. Green screen and process shots are sometimes painfully obvious. The sequence involving the jetpack yelled 'sound stage' to me. Without having the benefit of seeing the BD, I don't know if this is a product of the DVD or the way the scene was originally lit and shot. Either way, it distracted me to the point of pulling me out of the picture for a moment.
Presented in 5.1 Dolby EX, Kick Ass sounds great. Gunshots explode, the wonderful original score and well-placed songs rocked across my speakers, and the dialogue, from whispers to shouts, was crisp and clean. While labeled at Dolby EX, I did not find my rear center channel speakers getting a workout. That aside, I have no complaints with the audio presentation.
There's a modest number of features on the disc, but one is a real find.
First, we have a feature-length commentary by Matthew Vaughn who jumps between technical info and anecdotes about the actors and the on-set experience. He's very low-key, but never boring. I found it interested that Vaughn felt he needed to amp-up the beatings that Kick Ass takes lest any kid watching the movie gets the idea to put on the spandex in real life and try to chase bad guys. I also love his honesty. He initially describes a future re-issue of the movie on DVD as "the director's cut." He goes on to correct himself, stating that, "This is the director's cut. I mean the extended, make-more-money cut." Quietly hilarious.
"The Art of Kick Ass" is a series of storyboards of several action scenes. I watched the disc on a 57" screen and I had trouble distinguishing the detail on the 3 panel, full page, black and white pencil drawings. The scrawled handwriting describing the sequence? Ted Williams couldn't read it.
Lionsgate generously included an unending stream of trailers for upcoming theatrical and DVD releases. Fortunately, one can skip through these.
The star of the extras is "It's On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick Ass." This feature is fully devoted to the comic book Kick Ass. Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., author and artist of Kick Ass, describe the creation of the characters and story with assist from inker Tom Palmer and colorist Dean White. The featurette runs a bit under 25 minutes and tells the tale of the story's development as well as that of the process of creating a comic book. I was fascinated and very jealous that I can neither draw or write comics. These guys are having so much fun!
Watching Kick Ass is a great way to spend two hours. This DVD is compromised by inadequate video quality. I will watch the disc again, though, as I plan to turn my friends and family into Kick Ass converts. I look forward to the comic book sequel and hope it results in a second film, with the same creative team. It's clear they were devoted to the project. If you haven't seen Kick Ass, I recommend it. If you have, it's worth seeing again.
OVERALL RATING OF THIS DISC (NOT AN AVERAGE): 3.5/5