The advertising made available for Kick-Ass was quite unique. If you were a fan following it online through various R-rated clips or red band tidbits, you knew what type of film it was. Those unwitting bystanders who merely went by the trailers shown on TV were ultimately treated to a much darker and action packed film than advertised. This isn’t a huge surprise considering how hard to advertise something like Kick-Ass is to advertise. I never got a chance to see this film in theaters simply because I could find no one to go with me to see it—not so much because of the subject but simply because the advertisements made it look like something you didn’t go to the theater to see (in that it was more comedic than action packed). While the film certainly wasn’t a smashing success by any means, it did end up bringing in over three times its budget back when worldwide ticket sales were taken into account—not bad for a film whose main critical focus was that of a foul mouthed little girl.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an ordinary teenager who goes unnoticed in high school until he takes a chance to “do something” and dons a mask and becomes “Kick-Ass” to fight real-life crime. Bruised and beaten and without any real super powers, he is saved by a father-daughter duo (Nicholas Cage as “Big Daddy”, Chloë Grace Moretz as “Hit-Girl”) who know all the right moves and have a vendetta against a vicious crime-lord, D’Amico (Mark Strong). After a fiery internet storm of publicity for Kick-Ass, D’Amico wants to meet the masked man, and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) dons a costume of his own and becomes “Red Mist” to befriend him and get in his father’s good graces. The story comes to a head when D’Amico succeeds in luring the crime-fighters to his home and ass-kicking destruction ensues.
I’d never read the comic this film was based off of, but that’s only because I’d really never heard of it until the film started to roll into production. I’m sure it was something I would’ve eaten up had I known about it back when I was still reading those things on a daily basis, but as it stands now I know only of this comic book as a film so I can only treat it as such. Those I knew online who had seen it loved it and did nothing but sing its praises for weeks, so I knew I would at least be in for an entertaining time…but there’s really not much that can prepare you for your first viewing of Kick-Ass, simply because there isn’t much else out there like it.
Ok, so it’s a lot like an R-rated version of the first Spider-Man movie. Awkward teenager becomes a superhero and gets the girl, but Kick-Ass does it in such an unconventional way that it still seems fresh. Even when it does directly spoof Spider-Man or other superhero films, it mixes things up enough that it allows you to get the reference all the while still enjoying the film. I was worried early on that it would degrade into a foul-mouthed version of the Toby Maguire outing particularly after that roof top jump sequence, but minutes after that sequence I was ready to embrace this film fully. Even with these changes of events the film still isn’t absolutely perfect, but it ends up being a lot better than the mess it could have been.
Truly speaking it’s not even the title character that saves this film. It’s the Big Daddy and Hit Girl combo that helps elevate this film to new levels of awesome. Not only are their characters hilarious and touching in their own right (the opening sequence of bullet testing is probably the perfect way to introduce them), but the performances from both actors respectively are outstanding. On my first pass I thought Cage’s yelling at Hit Girl during one of the final acts of the film was strange, but by the second time I watched it I realized it was really quite necessary—not only because of the pain level that Big Daddy was in at that point, but also just because it fit the mood of the scene. Without that duo I doubt the film would have been nearly as entertaining (or controversial) as it ended up being—hopefully I’ll be proven wrong when the inevitable sequel comes out.
The films $30 million budget (of which was apparently raised by director Matthew Vaughn at a dinner party or something) does hinder it at some times; the penthouse/apartment scenes are noticeably green screened at times and some of the other action sequences are rather mediocre looking at times (there’s also a few situations of low-level lighting that was a cause for some transfer issues on the Blu-ray, but I’ll cover those later). Still, that’s to be expected and even in the end the budget for the film looks way higher than what it really was—overall it’s a pretty slick looking production from start to finish.
Kick-Ass is far from a perfect film and it may end up not aging too well in the future, simply because it seems to have borrowed a lot of ideas and concepts from other superhero films of the past decade. For now it’s an unrepentant and violent action film that will likely please fans for years to come as it manages to mix in real-world scenarios and situations in with the usual comic book fantasy world in a way that’s not quite been done before. It’s not a terribly unpredictable story but it is a fun one and as long as you aren’t easily offended by violence or children inflicting the majority of it then you should find Kick-Ass to be a Highly Recommended time. And hey, Nicholas Cage and Lionsgate finally put out a film that was worth watching again—I was afraid their last was going to be Lord of War!
Lionsgate pushes Kick-Ass out on Blu-ray in a three-disc release. Inside the slipcover-draped Elite Blu-ray case is a pair of inserts and the three discs – one Blu-ray, one DVD, and one digital copy (why they didn’t combine the DVD with the digital copy, I don’t know…but whatever). Menus for the Blu-ray are simple and easy to navigate (with those neat little time and weather widgets), but navigation was very, very slow for me for some reason—but then again it also took about two minutes to load the disc, so it may just have been trying to talk with Lionsgate’s servers too much…who knows.
Moving onto the AVC encoded 1080p 2.40:1 transfer we actually don’t get the usual flawless presentation out of Lionsgate. I’m not sure if it’s the source material that’s the culprit or what but this wasn’t the pristine presentation I was hoping for. True, the majority of the film oozes detail out of all of the frames, but there are a handful of sequences that just ruin the overall presentation. Quite a few sequences that were obviously overcast with grain were cleaned up with a bit too much DNR (mostly the Mark Strong sequences, as he rarely had a lot of detail on his face—there were only a few elements inside of the apartment that looked genuinely good). Then there was the films seeming inability to cast blacks as…well, blacks. A lot of the edges of the film or dark scenes had a blue overcast to the blacks, something I noticed at first in the bowling alley sequence…but it continued to progress on throughout the film. Thankfully the Hit Girl sequence towards the end of the film in the warehouse was pitch black, which makes me think it was a visual element that Vaughn added to it. In the end it’s not a terrible transfer, but it’s definitely not the wow-er I’d hoped it would be.
The audio on the other hand is perfectly pleasing. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix thuds and booms at every turn, spreading the love around to all of the surrounds and making full use of the LFE output. There is quite a bit of dialogue in this film and all of it spits out of the center channel with superb clarity while all of the films many ,many (many) varied sound effects echo throughout the room. Gun shots are deafening and stabbings are as brutal as they should be. There are also the occasional “new” sound effects, like a guy getting microwaved, that are about as aurally pleasing as you would expect them to be.
Ok the first thing to note about the special features on this release is that there really aren’t that many. The list just looks huge. Let’s go through them:
• Ass-Kicking Bonus View Mode (Blu-ray Disc Exclusive) – Synchronous with the feature film, this innovative multi-media presentation incorporates video and audio commentary, behind-the-scenes clips and illustrative graphics with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Matthew Vaughn, plus cast and crew providing an all-access perspective on Kick-Ass
• “A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass“ documentary (Blu-ray Disc Exclusive, 1:53:04, 1080i)
• “It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass” featurette (20:36, 1080i)
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Matthew Vaughn
• “The Art of Kick-Ass” gallery
• Marketing Archive
• BD Touch and Metamenu Remote
• Lionsgate Live™ enabled, featuring extra content for Internet-connected players
• Enhanced for D-Box™ Motion Control Systems
The things on that list you can ignore are…well, all but the first three entries. I say this because the “Bonus View Mode” combines the Vaughn commentary with video, so there’s no real reason to watch the film with just the audio track (especially since Bonus View Mode includes other goodies as well). The remaining extras on the list are just the usual photo galleries and extras listed for length purposes. But the real highlight of this set (Bonus View aside) is the nearly two-hour documentary on this film. This is exactly the kind of extra I like watching, as it combines everything you could possibly want on a home video release into one tidy making-of. The comic book featurette was a nice bonus as well and when you add everything up this Blu-ray has to offer you’ll find it to be a Highly Recommended package.
Overall this film isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy it will no doubt want to own this Blu-ray.
Kick-Ass arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on August 3rd.