Saturday, 10 April 2010

What I've Been Watching: Kick-Ass & Whip It

With No Power Comes No Responsibility

When footage from this movie was shown at comic-con, it sent shockwaves through the internet. Bloggers, fanboys, and 'proper' journalists were all raging about how good the movie looked, and in particular the character of 'Hit-Girl', an 11-year-old assassin.

It's perhaps no surprise that director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Layer Cake) had trouble getting funding for this movie. Like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he ended up phoning in a few favours and got funding independently. As a result what we see on the screen feels like the fresh, inventive, and compromise-free movie this turn-of-events allowed him to create.

It opens with Dave, a 'typical' high-school teenager wondering why no one has ever become a superhero before. He decides the rectify this, and invents his new alter-ego Kick-Ass. After becoming a youtube phenomenon, he gets contacted by Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and father and daughter combo determined to take down the local mafia boss.

The film works for many reasons. The first is the obvious thought put into the world of Kick-Ass. His costume - He buys on-line, his first confrontation - ends with six months in the hospital. His attention leads him to making enemies with a mafia boss. As Kick-Ass points out "The real world may not have heroes, but it still has villains."

75B6720E-476E-49CF-AB57-90106C010167.jpgThis attention to detail makes the world and its characters very easy to buy into. Their motivations for doing what they do are all very clear. It's easy to sympathise with their plight. The story develops at a very natural pace, as Kick-Ass gets more and more in over his head.

It's also worth pointing out, that despite the obvious implausibility of seeing a young girl be so violent, the relationship between her and Nicholas Cage's Big Daddy is incredibly well written and portrayed.

Before finishing this review, it's important to mention the violence, which although extreme, is no more so than plenty of other movies of similar ilk. For example Sin City, Kill Bill, or 300. Perhaps what makes the violence more shocking is that a large proportion of it is being done by an 11-year-old girl. She slices, dices, and shoots her way through guys twice her height and three times her size with relative ease. Her swearing is also done with similar finesse and lethal precision.

Despite this controversial portrayal, the film does have a moral message of sorts. A stand-out line is when Kick-Ass says, and I'm paraphrasing here:

"What's wrong with me? You three guys are about to kill this one dude, while they just record it on their phones. What's wrong with me?! What's wrong with you?"

Interweaved through out the movie is the way people respond to both real-life violence in front of them, and as shown on the internet. One of the questions the movie seems to ask is has the internet created a world of observers, more likely to record something tragic than prevent it?

Overall, this is a very enjoyable, well made movie that will most definitely become a cult hit. In fact I think it will probably sum up something of this generation when we look back upon it in ten or twenty years time. As such it may be one of the most important movies to come out this year.

D65336CA-E9ED-4C61-9633-9B0BFC194A1E.jpgWhip It
The shoes are a gateway drug.

For me my memories are very closely linked to music and movies. I can catalogue my life's timeline fairly well by my favourite movie/band at the time. For example, I remember the first time I really fell in love with a movie when I was five (Home Alone), or the first band I ever saw live and the impact it had on me(Radiohead).

Strangely, both these experiences were recalled in the movie, with Marv from Home Alone playing Ellen Page's father, and the soundtrack featuring Radiohead, along with some other favourite bands of mine - Kings of Leon, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Go Team, and MGMT.

Add to that Maeby from Arrested Development, Zoe Bell from Death Proof (the poster for which is on my wall), and of course Ellen Page (Juno), who is fast becoming my favourite person in the world right now. In many ways it feels like someone's looked inside my brain, sucked out my memories and added roller skates to them.

The story is of a girl, Bliss, who's sick of doing pageants at her Mom's bequest, so comes across the roller derby, and decides to give it a shot instead. The roller derby is essentially speed skating meets American Football. One person has to skate as fast as they can, while their teammates block and pummel the opposition skaters. This being a teen movie, she does it without her parent's knowledge. And she meets a boy.

F55CCD79-4818-4251-9C5F-AA8923D758B3.jpgThe plot itself is probably the weakest part of the movie, with few diversions that will surprise the audience. What did surprise me was my attachment to the characters, who all feel like real people, and react in very well-rounded ways to everything that happens. All have well constructed motivations and relationships with enough depth that they never feel like slaves to the story.

In particular the relationship between Ellen Page's character and her mother is incredibly well written and performed. Like the best drama, the joy comes from knowing that both parties have correct points of view, and I became very invested in their relationship as the movie drew to its conclusion.

I'm willing to admit that the combination of an awesome soundtrack, Marv from Home Alone, and Ellen Page meant I had a lot of sympathy for this movie to start with. However, I do feel like there is a genuine quality here that fans of coming-of-age movies like Juno and An Education will appreciate.

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