By Don R. Lewis | April 18, 2010

The year was 1981 and after repeated weekly viewings of “The Greatest American Hero” and way, way too many comic books, a 9-year old Don R. Lewis decided he too could be a super hero. Snagging a long piece of green material for a cape and donning an old Lone Ranger type mask, he rushed to the backyard to save someone from something. The only thing missing was some kind of weapon but that situation was soon remedied by a pit stop at the woodpile to grab a hatchet. The best place to see if anyone needs saving is from a high perch so using the hatchet as some kind of climbing aid, young Mr. Lewis climbed a pine tree to see if anyone needed saving. About six feet up the hatchet, which was stuck into the tree above his head, came loose and clocked our hero square in the forehead causing a ton of blood and even more embarrassment. Since that day, his days of being a hero were over.

Matthew Vaughn’s new spin on the superhero genre “Kick-A*s” starts in a similar fashion.  In the film, self-described common, everyday geeky teen Dave Lizewski (Johnson) decides he should try to fight crime. His reasoning is simple; it seems super cool and he can’t figure out why no one else has tried it. Plus, what self-respecting young boy doesn’t at one point or another aspire to be a superhero? Dave buys a cheap wetsuit and some martial arts fighting sticks and recasts himself as Kick-A*s, a hero with no discernible skills or powers other than the desire to do good. He then goes out and promptly gets the living s**t beat out of him. After a somewhat speedy recovery Dave is reborn as a little bit smarter hero who, due to some reconstructive surgery, can withstand an a*s whooping like few can. His heroism in breaking up a gang fight is captured on video and sent to the internet where Kick-A*s becomes an overnight sensation.

His courage and audacity captures the nation’s attention as well as that of local crime boss Frank D’Amico (Strong), who wants him stopped and a pair of local superheroes, and the father and daughter team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Cage and Grace-Moretz), who are intrigued by this amateur. Obviously the film is right in the wheelhouse of comic book geeks and as a recovering one myself, I can say it works on many levels. However the film also has major pacing issues, is pretty damned boring and saddles the audience with the least interesting character in the entire film, Kick-A*s. As a result I felt the film was simply o.k. when it could have been much, much better.

Look, I get that the film lays out the fact that Dave Lizewski is just a normal, everyday teen and that’s fine. But that’s also nothing new as iconic characters like Peter Parker and Bruce Banner are also everyday dudes who are forced into action when they become imbued with special powers. And when they are, they become far more intriguing but this creates a conflict within them and that makes for compelling storytelling. In “Kick-A*s” our hero thinks it might be cool to try and be a hero so he does it and that’s supposed to be enough to carry a film. Hell, Charles Foster Kane started similarly when he thought it would be fun to run a newspaper but he was provided with excellent backstory and brought to life by a terrific actor. Kick-A*s as a character is just kind of “there” and as a result the film is too. An even better example would be M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable,” which sets up a tight little backstory on its lead character David Dunn and as such, we care about what happens to him. Not so here with Dave Lizewski or his alter ego Kick-A*s.

Before you “Kick-A*s” fanatics get up my a*s I should also point out that I totally get that the film is a pastiche type of affair that is simultaneously creating a superhero while commenting on superheroes themselves and the comic book as a storytelling device as well as trying to subvert all that. And that’s all well and good but for God’s sake, does it have to be so lifeless in the first half? I get that Dave is no one special or out of the ordinary but that’s not interesting either aside from the fact that it’s different. “Look! Here’s a guy with nothing interesting about him! Let’s follow his boring, day-to-day life!”

The best parts of the film are undoubtedly those focusing on Mindy and Damon Macready and their alter egos Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. In a twisted series of events, Papa Macready forces his daughter into a truly deranged lifestyle centered on vengeance for her dead mother. They train hard, do exhaustive research and stockpile weapons for the day of reckoning they so badly need to come. All of this is done with a very sweet topping of father-daughter love and the storyline is fascinating. One second you’re appalled at what this man is doing to his daughter and then next, you’re nearly misty-eyed at their affection and need towards each other. These are creative and interesting characters that I couldn’t get enough of. But just when their storyline starts to thrive, we fall back into the Kick-A*s storyline about Lizewski trying to score with a girl or hanging with his equally boring friends. Yawn. As if that frustrating back and forth wasn’t bad enough, there’s a third storyline that gets even less play and is also vastly more interesting than the Kick-A*s one.

Wealthy and powerful crime boss Frank D’Amico is as twisted as Damon Macready and he rules New York with a bloody fist. His son Chris (Mintz-Plasse) leads a safely sheltered life but even as dorky as he is, he aspires to take over for his father someday. Yet his father babies him and relegates him to the outer regions of his work and life. This has an affect on Chris that forces him into the hero business as well and he recasts himself as Red Mist. And just as in the storyline with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, right when it starts getting good we flounder back into the boring world of Kick-A*s.

I’m all in favor of the controversy the film has garnered as well because I love films with difficult and rather despicable characters. Nic Cage as Damon Macready is exactly this kind of character and it’s a very cool, difficult storyline to navigate. Even though we all would agree training an 11-year old to kill isn’t morally straight, we understand why he’s doing it and can either reconcile and accept it or be totally turned off. Even those choices teeter-totter though and I find myself constantly wondering what I might do in the same situation. Plus, Mindy is really, really good at what she’s been trained to do and when Hit-Girl goes into action, we get a glimpse at what “Kick-A*s” could have been; a post-modern, a*s kicking superhero movie. But at the end of the day the film trudges through a dull and trite first two-acts before finally kicking into gear in the third when it’s too far-gone to salvage. I was hoping “Kick-A*s” would be a film that inspires more creative and original takes on the superhero genre but instead it’s just an o.k. spin on it that could have (and should have) been much more. Like “Watchmen” before it, this is a movie playing with the comic-book genre but due to lack of character development and too much leaning on source material, it becomes just another missed opportunity.

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  1. ShortArmSalute says:

    Nope. I’m in the camp that says it was nearly as “enchanting” a tale as it thought it was, which is my exact same complaint about Vaughn’s adaptation of “Stardust”. Both movies had a really great source material, but there was a definite loss in translation. Both of the aforementioned films had “moments”, but a lot of the major set pieces just came off as flat. Even though I realize this isn’t fair, just compare the crackle of say…Kiddo’s fight with GoGo Yubari in Kill Bill against the teddy cam shot of Big Daddy clearing out the warehouse. I felt that in the latter scene there was nowhere enough dramatic impact to make me suspend as much belief as I did for the former. I respect Matthew V for his choices of material, but I just don’t think he has the chops to pull off his fantastical visions successfully.

  2. bob says:

    Shitty, half-assed, uneducated review more deserving of a transient posting on 4chan than a movie review site.

  3. davillus says:

    Hey Graham Rae I bet your favorite movie is the English patient u blow hard jerk off.The funny thing is I would like to shove a piece of coal up your *ss because it would definitely turn into a diamond in a matter of weeks.Lighten up… U maggot the movie was a feel good, funny, delightful treat. I can almost guarantee your a homely *ss muncher w/ a bad attitude.This movie Kicked-A$$.

  4. Jc says:

    It’s not just putting on a suit and fighting crime. You have to be truly f*cked in the head as Big Daddy and Hit Girl proved.

    This was a truly excellent movie. Sad, serious and funny on so many levels.

  5. Jeremy Knox says:

    I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t. The only thing that bugged me is how the film borrows not one, but two, fairly well known musicals themes. One from “28 Days/Weeks Later” and one from “Sunshine”. It felt like a temp track for a screener more than a genuine soundtrack.

  6. Raymond Bos says:

    it was a kick a*s movie .
    i l liked it it was differend but nice great play by all performers .

  7. J-Man says:

    Interesting review, but I thought the film was put together pretty well.

    No lagging parts; every scene was pertinent. However, I do agree the movie definitely picks up when Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are onscreen.

  8. ArthurRatnik says:

    I agree that the Kick-A*s character was boring. I know he was supposed to be that way, but by the end of the movie he should have been at least HALF interesting. It seemed to me the script spent all it’s juice on Big Daddy and Hit girl and just hit the requisite notes for the title character- and hit them rather tritely at that.
    This was an enjoyable movie, but ultimately pretty forgettable.

  9. Don R. Lewis says:


    again, the comic may be amazing, but I didn’t read it yet. And I reviewed the MOVIE, not the comic. I think what your saying gets to the heart of another issue I have with the film: people projecting what they think happened or know from the source material. It’s not in the movie.

    I didn’t complain about the violence and Kick-A*s is a boring character. Is this supposed to be a teen comedy movie where the geeky guy pretends to be gay to get the girl? Then make that movie, don’t bore me with this lame buy chases girl crap and then throw in some superhero stuff. Hell, they couldn’t even explain what Dave’s crush was doing hanging around that druggie guy well!

    If Werner Herzog or von Trier directed this film, maybe it wouldn’t have pulled punches. It certainly wouldn’t have had a boring first half.

  10. Dasha says:

    I completely agree 100% with what you were saying. All of the hype over this movie caused me to be really disappointed when i left the movie theater. In my review I point out that I was expecting a Tarantino style action flick and a Judd Apatow type comedy, but I did not get it. It was too slow paced from the beginning and by the end I just could get into it.

  11. That’s like saying “Water is wet, pally.” Well you pretty much learn that very early. Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, etc.

    But all the people complaining about the violence, and the bland characters, and whatever the f*****g moral high horse they’re getting on really don’t understand Millar’s style, and are really too brain dead to know that the original comic was much more vicious with the Hitgirl character.

    “Too much leaning on the source material”? It doesn’t do enough leaning on the source material. In the comic Dave is beaten up by his crushes boyfriend who sends him a picture of her sucking his dick, and Dave is so pathetic he jerks off to it in the end.

    I guarantee you if Lars Von Trier, or Werner Herzog directed this, all of you would be jizzing your pantaloons right about now.

  12. Don R. Lewis says:

    That’s great about Mark Millar but this movie is so-so. Great comics don’t equal decent movies pally 😉

  13. I don’t know what the f**k any of you are prattling on about, I thought Kick A*s was great and a lot of fun. I intend to see it again. I may not be a fan of Mark Millar, but his comics are original.

  14. jack says:


  15. Shane says:

    The point of the movie was to show that this kid was not interesting. Maybe it wasn’t handled that well. In my opinion they should have gotten a character director over an action director. This story, to me, is driven much more on character than it is on action. So, the Kick-A*s we ended up with was one where the fighting, the blood, and the gore upstaged the actual movie. THAT, is where the movie failed most of all. The sad part is that every negative review I’ve read has basically preached that there should have been more Big Daddy and/or Hit-Girl or more action sequences. How about having someone do the pertinent part of the story correctly. Maybe then we would have gotten a movie worthy of it’s source material.

  16. Shawn says:

    Just as Graham cares not we think of him we care not what he thinks of Kick-A*s. So in actuality Graham, no one cares about you at all….

  17. Jared says:

    Parts of the movie were pretty dull because they were talking about kick-a*s, but the action scenes were outstanding! The action scenes definitly saved the movie.

  18. Michael says:

    Well, after reading this I feel like a jerk for liking it. But, I’m not going to change my opinion because of a review. I enjoyed reading it, though.

  19. Graham Rae says:

    Film was pseudo-smart crap. Watching 11-year-old girls killing people and then getting badly beaten is not my idea of fun, and I don’t care how ‘old’ or ‘uncool’ you think I am by saying that. It thought it was far more intelligent and (sneer) post-modern than it was. Videogame-spinfluenced braindead shite. Its international pedigree (from a comic book written by a Scotsman and translated to the screen by an English woman, and being filmed in England and Canada) is almost vaguely interesting, showing the homogenizing effects of crap American popcult violent nonsense on the rest of the world, but it’s just ultimately sadistic wannabe-cool pointless shite.

    Boring beyond belief or relief.

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