Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
I really like Matthew Vaughn. “Layer Cake” showed that he could direct a british gangster film just as well as he could produce them. (He used to produce Guy Ritchie’s films.) And “Stardust”? While no where near as good as “The Princess Bride” it’s still the closest anyone has ever come to capturing that kind of magic again. So Matthew Vaughn + Mark Millar? That must be a win, win right? For the most part, yes. And if the movie ever falters, I’m willing to put most of the blame on Mr. Millar’s shoulders.
There’s no way around this, Mark Millar is a fucking awesome comic book writer. He doesn’t have the most original ideas in the world, but the way he utilizes the ideas that he does have is like no one else. And his dialogue, while often quickly dated, is fast and furious and never a chore to read. Without a doubt, in a medium where only a handful of individuals are actually any good, Millar is well near the top, but he has weaknesses. For one thing, he always sort of comes across as a douchey ego maniac. Grant Morrison can get away with “talking down” to his audience because he’s, oh I don’t know, much smarter than most of us. Millar isn’t. He’s a smart and talented man, but not so much more than anyone else with a little drive and dedication. But I’m pretty sure that Millar is his own god. “Kick Ass” as a comic book is all high concept and very little character development. Like 0 character development. God damn near zilch.
Vaughn on the other hand, took this comic book (and more importantly the characters) and working with his co-writer Jane Goldman, put some history into them. He gave them something to fight for and something to die for. In the comic, Millar does a little bit of this, but in one of his high-concept twists, takes it all away in the second last issue. (Though I will say that the character of Kick Ass’ father is much better in the comic.) The only other time the comic trumps the movie is the ending fight sequence. There’s a couple of key changes and it’s pretty obvious why Vaughn thought he had to change what he did, but the ending fight in the comic is a tad more fulfilling than in the film.
But like I’ve said, the film isn’t perfect. And it’s more than just simply a flawed source novel. The one thing that has always seemed to trouble Vaughn is balance. “Layer Cake” was too slow and then too fast. “Stardust” was too kidsy at the beginning and occasionally too broad. “Kick Ass” is no different. Vaughn has a hard time finding the balance between comedy and gritty reality. Sometimes the violence comes across as hilarious and sometimes it comes across as so harsh that it’s hard to keep watching. I have no doubt that this is something Vaughn was going for, but regardless is makes for a slightly bi-polar film.
The casting of “McLovin” is also an issue. He was good in the film and he worked for what his character had to provide. The problem comes with the idea of the inevitable sequel. I don’t think Mintz-Plasse is going to be able to deliver, I just gotta say it. But we’ll see.
Otherwise, “Kick-Ass” breaks down into an entertaining, action packed, funny ride. Sure, Hit Girl is about 1000 times more interesting and fun a character than the titular one, but what the hell, at least you get both of them. And I also have to mention the music cause Vaughn did an amazing job of referencing other classic action films through the soundtrack. That was probably the best part of the movie, and by doing this Vaughn turned “Kick-Ass” into an allegory for the action film genre as much as “Kick-Ass” the comic book did for the comic book industry.