Cage Match

Nic Cage, not Kick-Ass, is the one kicking ass in this week’s film, Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass
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Kick-Ass

Release year: 2010 Posted April 13, 2014

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)

The almost perfect Kick-Ass has one fatal flaw: the protagonist is the least interesting character. Nominally, Kick-Ass is a violent, gritty, and grounded story about a shy high school student who decides to assume the superhero alter ego “Kick-Ass.” The problem is this character (played by Aaron Johnson) is formulaic and boring. Kick-Ass quickly discovers he’s not the only costumed vigilante in the city, and joins with Hit-Girl (13-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz) and her father and mentor Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage—dressed very much like Batman).

The chemistry between Cage and Moretz is so immediately engaging that during the (many) scenes when Johnson is on screen without Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, you’re just thinking about how you want them to come back. It doesn’t help Johnson that, when the characters are introduced, Moretz is wearing a bulletproof vest and Cage is preparing to shoot her in the chest as a part of her training. That may be the best relationship exposition I’ve seen in a movie. A father gets closer to his pre-teen daughter through shooting her? Genius.

As you can see in the previous clip, Cage lovingly refers to her as “child” throughout the movie, and it becomes oddly endearing. They interact so genuinely with each other that sometimes you forget what they are doing. Of course it isn’t long before you’re reminded, as this movie has Tarantino-level amounts of blood. It’s really really violent. Comical, ridiculous, over-the-top violent, but nonetheless very graphic.

The other thing to note in the clip is the way Cage speaks to Moretz. He reserves that gentle tone of voice for her character. When talking to others, he’s more gruff and brisk. And when he’s in the Big Daddy costume, he takes on another pattern of speech, channeling Adam West.

I actually couldn’t believe my ears at first. The costume for Big Daddy already seemed dangerously similar to Batman’s. The studio’s lawyers apparently felt it wasn’t over the copyright infringement line, and whenever Cage speaks as Big Daddy he’s clearly doing an impression of Adam West’s Batman. It’s hysterical.

Unfortunately, all of the Batman nonsense is a betrayal of source material. In the comic Kick-Ass, Big Daddy has a completely different costume, backstory, and relationship with his daughter. It’s too bad, really. I’ve never known why a director or writer would make such pointless, drastic changes. It works in this case—but only because Moretz and Cage sell it like gold.

All in all Kick-Ass was very violent and generally entertaining. It has some great homages to comic books, but it’s ultimately not a good film or good comic adaptation. I’m happy to report that the success of this vehicle was entirely dependent on Cage, and he really drove it home.

Movie?
Not so good
Nic Cage’s acting?
Really, really good
Did his performance make the movie worse?
He saved the movie from itself