Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Charlie:

Ah, with a lovely Chiefs win in the can -- 42-20 over the maddeningly inconsistent Jaguars -- I can turn my mind to other loveliness.

Yes. I'm talking about RED. I'm also talking about KickAss. Watched both this last week and... dude....

But first, I wanna congratulate my boys. Yes, the Jags were playing with an untried last-string quarterback who was driving a tractor when he got the call that he was back on the active roster and... um... starting in five days. That said, until an interception by Derrick Johnson threw off his mojo, Bouman was playing smart football with astonishing poise. He's a hard man to sack, as he can shrug off the most imminent attacks until he can throw the ball away.

However, our defense just wore their offense down. And our offense wore their defense down. In all, despite that back-n-forth first half, this was the Chiefs' most complete game yet. Offense and defense agreed that they wanted it, and special teams pitched in with some excellent return coverage. Beautiful.

So... RED. No, I don't think it's generally capitalized, but I like it that way. Reminds me that it's an acronym.

Someone called this flick a more cerebral Expendables, and I can't really disagree. I loved Expendables, but for different reasons. This movie takes these actor-type stars and turns them into action-type stars... and still manages to succeed.

Of course, Bruce Willis is always just candy to watch. He can play it straight, he can play it funny, he can act, and he can do the action. You put him in a movie, and he gives you what you want. And his retiree pension-check-havin Everyman persona in the beginning is just... sweet. A little socially awkward. Very sweet.

And then people break into his house and he turns into someone else entirely. Except he really doesn't. He's one of the few guys in the world who can keep that endearing, sweet awkwardness while being a stone-cold killing machine. The kinda guy who'll save your life and still open the car door for ya.

Then, they go and surround him with a cavalcade of stars. Brian Cox is also always a joy, as is Morgan Freeman. I'm loving Helen Mirren lately. She was sparkling as Nick Cage's mother in National Treasure 2, and she is equally sparkling here. She has this ladylike sassiness that I hope to have now, let alone in another thirty years.

I'm kinda hit-or-miss with John Malkovich. He is undoubtedly an excellent actor, but that doesn't mean I like all his movies. However, he spends the money here and sells out to his crazy-pants persona here in a major way. And it's believable because he believes it himself. His paranoia and confusion and child-like lack of reasoning (compounded by his eerie-accurate nose for Washington plants) make him a fun character to interact with.

And who knew Mary-Louise Parker could hang with this kind of crowd? But she does, and she doesn't get lost in the scenery. Her kooky pension-office mundanity contrasts nicely with Bruce Willis's "how's retirement working for you?" awkwardness and sets off some very mild, very amusing, very enjoyable chemistry between them. It's not the ridiculous firestorm of a Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Instead, it's... sweet.

And, in my opinion, much more satisfactory.

This flick is a character study that just happens to also be an action flick. Because of that, it works on every level. Good times.

And then, there's KickAss. Again, pretty sure there's a space there, but I like it all smushed together. Deal.

I like comic books. I like graphic novels. And most of the time, even with the inevitable losses encumbent in a changeover to movie format, I like movies made from comic books and graphic novels.

But I love this one.

It starts off simply enough. You have your average kid. Drowning in mundanity. He's not a geek, but he's not a jock. He's not the head of the class, but he's not the tail of it, either. He isn't an artist, a musician, a chess whiz, or D&D basement-dweller who dresses up like an elf every weekend. He's just average.

Of course, he doesn't want to be.

He wants to be a hero. He wants to stop handing over his spare cash to the gangs in the area (and his comic books). He wants to take a stand for something. And, of course, he wants to get the girl. Or at least get her attention.

Enter... Kick Ass. The newest superhero. And perhaps the shortest-lived.

In his debut outing as a superhero, he gets stabbed and run over by a car. In a way, that's the perfect backstory, as he ends up with Wolverine's skeletal structure (well, not adamantium, but hey) and a pain tolerance that makes a masochist look perfectly healthy. But in all, he still doesn't have any super powers. He can shrug off a hit because it doesn't hurt, and he can take a knock to the leg without a broken bone, but he's no stronger or faster or better-trained than before. And he doesn't have the gadgets.

But there are a couple of folks in the city who do. Enter... Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

Both have a backstory also worthy of graphic novel status, and both have a grudge against the big drug-and-crime pusher in the area, Frank D'Arnico. Mark Strong. Just sayin.

I'm lovin me some Mark Strong. I even like him when he's not exactly a bad guy... though that's pretty rare. I mean, c'mon. He's a pretty good bad guy.

At any rate, this is where the movie goes from formula "make fun of what you love while lovingly embracing it" territory to the true sublime. This movie pulls no punches. Little girls just mowing down grown men, grown men beating the crap out of a teenager in a costume while torching another guy, a grown man beating a little girl within an inch of her life....

Definitely not PC. No wonder Matthew Vaughn insisted on finding his own funding instead of going with a Hollywood house. He wanted to keep in all the graphic pain and frustration that make this flick about the characters instead of about the over-the-top violence.

Because again, this is a character study. These aren't cookie-cutter Hollywood walk-ins. These are people you feel like you've met before. Even Hit Girl and Big Daddy, who are bona-fide psychotic and know it and are okay with it, come across as perfectly believable and legit. They're vigilantes of the most vicious and ruthless sort; they care nothing for the law because they know it can't and won't protect them, and so they have no limits when it comes to dealing out their revenge.

Contrast them with Kick Ass, whose weapons are basically police batons as opposed to guns and who is more armed with good intentions and a sense of right than with a blind need to dish out a vengeance buffet.

Yes, this is an action flick. Yes, it's even a comic book movie. But this is nothing like Spider-Man or Superman or even Batman. There are homages and in-jokes, yes. They poke fun at the heroes that spawned Kick Ass's need to fight back.

But at the same time, they succeed where those classic heroes fail. Spider-Man was mutated by spider venom. Superman wasn't even human. Batman had all the money in the world to fund his ventures (though, seriously, of the bigguns, he's my favorite because under all the gadgets, he's just a man bent for justice, which is hella cool).

Kick Ass? Well... he has a cell phone, but that's about it. He even has to ride a bike to the scene of a given crime. He's truly an Everyman, and he makes us Everybodies watching feel like we could put on a borrowed jetpack with mounted Gatlin guns on the shoulders and... ya know... not do too shabby, either.

And that's a good feeling. It's why the movie works.

Watch it.


Mark Strong. Just sayin. Or... ya know... repeating. Mark Strong.


At 10:47 PM, Blogger Kethry said...

Kethry: I totally agree with your Kickass review. You really nailed the movie. *two thumbs way up*

At 11:25 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Honestly, I was blown away by it. Sure, it looked cool from the trailers, but they made it look PG-13, at best. This flick is R all the way and proud to be so.

God love it, but just watching it makes me happy.


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