As we all have probably heard by now, Jim Carrey is disavowing KICK-ASS 2 because he feels, in light of recent massacres, that he cannot promote the film in good conscience. This has been the subject of some mockery, of some “like you didn’t know guns killed people before this movie” style poking. I, on the other hand, think it is worthy of applause. I don’t think actors, even those opposed to guns or in favor of gun control, are hypocrites for making movies with shootouts, explosions. Presumably, Anthony Hopkins is not pro-serial killer cannibals, but no one would think to criticize him for starring as one. Same goes for playing a gun wielding maniac while advocating, say, an assault weapons ban.
On the other hand, if, as an actor, something that happens that makes you reconsider playing certain characters, well I think that’s perfectly valid. If Carrey is uncomfortable with what a movie he made because a tragedy has made him reorder his priorities, I say more power to him. That’s laudable, not mockable.
I was pleasantly surprised by KICK-ASS—for reasons to be delved into below— so I’m looking forward to this entry which brings back most of the players on either side of the camera (Nic Cage, you will be missed). I believe strongly there is a difference between making things that depict violence and encouraging/inciting violence, so I feel no conflict in seeing a movie with heavy dollops of it, like KICK. That isn’t the case for Carrey, evidently, and that’s ok too.
As readers of all kinds of written words know, it is pretty rare that a movie lives up to or captures the essence of a novel, biography, comic, or short story. Even rarer are the ones that outdo the source material. KICK-ASS is one of those rarest of the rares.
See, I don’t like the KICK comic. I know plenty of people do, but, for me, it’s…just not good. I know some are offended by it—and in fairness to them writer Mark Millar has a grand tradition of showing remarkable tone deafness of issues regarding depictions minority characters despite being largely acknowledged as a pretty leftist/liberal fella—but I wouldn’t go that far. Truth be told, the book never commanded my attention enough to get me to evaluate whether or not I found it offensive. I never even finished reading the first limited series, a rarity for me. I missed an issue somewhere along the way, felt nothing, and decided I might as well save myself the time and money on tracking it down/getting the rest of it since it clearly didn’t keep my interest.
The movie, on the other hand, I quite like. The lead character himself, the titular “hero,” is still not much of a draw. I’m honestly struggling to remember even one line he uttered. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a fine job in the role, but there’s not much there there, you know? He feels like the prototypical lead that critics like to bang on about when criticizing super hero films as a genre.
The supporting cast, however, is a treat. I have a weird thing with Clark Duke in which I like every one of his performances, so it is nice to see him show up as one of Kick-Ass’s best friends. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the son of the film’s bad guy (played by Mark Strong) nicely plays the isolation his character feels and how that desire to belong is at war with his desire to impress his dad. Admittedly, his eventual “I swear vengeance” moment likes any kind of punch, but I think that has a lot more to do with the way it is scripted, a 0-60 heel turn, as opposed to how Mintz-Plasse plays it.
However, the big draw is the bizarre but sweet father-daughter/established hero-sidekick relationship as portrayed by Nic Cage, a national treasure, and Chloë Grace Moretz, a child actor of unusual talent and bearing. As Damon Macready/Big Daddy and Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl, they’re great fun. Affectionate, dedicated to one another, and almost certainly unable to interact in society in a healthy way without this “outlet” they put a zing in the movie that its premise—“superheroes but in the real world”—never quite manages.
Recommended overall, but the Cage-Moretz scenes are high recommends.
(Oh, not to undermine things, but it should be mentioned that the music is largely awful.)
I chose this movie since Johnson-Taylor also stars in it, but who I really want to talk about here is the director of SAVAGES, Oliver Stone.
I am not a Stone fan. I’m NOT not a fan, either, but he’s never hooked me like he has several others. I say that as a disclaimer, I suppose, so fans can feel free to dismiss my opinion on his work as they see fit.
Anyway, even as a non-fan I feel comfortable saying that I’ve noticed what I can best describe as a period of creative fallowness that had crept into Stone’s work over the course of several films. Differing from many I liked neither U-TURN nor ANY GIVEN SUNDAY and point to them the arrival in a marked drop in quality and clarity. I’d argue that, with the gift of hindsight, it was a derailing that probably started building as early as ‘89’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. Starting then, Stone’s movies began to swell in both ambition and focus, neither necessarily a bad thing. However, along with that came an increasingly sense of bloat, of not making choices, to steal from WONDER BOYS.
In the early films of the period, Stone seems to be able to overwhelm these distractions, directing the bulk of his quintessential offerings—JULY, JFK, NIXON, NATURAL BORN KILLERS. By ALEXANDER, however, it was clear he had lost that battle long ago. Even U-TURN, a relatively slim offering for this “middle era” suffers from lumpy pacing, as though Stone can’t keep his focus on his own plot.
I suspect that Stone himself might have felt it too and overcorrected. WORLD TRADE CENTER and W are comparably tightly made films that never feel messy. They also never feel particularly electric. They are Stone movies in credit, not feel.
Which brings up to SAVAGES. It’s not a great movie. It’s weird tonally, it proceeds in fits and starts, you can almost feel the generational divide between the director and the stars right there on the screen. However, it is also an unquestionably Stone film. Stylish, political (albeit in a murky way, which is arguably how Stone best does politics) it’s not a return to form but it is a step back up the road. Do I think Stone has another PLATOON, JULY, or even TALK RADIO or DOORS (hey, I like those movies ok?) in him? I honestly don’t know. But after SAVAGES, for the first time in years, it feels like he might. It’s not a recommend for me as a single entity but if you are at all interested in Stone as a filmmaker or are interested in film as a study, it’s an entry in him filmography worthy of being included in syllabus of his movies, if you will.