From the previews, I expected “Kick-A–” to be a campy spoof on the superhero genre, a sassy take for teens on films like “Spiderman” and “The Dark Knight” – and from the opening scene I quickly learned those expectations were completely right … and completely wrong.
And before any audience or, God forbid, any parents – like that fool behind me in the theater who brought his two preteen sons to this “superhero” movie – develop any other expectations of this film, a message must be said, no, shouted from the rooftops: Learn to discern before going to the movie theater!
When I was on my way out the door last night, one of my children asked (as they often do) what movie I was going to see.
“Some superhero movie,” my 14-year-old son answered for me (as my children also often do).
His answer was telling, because that’s what this film was sold as. That’s what teens and parents and even film critics like me were expecting: a superhero movie. This film, however, is not just a superhero movie.
Movie audiences have been conditioned by the recent glut of superhero flicks to expect that spandex costumes translate to modern-day versions of Adam West’s “Batman,” where baddies get a “Bap!” and a “Pow!” and fall down, while the good guy prevails and saves the day.
Yeah. Not in “Kick-A–.”
Had I only watched the previews (and not been wise enough to research the film at a site like screenit.com before entering the theater), I would have expected the movie to be far from a cinematic masterpiece, but at least it might be some good, innocent fun. I would have been dead wrong … on both expectations.
There’s nothing “innocent” about “Kick-A–,” a brilliant but brutal and disturbing smashing of the superhero genre that dares to portray what would happen when the fists and bullets actually start flying, not in the squeaky-clean world of Adam West, but in the ugly, dirty streets of a real-life New York City.
Indeed, when teenaged Dave Lizewski first dons the green and gold spandex to begin fighting crime as a new breed of everyman superhero, his first confrontation leaves him stabbed in the gut, holding his entrails in as he staggers into the street – where he is startlingly struck by an oncoming car, the driver of which then speeds away to leave him for dead.
Get your nose out of your comic book, Dave, and welcome to the street.
This film is gritty, profane, oversexed and savagely violent. It’s also creatively written, fantastically directed, shocking, original and, frankly, brilliant.
But can you praise a film that kills dozens of characters in increasingly graphic and gory ways, can’t string together two sentences without an F-word, features a masturbation monologue, adolescent breast fantasies and public humping? To compliment this film is kind of like praising the composition of “P— Christ,” the controversial photograph that features a crucifix dipped in urine.
And while this film is not to be compared to a crucifix, it is still a masterful piece of art … that has nonetheless been dipped, dunked and slathered in Hollywood excrement.
What’s masterful about it? It does spoof the superhero genre, with clever parallel scenes and uproarious humor. At the same time, it blows apart the genre by showing Dave, the superhero wannabe, terrorized by the real face of crime and evil, of fighting and death. It shocks. It’s emotionally moving. It’s original and thought-provoking. It even presents a powerful message: all evil needs to spread is for good men to do nothing.
In the film’s most poignant scene, Dave (in costume) has single-handedly taken a savage beating to protect a stranger from three thugs attempting to kill the man.
With Dave standing over the bloodied body of the stranger, an audience of a dozen bystanders snapping pictures of the fight on their cell phones and uploading to YouTube, the chief thug asks him, “Would you die for someone you don’t even know? What’s wrong with you?”
“Three a–holes laying into one guy while everyone else watches … and you want to know what’s wrong with me?” Dave responds.
Having grown outraged at a society that refuses to help a stranger in need, he makes his decision: “Yeah, I’d rather die.”
In a later moment reflecting on his lack of superhero powers and society’s lack of care for the helpless, Dave satirizes the famous “Spiderman” line:
“With no power comes no responsibility,” he says. “Except, that isn’t true.”
But masterful composition aside, what’s the excrement? It’s splattered all over this picture. See the “content advisory” section below. I’ll only spell it out once to save readers the revulsion.
Which leads back to the topic of expectations.
Why does Hollywood make a film that’s clearly marketed to teens and kids with cartoonish superheroes and storylines of adolescent angst, only to bait and switch on the genre with an R-rated (but how many in the general public really noticed that), graphically violent, adult-themed (like the shooting and beating of an 11-year-old girl), soft-porn flick?
It practically constitutes false advertising. And apparently it works: I counted more than one parent in the audience who came with preteen children.
Was the brutality of it meant to be instructive, to shock teens into realizing the comic-book movies present a false reality? If so, why the smutty content? What were the filmmakers thinking?
I tried several different answers on for size to this question: maybe it’s all about the money, and the filmmakers think being “edgy” will make them more dough. But watch the box office receipts. “Kick-A–” couldn’t even win out its opening weekend, falling behind a cartoon movie in its fourth week in theaters.
Maybe there’s a Hollywood conspiracy to purposefully corrupt teens, to steal their innocence by luring them into theaters with spandex and then hitting them with excrement.
Or maybe, maybe, the brilliant minds that made this movie were nonetheless morally unchecked by the Truth, their gift from God corrupted by the absence of his guidance.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).
When Peter Parker of “Spiderman” said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” it was actually a decent paraphrase of Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
That’s one legitimate truth found in superhero movies that the makers of “Kick-A–” should not have discarded.
- “Kick-A–” is overloaded with over 100 profanities and violations of the Third Commandment. A very few have comic effect, but most are simply stupid additions to the dialogue. Even for a film made by the godless, some script editor should have been more liberal with the red ink.
- The film is graphically and brutally violent, with dozens of characters dying in grisly ways, including in a car demolisher, in a microwave and by knife, gun and bazooka. Blood and gore is all over the place, shown liberally when a character is punched with brass knuckles, beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed in the gut. Fighting in every form is prevalent, and the film’s most lethal slayer is an 11-year-old girl. That girl is also shot repeatedly and beaten in a fistfight with an adult male. One character is also killed by being burned alive.
- Sexual themes are laced throughout and in a juvenile manner, including a daydream sequence about a teacher’s breasts, an extended monologue about masturbating to Internet images, some sexual groping and a partially-clothed, standing sex scene. Some female nudity and partial nudity is present.
- A significant theme in the film is the mistaken belief that Dave is homosexual, which enables him to get closer to a girl who would otherwise be intimidated by a heterosexual boy. The plot device provides for some jokes from Dave’s friends, who know he really has a crush on the girl.
- The only noticeable religious or occult instance was the singing of “Glory, glory, hallelujah; his truth is marching on” during a scene in which several men are killed by Gatling gun.