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Wow, the Americans didn’t screw up for once!

But first, a public service announcement.  I really didn’t see this as a “remake” (and won’t characterize it as such).  They didn’t remake the original film, from what I’ve read.  Rather, and according to the ending credits, it was adapted from both the novel Let the Right One In and the screenplay for the movie.  Now, if they instead had “adapted from the film”, then we’d be more into remake territory.

Now, I won’t repeat much here, since a lot of stuff I covered was already discussed in the previous review, for Let The Right One In.  Once again it’s up to the lead actors to pull off the isolation of their respective characters (changed from Oskar and Eli to Owen and Abby, respectively), and they manage it quite well.  Kodi Smit-McPhee is becoming quite a good actor, both from this and what I saw of him in The Road late last year (which I think I’ll rent and write about in full length).  Chloe Moretz (she dropped the “Grace” apparently, but I’m sticking with the full name for tagging purposes) is proving to be a dominant child actor, given this role and her brilliant performance from Kick Ass earlier this year.  Richard Jenkins plays the father figure for Abby exactly as it should be played: a tired old man nearing the end of his life, pondering his existence as a caregiver for a vampire.  His role is quite haunting.

There are some changes that do work out for the film: the setting was moved to a snow covered 1980s New Mexico.  Some of the backing characters are removed or muted, with a police detective playing a central role in investigating the death of a former high school student.  The creepiness is still there – the film is beautifully shot, and the music adds to the atmosphere.  Probably the best sequence is during the second botched attempt of the father trying to get blood for Abby: he escapes with a victim in a stolen car, driving backwards and twisting around before being hit and careened off the side of a highway.  It lasts about 40 seconds or so, but the seemingly single take of this sequence – all from the back seat of the car – was very impressive.  That said, some of the special effects are downright horrible, mostly involving two of Abby’s kills (almost reaching the unintentional hilarity of the cat scene in Let The Right One In).

In the end, it comes down to whether the film needed an American version.  Probably not – the overall message of isolation, bullying and anti-bullying, and issues of existence doesn’t change – but it is made competently, and hopefully will let Americans to go out and search the sources of this movie, mainly the book and the Swedish film.

B+

Do you know how impossible it is to find an all-rated trailer (at least an embeddable one?), and not a R-rated one?  Damn… anyway, I think this may be the international trailer, but I’m not certain.

Without sounding horribly cliched with the name (which is impossible to, but what do you expect with America today?), Kick Ass was certainly, well, kick ass, in a way.  You do certainly get what you paid for: manic amounts of action and bloody violence, barrels full of cursing, and the enjoyable pleasure of wishing (or not) that your parents trained you in the martial arts at a young age so you could go around slaughtering people at 11 years of age.

If that’s what you’re expecting (and all that you’re expecting), then congrats, you have an easy ‘A’.

But…

First off, this movie is surprisingly dark.  It really doesn’t move that way until maybe halfway through the film, when other subplots start kicking in, but things do get dark.  They mainly involve the back story of Big Daddy, but the violence also g0t relentless, not in that over-the-top sense, but the “I’m killing you and you stay dead” sense that you’re killing people just to kill them.  I did a quick scan of review blurbs and found someone who suggested comparisons to Shoot ‘Em Up, and I certainly see the connection.  Kick Ass has more plot though (Shoot ‘Em Up was a bloodbath every five minutes, and quickly grew boring about half way through).

The movie drags at times too, mainly through the middle section.  I started not liking the film at that time, and I can’t really place my finger on it: too slow, or too much action, or just the fact that I didn’t find it entirely funny that an 11 year old has the mouth of a cracked out Pop-Eye the sailor (maybe I’m getting old…?).  The final act was good, but I didn’t entirely like the concluding action piece.  The music didn’t seem right to me, and there was too much CGI special effects occurring.  That said, the choreography was sound, and the movements of a highly trained eleven year old seemed quite believable.

Actually, the better action sequences came before that one.  Two of them in fact, and I think the music attributed to that.  Thinking back on it, the music draws the film into that dark territory I mentioned earlier.  The first sequence involving Big Daddy played off of his character’s subplot (which is a common plot, but I won’t reveal it here), but watching it and feeling it makes you almost sympathize with the character, even as he efficiently kills a dozen people.  The second sequence with Hit Girl is well shot as well, the music again adding to the dark overtones (the scenes before that lend themselves to this sequence).  There’s a video game feel to it, but by the end, you can see what Hit Girl would do for Big Daddy.

There’s one other nagging thought that keeps recurring when I think about this film: the use of media and the internet and America’s response to it.  You can see in the trailer that Kick Ass becomes a media firestorm when he defends one defenseless guy against three attackers.  The point of Kick Ass the superhero is to become a hero and fight crime, or die trying.  He’s being a hero while people stand by and watch (and, being 21st century America, taking out their iPhones and Blackberry’s and the like and recording everything) and don’t act, almost being the good Samaritan and the vigilante at the same time.  I know this film isn’t the first one to use such an underlying theme of media and good citizenship, but this one does it effectively, mainly because it falls within the conventions of the comic book genre.

But you’re really not seeing this movie for those reasons, right?  I mean, come on, you’re there to see action and violence and a potty mouth 11 year old.  What other reason is there to see it?

B

Note: there was a similar film that came out recently in limited release – Defendor, starring Woody Harrelson as a vigilante crime fighter – with some of the same themes.  It came out on DVD a week or two ago, so at some point, I may consider renting it and writing about that as well.