Matthew Vaughn was unstoppable when he started his directorial career. He began it with Layer Cake, which saw our future James Bond, Daniel Craig, leading the way. He next brought out one of the more underrated future cult classics in Stardust (if you haven’t seen it, please do), starring Superman (Henry Cavill) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox). Then Vaughn completed his triangle of success with Kick-Ass, an off-beat superhero film that introduced the world to a very rated R amount of content that showed the brutality of being a real world superhero. It was funny as well. In short, all of this equals out to a talented writer and director that knows how to make exciting moments and memorable characters in movies.
The latter in Vaughn’s trio of films has moved to 4K as of this past Tuesday. Is it worth revisiting the violent world of Kick-Ass again in 4K HDR? Most definitely, especially if you haven’t purchased it yet.
Dave Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson) is an ordinary teenager who goes unnoticed in high school until he takes a chance to “do something” and dons a mask and becomes “Kick-Ass” to fight real-life crime. Bruised and beaten and without any real super powers, he is saved by a father-daughter duo (Cage as “Big Daddy,” Moretz as “Hit-Girl”) who know all the right moves and have a vendetta against a vicious crime lord, D’Amico (Mark Strong). After a fiery internet storm of publicity for Kick-Ass, D’Amico wants to meet the masked man, and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) dons a costume of his own and becomes “Red Mist” to befriend him and get in his father’s good graces. The story comes to a head when D’Amico succeeds in luring the crime fighters to his home and ass-kicking destruction ensues.
Kick-Ass is a bold film that was created during a time in the movie industry when superhero films were just starting to catch on. In other words, it came in at the right time before expectations were set on how these films were structured and how they flowed. Sure heroes and villains, in non-rated R films, would get beaten up a little, but not quite to the point where they looked like they could die if they lost one more drop of blood. Kick-Ass set a fork in the road for superhero films that probably helped paved the way for movies like Dead Pool. I know Ryan Reynolds helped with that, but Kick-Ass certainly proved rated R superhero films could be profitable.
That said, Kick-Ass was bold because it was overly violent, unapologetic and very rated R. For those always wondering how a superhero could survive getting beaten over and over again, this film answered that question and gave us a real perspective of the fantasy job. From the first knife stab to Kick-Ass’ stomach, to Mark Black’s Frank D’Amico’s brutal fight with Hit-Girl, Vaughn didn’t pull punches (no pun intended). I think Vaughn also showed off his director chops and what would be a plan for two future films to come after Kick-Ass, which were X-Men: First Class and Kingsman (truly the best of both worlds that combine into a Kick-Ass premise — pun intended).
If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s about a kid named Dave (Aaron Tayor-Johnson), who is inspired to become a superhero to help better humanity in some way, shape or form. He becomes the larger-than-life Kick-Ass, who starts off his superhero career by stopping a mugging outside of a fast food joint, which ends up going viral on YouTube, thus propelling his person into a legend. Once viral, Dave continues his persona and ends up getting mixed up in the dealings of a major drug dealer in his city named Frank D’Amico. He also ends up crossing paths with incredibly well-trained superheroes named Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). The latter have a vengeful purpose in killing drug dealer Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), which would put to rest the murder of Daddy’s wife and Hit-Girl’s mom.
As the story progresses, the entertaining part, which is the coming-of-age portion of the movie for Dave, slowly starts morphing into a serious drama. As most superhero films go, you never get a grounded view of what is at stake or how much danger there is in whatever situation the story might go. Vaughn takes all of those important elements that are lacking in most superhero films and makes sure the audience is fully aware of how big, brutal and dangerous the world is that he has built. You get to see D’Amico as a very real ruthless murderer, who is truly trying to protect his nest egg from whomever, regardless of age or gender, is trying to destroy it. It even gets to the point where the story dips down into an uncomfortable level, where our superheroes find themselves in a hole with the bad guy, as D’Amico’s brutality is seen through the death of *Spoiler Alert* Big Daddy *Spoiler Alert Ends* — and doesn’t pull back at all. I remember watching this film for the first time and getting a bit of a dark comedy feel from the story, but then having those feelings drained during the previously mentioned superhero’s death. The moment and the movie become real at this point, where you’re just wishing the worst on the bad guy, but also fully understanding how ‘bad’ the guy really is in the story. He is truly an a-hole.
The film does end up putting itself back in the typical superhero structure that we’ve come to know nowadays by the ending. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because you want to pull the audience out of the serious moment before they can’t laugh anymore. Vaughn does just that with the end fight, which also leaves the door open for a sequel (which happened a few years later).
Regardless of how you feel about it, Kick-Ass is the first superhero film during the recent superhero film years that showed there is room for a rated R movie in the genre. It paved the way for the likes of Dead Pool (1 and 2) and emotional films such as Logan, where showing the brutality of a make-believe world can equal out to success, when well-written, directed and acted. It also helps that Kick-Ass is just purely entertaining as it is brutal and real. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should dive into it, but make sure the kids are out of the room first.
On the 4K HDR side of things, Lionsgate, who I believe does a great job with Blu-ray transfers of its properties, did a damn good job of upgrading this film to 4K HDR. While the world does have a little drabness in it, purposely so I would imagine, the colors it does contain are rich in visual flavor and work well in the higher resolution promised. Whether you want the additional details in the movie or not, the facial definition and just nice details of the environments in the film really shine through in the better resolution. There is some loss here and there with some of the aging special effects, but ultimately the 4K upgrade does more good than harm for the original film.
In short, Lionsgate did a terrific transfer job. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less thanks to their past track record for transfers to HD. They seem to give a shit about their films more than other studios.
On the special features side of the tracks, here’s what you’re looking at with Kick-Ass 4K.
(4K Ultra HD Special Features)
• “A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass” 4-Part Documentary
• “It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass” Featurette
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Matthew Vaughn
• Marketing Archive
(Blu-ray/DigitalHD Special Features)
• Ass-Kicking Bonus View Mode (Blu-ray Disc Exclusive) – Synchronous with the feature film, this innovative multi-media presentation incorporates video and audio commentary, behind-the-scenes clips and illustrative graphics with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Matthew Vaughn, plus cast and crew providing an all-access perspective on Kick-Ass
• “The Art of Kick-Ass” Gallery
Not a lot here on the list, but still some worthy content that adds extra value to the overall package. I like the 4K features, especially the 4-part documentary, but not a lot of value in the marketing archive. Much like the 4K transfer, there is a lot more good than bad, so it’s worth the 4K jump.