Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kick-Ass - Dir. Matthew Vaughn

Matthew Vaughn’s (Layer Cake) latest film is an insane concoction of action, comedy, romance and drama under one big superhero-genre roof. Based on Mark Millar’s comic of the same name, ‘Kick-Ass’ follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), your typical male teenager, who follows through on every boy, child and grown man’s dream of becoming a superhero (despite the fact that unlike most modern-day superhero’s, Dave has not one extraordinary power or ability what-so-ever). Throw into the mix a Father-Daughter vigilante team, a love-interest, a wannabe superhero with an ulterior motive and a crime boss antagonist, and you have a pretty god-damn fun film worth two hours of your time.

Dave and his friends (Clark Duke, Evan Peters) are nobodies. They are the emblematic high-school students who waltz through their school hallways day-after-day, week-after-week, undetected by those at the peak of the social hierarchy including the attractive Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). Bored of simply keeping a tissue conglomerate in business, Dave decides to take up the challenge of showing everybody that anybody with a costume can be a ‘superhero’ and thus his crime-fighting alter-ego of Kick-Ass is born. However Dave isn’t the only costume-crusader cruising the streets as Big Daddy and Hit-Girl team (Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz) together, as any modern father and daughter would, by fighting the bloody fight with their own purpose in mind. The main focus of their combined anger is resident crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) who will stop at nothing to make sure his merchandise reaches the streets. While Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) also eventually joins in the fun, piggy-backing of Kick-Ass’s success.

The true genius of Vaughn and Goldman’s adaptation from page-to-screen is that they manage to brilliantly combine elements of pure violent action, touching emotional relationships and moments of comedy to break the ice between brains being scattered and tears being shed. The on-screen violence is brutal, unflinching and in your face, like a shotgun blast to your temple. From stabbings to the odd, inadvertent, accidental suicide, each action sequence is perfectly orchestrated to create maximum enjoyment. While true moments of tender, emotional realisations and witty teenage banter counter-act the vicious nature of this film, which is as disturbing as it poignant at times, especially when you’re transitioning from a brutal beating, to an awkward father-son moment within minutes. It all adds to ‘Kick-Ass’s’ quirky, little charm however.

Despite attempting to be a ‘superhero’ by night, by day Dave is still a normal teenager searching for his true identity, and of course, that elusive first girlfriend. Aaron Johnson plays this part perfectly, to the extent in which we should all be able to find a side of Dave to identify with (we were all young once...). Whilst despite competent performances from the veterans; Mark Strong and Nicolas Cage, the true gem of this piece is Chloe Moretz, the young girl who plays the hit-girl beyond her own age to a beautifully tragic tee. Hit-Girl is a ballsy, yet brilliant character who shows the audience that young girls on the big-screen don’t simply need to be emotional vessels or tragic victims (this could potentially lead to the rise of the aggressive, twelve year old protagonists!), but they can be as dangerous as the adults that hope to protect them.

Probing the depths of the superhero genre in which many fear to tread, ‘Kick-Ass’ is something different which works pretty darn well. It’s a violent superhero film, with a lot of heart and many hilarious moments.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop - Dir. Banksy?

An experience will ultimately become a diluted memory, unless the experience itself is documented in image or film, in which case it will last forever (or until it is deleted/destroyed...). ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’ is a brilliant examination of the underground street art culture, and a poignant look at man’s obsession with a culture he is increasingly drawn into throughout his life.

Thierry Guetta (pronounced Te-ree), is a French immigrant living Los Angeles with his loving wife and children and a good honest job, but there is one object he will never leave the house without; his video camera. Guetta has been enticed into the everyday cinema verité movement of simply recording any, and everything that goes on in his life. From playing with his children, to his ultimate attraction of following other street artists around and documenting their work, Guetta loves to watch, document and admire from behind the lens. Guetta eventually earns the trust and respect of various artists around the globe including the elusive Banksy, his cousin Space Invader and Shepard Fairey, and provides the audience with an up close and personal view of a culture (or industry) which has been projected into the limelight over the past five years.

Narrated by Rhys Ifans, ‘Exit’ has been acknowledged as not having a registered director, instead it is a smoothly edited combination of Guetta’s extensive and various filmed sequences from over the years (the film shows his EXTENSIVE physical collection of tapes from more than decade of filmmaking) and interviews with various leading figures in the industry. For example Banksy is interviewed at length over his involvement with Guetta and comes across as a very down-to-earth, humble and at times, incredibly funny person. While everybody, including Guetta, are extremely brazen and don’t hold back when speaking about each other, their profession or how the street art culture has developed over time into a somewhat monopolistic environment (which can be viewed by the fact that the rich and famous turned out in droves for Banksy’s first exhibition in the United States).

This isn’t a film about ‘graffiti’ though, as some may simply see it as on the surface, aside from the exploration of a fast growing community it is also a deep, scary and heart-warming look at Thierry Guetta’s life over a decade onwards as he constantly leaves behind his family and his job to follow various artists around the globe. Mentally unstable, or one of the greatest French minds of the last twenty years, nobody is quite sure what Thierry Guetta (also known as Mr Brainwash) is, but what everybody does acknowledge is that he is a man with a passion and while he may not follow the same ideology as everybody else, his heart is still in the right place. ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’ is a fascinating documentary focusing on a rising culture that many people may not have much knowledge about, except for knowing the name of the elusive, and as I have mentioned, surprisingly hilarious Banksy.