By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; 12:00 AM
"Kick-Ass" seemed destined for blood-splattering blockbuster success. The film generated major positive buzz prior to its April theatrical release, earned largely positive reviews from critics and delivered a controversial, debate-worthy supporting heroine in Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), a preteen assassin with the mouth of a salty New York City cop and a bob the color of a grape popsicle.
Yet the average-kid-turned-superhero flick earned just $48 million at the box office last spring, a decent return for an indie made on a roughly $30 million budget but hardly the kind of revenue that signals a massive pop culture phenomenon.
But perhaps "Kick-Ass" -- out today on DVD ($29.95) and in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack ($39.99) -- will finally reach pop culture phenom status now that it's available for home-entertainment consumption. Truly, any comic book geek or action movie fan who missed this spunky, ultra-kinetic and, yes, ferociously violent flick should grasp this opportunity to discover its giddy, fight-the-power fun. This story of a nerdy high schooler (Aaron Johnson) who jumpstarts a vigilante justice movement and inadvertently becomes a YouTube sensation -- one who calls himself Kick-Ass -- could be the year's freshest work of superhero cinema. But please note that this gunfire-fueled film is for mature audiences; given the nature of its content, young and/or squeamish viewers are better off avoiding this one.
"Kick-Ass" may be an experience that's more thrilling when viewed in a cineplex, but the movie still makes a pretty satisfying leap to disc, especially in the Blu-ray format, where the shadowy nighttime action and ka-pow of all that comic book imagery looks particularly sharp. The Blu-ray pack -- which comes with the standard DVD as well as a digital copy of the film -- also contains some strong special features, most notably the feature-length documentary "A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of 'Kick-Ass.'"
A detailed, nearly two-hour tracing of the film's evolution -- from director Matthew Vaughn's initial failed attempts to find studio backing to the pop-artistry of the production design to the pre-release arguments over how to fix a sludgy sound mix --is a remarkably comprehensive piece of work. Of course, that means some moments drag more than others; in fact, like so much about "Kick-Ass," the more fascinating parts of the documentary focus on Moretz and her portrayal of Hit-Girl. There is something simultaneously charming and vaguely troubling about watching the young actress as she learns how to juggle weapons one minute, then happily announces that she's lost a tooth the next. (Same goes for a comment from Moretz's mother, Teri, who notes with a laugh that her daughter is learning "everything you need to know to be a little assassin at 11.")
Other extras that appear on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions include a so-so featurette about the Mark Millar comic that inspired the film; a series of production galleries; and an occasionally engaging audio commentary from Vaughn in which he admits, among other things, that while he "did this movie for free," his contract stipulated that he could keep the sporty red-and-black car driven by Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
The Blu-ray also delivers an option to view the film in what Lionsgate has dubbed "Ass-Kicking Bonus View Mode," a feature that, via multiple picture-in-picture images, marries Vaughn's commentary with behind-the-scenes footage and other cast and crew interviews that roll alongside the film. It's very cool, if not thoroughly butt-kicking. But that's fine. The only thing that really needs to kick some serious A is the movie itself. And it does, in a bold, hilarious, borderline offensive way.