Exploring Soundtracks: Kick-Ass

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Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be looking at a superhero movie, but not another one from Marvel. This one’s more of a parody of superhero films, but still manages to tell a pretty decent story along the way. It plays on the tropes pretty well, and actually holds up over time all right. Guess superheros haven’t been overdone enough yet.

Like the film, the soundtrack for “Kick-Ass” is a little different too. Mostly in that it’s not really much of a soundtrack. Instead, the CD released with the film is a compilation of songs by various artists. In the same year it was released, another CD came out that consisted of the film’s score. But considering the off-beat nature of “Kick-Ass”, we’ll just look at the former today.

Synopsis

For those who haven’t seen it, “Kick-Ass” follows a normal New York high-school kid named Dave Lizewski, who loves comic books and dreams of being a superhero. After he makes his dream a reality and becomes Kick-Ass, Dave begins to get way in over his head. Things start to go overboard when two unknown vigilantes start killing mob boss Frank D’Amico’s men. When D’Amico mistakes Kick-Ass as his biggest threat, Dave’s real world and his fantasy start to collide.

Kick-Ass

The first song we here in “Kick-Ass” is “Stand Up”, by The Prodigy. It plays just after the opening scene, as we’re introduced to Dave Lizewski, and see where our hero starts his journey. “Stand Up” was also used in the teaser trailer for the film. Most of what we hear from this song is a catchy horn hook that repeats itself, but it works well enough for what it’s used for.

One of my favorite songs comes a little later in the film, when Kick-Ass is saved from certain death by the young vigilante, Hit-Girl. In this super gory scene, Hit-Girl goes on a murderous rampage, stabbing and slicing up drug dealers and prostitutes. It’s pretty gratuitous, for sure. But the gratuity is off-set by the happy-go-lucky song, “Banana Splits” by The Dickies. This throws a nice dash of humor in an otherwise deeply unsettling sequence of blood and death.

Another great scene showing off Hit-Girl’s talent for killing comes in towards the end of the film, as she breaks into Frank D’Amico’s building. In this scene, Ennio Morricone’s “Per Qualche Dollaro in Più (For a Few Dollars More) sets the tone as Hit-Girl walks in under the guise of a school girl who lost her parents. As she strolls in, we the audience are in on the joke, but the poor bodyguards have no idea what’s about to hit them until it’s too late.

Right afterward, Hit-Girl storms the inside of D’Amico’s penthouse, and we get another upbeat song to play in the background, for yet another killing spree. For this one, it’s Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation”. While the scene is a little shorter than her earlier rampage, it still does a great job of bringing in that extra dose of black humor.

Standout Track

While all of the above songs are great, there is one that fits in perfectly that comes in at the climax. While Hit-Girl gets trapped in a cupboard, and is about to be blown to bits by a bazooka (yes, a bazooka), Kick-Ass comes to save the day with a mysterious weapon teased in an earlier scene.

That weapon is more of a jet-pack. Actually, it’s exactly a jet-pack. But one armed with Gatling guns that send the bazooka-armed guard to kingdom come. When Kick-Ass unleashes hell fire on him, the climax of Elvis’ “An American Trilogy” plays. There are few things more satisfying than seeing a baddie with a bazooka destroyed by a maelstrom of bullets to the sound of Elvis’ exuberant “Hallelujah!”. While the only portion of the song played is a small clip, it’s placement in the scene is sublime.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the music in “Kick-Ass” isn’t full of super recognizable pop hits, or the most moving songs you’ve ever heard. But that’s not the point. And if you think it is, you probably didn’t understand the movie at all. The songs chosen are used for comedy bits almost more than the dialogue. I for one found that their placement delivered more laughs than most of the jokes themselves. Although I have to admit, Nicholas Cage’s “Big Daddy” lines always put a smile on my face.

While I’ll never listen to the soundtrack of various artists by itself, I’d never be able to watch “Kick-Ass” without it. For that reason alone, I think this soundtrack does everything a soundtrack should be expected to do and more.

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