Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Lyndsy Fonseca, Garrett M. Brown, Sophie Wu, Yancy Butler, Michael Rispoli, Xander Berkeley, Omari Hardwick, Elizabeth McGovern and Craig Ferguson.
Screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Distributed by Lionsgate Films. 117 minutes. Rated R.
Last year’s film adaptation of the beloved graphic novel Watchmen was a morose and somber (and insanely overlong) misfire.
Kick-Ass is also based on a similarly-plotted graphic novel about not-so-super superheroes – and the film works in just about every way that the more highly anticipated Watchmen did not.
Kick-Ass is not a perfect film – it gets way too violent in parts and the story kind of loses the thread in the final act – however for the most part the movie is a fun and funny hoot.
Like Watchmen, Kick-Ass is a bit of a parody of the genre in which normal people with no particular superpowers decide to become caped crusaders and take on crime with nothing to protect them other than ridiculous costumes and beyond-dumb crime-fighting names.
And yet this time the plot idea works where Watchmen (and the decade-old Mystery Men before it) failed miserably – in being an exciting and surprisingly funny devolution of comic book clichés.
In fact, Kick-Ass could be considered a low-rent Spider-Man wannabe if not for the frenzied violence and offbeat humor.
Also, Kick-Ass has a wild superhero that the brains behind Spidey would never even imagine. It is not the title character, who is essentially a good-hearted and somewhat inept kid who is way over his head in fighting crime.
Kick-Ass is the alter-ego of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a pretty common high school nerd. He’s bullied in school, hangs at the local comic store with his two loser friends and is in love with the gorgeous girl whose locker is by his. Dave starts wondering why normal people don’t become superheroes – and orders a skin-diving suit to be his costume. He is nearly killed the first time out and doesn’t do much better next time out, however he is filmed and becomes a viral sensation on YouTube.
But, like I said, he is not the most interesting crime fighting character here.
No, the rather shocking crime fighter has the somewhat innocuous name of Hit Girl. She can move like a ninja, handle weapons like a paratrooper, swing blades like a fencer and curse like a sailor. She single-handedly takes out more bad guys in five minutes than Kick-Ass will in his entire life.
Oh, yeah, and she’s only eleven years old.
Chloë Grace Moretz (she was the younger sister in  Days of Summer) plays the character with an astonishing range – violent, nearly psychopathic killer one moment, sweet and innocent little girl the next. It’s certainly an arresting character – and undoubtedly a huge reason that this film is so oddly memorable. Many people might find the idea of a small child acting and talking like this disturbing – and honestly, they would have a valid point – but if you give in to the campy world view of Kick-Ass, then she turns out to be an endlessly fascinating personality.
Nicolas Cage plays her father – a former cop who was framed and sent to jail by a local gangster and now is teaching his daughter to be a crime-fighting duo. His moniker is Big Daddy and his uniform looks so much like Batman’s that DC Comics might want to investigate a trademark infringement lawsuit. However, no one can do this kind of crazed character better than Cage and unlike many of his recent films the actor does not phone in the performance, instead finding the weird middle ground between nerdy dad and unhinged vigilante. In fact, we are introduced to Big Daddy as he is shooting blanks at his little girl to show her what it feels like to be shot while wearing Kevlar – a scene that could be horrifying if not for the tongue-in-cheek way that Cage and Moretz play it.
However, first things first: Despite the facts that Kick-Ass is a film about costumed teenaged superheroes and one of the main characters is an eleven-year-old girl, this movie is most assuredly not appropriate for young children.
For adults, though, it can be vile and somewhat inappropriate but unquestionably fun – as long as you can get past the idea of seeing that eleven-year-old girl swearing like a teamster and violently mowing down bad guys like a one-girl wrecking crew.
Kick-Ass can’t be bothered with your bourgeois hang ups. It is in your face in its pushing of the envelopes of cartoon culture and up until the over-the-top final act it mostly pulls it off.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 23, 2010.