Like the class clown who didn’t come into his own till college, “Kick-Ass” was far from a film industry darling. Made on a wing and a prayer with no distributor, “Kick-Ass” generated buzz when unfinished footage was shown at last summer’s Comic-Con. Now, director Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book series is poised to take over the world – at least, the portions inhabited by current and former underdogs.
Aaron Johnson stars as Dave Lizewski, a geeky nobody who asks his friends: why does no one try to be a superhero? Ignoring their cynicism, he purchases a wet suit, sets up a MySpace page and reinvents himself as Kick-Ass. Though he has no real powers, he’s aided by steely nerve endings resulting from an early beatdown. However, when Kick-Ass unwittingly ticks off the local crime lord (Mark Strong), there may be hell to pay even with the help of cop-turned-vigilante Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his knife-wielding preteen daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). Oh, and McLovin from “Superbad” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) shows up as sniveling rich boy turned rival Red Mist.
“Kick-Ass” actually contains two separate movies: the first half is mostly satire, while the second half devolves into straight-up superhero mode. It will be interesting to see if audiences have a problem with this. I was mostly on board, but I did enjoy the in-jokes and snarky gags much more.
Viewer beware: gratuitous violence is as prevalent in “Kick-Ass” as stretchy spandex suits. Much of said violence does involve a young girl. It’s mostly all in good comic fun, though a sequence late in the film is truly squirm-inducing. Then again, it’s easy to love a good female-driven butt-kicking set to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, which appears later.
As the title character, Johnson isn’t the most compelling, but to be fair he’s playing a teenage boy stereotype. Nicolas Cage is clearly having a blast, while Mintz-Plasse is nerdily believable. But the real star is Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, proving that tough chicks can also wear pink and pigtails and drink hot chocolate with their dads. When they’re not testing out bulletproof vests and stabbing mobsters, anyway.
The only actor/character who really bothered me was Lyndsy Fonseca as Dave’s insipid love interest, Katie. Why are high school girls always portrayed as so stupid? Sure, she’s contrasted with the savvy Hit Girl, but that’s not enough. Maybe a bleating, sugary girlfriend is the fantasy for most high school boys, but it’s time to start changing that fantasy, starting with pop culture.
Is Kick-Ass perfect? No. Overall, however, it’s funny, well-executed and strangely empowering. To paraphrase the Beatles, “you’re gonna have a good time.”
Read Chris’ review of “Kick-Ass” here.