Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar, John S. Romita Jr.
Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass – Aaron Johnson
Chris D’Amico/Red Mist – Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Frank D’Amico – Mark Strong
Mindy/Hit Girl – Chloe Grace Moretz
Marty – Clark Duke
Katie – Lyndsy Fonseca
Todd – Evan Peters
Damon/Big Daddy – Nicolas Cage
A Really Entertaining,
Shallow, Ultraviolent Action Comedy
Kick-Ass doesn’t boast deep, meaningful characters, nor is it a film about the fate of the human condition—not really, anyway. It is, however vulgar, violent, and juvenile—a fun movie to watch. The film, which is based on a series of graphic novels by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., tells the story of a totally average high school kid Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who dons a wetsuit and decides to be a superhero. At first it’s all kind of a fun game. Dave gets shanked on his first real outing, of course—but after a long stay in the hospital and installation of steel-reinforced bones, he finds himself back in a position to, well, kick ass. Thanks to the YouTube revolution, Dave’s alter ego Kick-Ass makes 17,000 MySpace friends overnight and becomes an underdog hero. Then things start to get really crazy.
“Like every serial killer ever knew, eventually fantasizing doesn’t do it for you anymore,” Dave narrates. That comparison is frighteningly apt; sometimes giving yourself an alter ego is enough to unleash the id, and daydreaming just doesn’t cut it. Dave meets fellow heroes Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), whose idea of vigilante crimefighting involves machetes, katanas, every kind of firearm imaginable, and buckets of blood. Hit-Girl and Big Daddy have daddy-daughter bonding time over new weapons, the merits of Kevlar and hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows). However adorable their personal relationship may be, they have an agenda: they’re out to avenge Hit-Girl’s mother (Big Daddy’s wife) who died because drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) had Big Daddy locked up. D’Amico’s son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who hungers for his father’s power, helps lure Kick-Ass into a web of trickery by creating his own superhero alter, Red Mist.
Superheroes have long been the territory of comic geeks everywhere (though the aughties have been a decade of hero worship, what with the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman franchises taking over the world). Kick-Ass knows its history: it translates nearly word-for-word from the graphic novel. Director Vaughn stuck neatly to the cartoon aspect of comics: shots fade to Big Daddy’s hand-drawn comics, narrative bubbles pop up in the corners of the screen, a neatly animated sequence wraps up Big Daddy’s past, and sometimes the cinematography takes a direct queue from a panel. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s 2005 hit Sin City was a nearly shot-for-shot interpretation of the Sin City graphic novels, and while Kick-Ass isn’t nearly as anal retentive, the influence is clear. The filmmakers even inserted first-person shooter perspective to further combine elements of different media. And yet, the movie doesn’t feel forced or contrived; it’s a smart amalgam of comics, video games, and film.
Most importantly, Kick-Ass doesn’t pull any punches. The violence is hardcore, the cursing is constant, and the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. If you have an aversion to the f-word, the c-word, bloody violence, or an eleven-year-old girl brutally murdering bad guys (and taking a fair beating herself), avoid this movie. Otherwise you’ll be in hog heaven with the rest of the action- and comics-geeks. In video stores (do they still exist?) Kick-Ass would be comfortable in either the Comedy or Action sections. Vaughn and Jane Goldman adapted the books into a smart script, and each actor has fantastic comic timing. Watching two kids in superhero costumes rock out to Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” may be the highlight of your week. Or a little girl in a plaid skirt kicking the living crap out of a bunch of scary goons might float your boat.
Relative newcomer Aaron Johnson plays squeaky-voiced Dave with gusto, especially considering the British actor played a New Yorker—and well. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who will likely spend the rest of his career trying to outgrow his role as McLovin in the brilliant Superbad, coasts through Red Mist on his geeky charm. Thirteen-year-old Chloë Moretz, who’s also playing the controversial child vampire role in this year’s American remake of Sweden’s Let the Right One In, displays wit, grace, and guts befitting a much older actor. This girl is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Her role is making news for its adult nature: she cusses and kicks ass with the best of them, and people can’t take that coming from a little girl. It’s refreshing to see a kid get to hold her own against the baddies. Nicholas Cage puts on his goofball persona as Big Daddy, unnecessarily adding an earnest and stilted quality to the character. Mark Strong bared his chops as a villain in last year’s Sherlock Holmes, and shows once again that evil doesn’t have to mean somber.
As a fun action flick, Kick-Ass definitely holds its own, but it sticks to the shallow end of the pool. With subject matter like this, so much more could’ve been done. For a movie about heroism in a generation of nonchalance, a flick that deals with the translation of video game violence into the real world, pits Freud’s id against ego against superego, and adds in a dash of coming-of-age, it only scratches the surface of the important bits. But its action sequences are utterly rewarding, the script is smart and entertaining, and it’s wide open for myriad sequel possibilities. Though it’s not the year’s best movie, Kick-Ass is a really entertaining escape into a world where the bad guys don’t always get away with dirty deeds and even the most normal among us have a shot at, if not saving the world, at least getting the girl.