© 2010 Ray Wong
Don't let the trailers of Kick-Ass fool you -- yes, it's about children and teenagers becoming superheroes and it's cool, but this movie is not suitable for children or even young teens.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a gawkish, nerdy teenager who likes the Internet and comic books. He fantasizes about being a superhero and wonders why there's none in real life. Tired of being invisible, he decides to get a costume and live out his fantasy with his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. His first outing almost costs him his life, but his early failure only makes him want it more. A YouTube video of him fighting crime soon becomes a worldwide phenomenon and Kick-Ass is now famous.
Dave is happy to be Superman/Clark Kent as he tries to get close to his "Lois Lane": a fellow student named Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). Little does Dave know that mafia boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) believes Kick-Ass is behind the sabotages of his drug business. Little does either know that a pair of "superheroes," Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), are behind it all.
Dave soon finds himself entangled with D'Amico, Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and he's in grave danger as D'Amico is dead set on killing Kick-Ass. Meanwhile, D'Amico's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) masquerades as superhero Red Mist to help his father find Kick-Ass.
Aaron Johnson (The Illusionist) is charming and adequately nerdy as Dave/Kick-Ass. Hiding his good looks with messy hair, baggy clothes, and thick eyeglasses, Johnson does have that young Clark Kent quality (but not quite Superman -- and that contributes to his charm). His performance is somewhat superficial but suitable for the genre. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is infamous for his role as McLovin in Superbad, and he plays more or less the same role here as Chris D'Amico/Red Mist, but with a sinister side.
Lyndsy Fonseca (Hot Tub Time Machine) is cute and interesting as the object of Dave's affection, and Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) is playing the same dorky friend as he did in all his movies. The big boys are having fun, too: Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) are super bad as D'Amico -- he relishes in such a role; and Nicolas Cage (Knowing) is equally droll as Big Daddy.
But the star of the show, who steals every scene, is pint-sized actress Chloe Moretz (500 Days of Summer), who plays Hit Girl with spunk, gumption, and energy that she brightens the screen every time she's on. She's quite amazing; the role is tailor-made for her.
Adapted from the graphic novel (Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.) by Jane Goldman (Stardust) and Matthew Vaughn (Stardust), the screenplay reads like a comic book. It follows a similar arc of, say, Spider-Man, but soon deviates from the familiar archetype. In fact, Kick-Ass is rather unconventional when it comes to superheroes. Dave/Kick-Ass doesn't have any power or skills, and he's actually rather a wuss. He only rises to the occasion after being rescued by Hit Girl (twice!). The screenplay is also extremely adult, something not expected if you're not familiar with the comic book series. Within the first 15 minutes, you'd realize it's not your usual kid-friendly superhero adventure. In fact, it is exactly the opposite: it's a hard R rating with pervasive language (uttered by kids, no less), sexual references and content, and gory violence. Superbad meets Kill Bill meets Watchmen.
The plot and story are over the top, even for comic books. Don't look for depth or full-fledged character development. Some of the plot elements and characters don't really make sense. It's cartoonish. But that's also its strength -- this is very much a comic book movie. They make no apologies and they're not trying to be something they're not, and you have to admire that.
Under Matthew Vaughn's direction, the movie looks and feels like a comic book -- it even has a "comic book within a comic book" scene. The action sequences are outrageous and well choreographed. The stunt work impressive. The plot does feel schizophrenic at times and lacks certain consistency throughout. Certainly the opening sequence does not prepare the audiences for the gore and violence that follow. But Vaughn keeps the pace tight and the action fast and furious. And there's certain perverted pleasure of seeing and hearing kids swear and kill bad guys in the most gruesome ways you can ever imagine.
Kick-Ass is a pleasant surprise, if you allow yourself to not be offended by the material and the perverted sense of dark humor. It's something different and yet very fitting for the genre. In other words, it so totally kicks ass.
Stars: Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (based on graphic novel by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.)
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and drug use, some involving children
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.9 out of 10