Reviewed by Don Speziale
For the past few months, we’ve been inundated with the trailer for the movie “Kick-Ass.” In that trailer, we are shown what appears to be a kid-friendly romp about a few kids who decide to become crimefighters. It’s all candy-colored action and a handful of funny lines.
“Hey!,” you think, “This looks like something I can take my 10-year old to see!”
In one of the few times in recent memory, a trailer has failed to give away every aspect of a movie. Oh sure, all those bright costumes and quippy kids are in it; it’s what’s SURROUNDING them that makes “Kick-Ass” one of the most subversive and deranged films I’ve seen in awhile.
And, oh yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Based on a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., the film introduces us to Dave Lizewski, an agreeably cute high school nerd (played by the winning Aaron Johnson). He’s got the same problems as every other outcast – not part of the cool crowd, into comic books and invisible to girls. One day, he and his friends (Evan Peters and the hilarious Clark Duke) are sitting around in what may be the world’s only combination Comic Book and Coffee Shop, speculating about why there are no REAL super-heroes in the world.
It isn’t long before Dave orders a ridiculous-looking scuba suit online, dons it and becomes “Kick-Ass,” – the world’s first costumed crime fighter.
Or so he thinks.
In one of the most twisted father and daughter relationships ever captured on film, Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz portray “Big Daddy” and “Hit Girl,” a pair of “superheroes” who have made it their own personal mission to bring down every criminal responsible for the past tragedies in their lives.
And it’s here that “Kick-Ass” takes a turn into some pretty darkly comic and bone-crunchingly bloody places.
Trust me – your sensibilities will be tested.
As Kick-Ass, Dave turns into a YouTube sensation, and as a result, starts to make some enemies in very high places, including crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). D’Amico has been losing men left and right to a mysterious costumed crime-fighter and he thinks Kick-Ass is responsible.
What D’Amico doesn’t know is that his men have fallen victim to Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s smoking guns. Anyone who crosses this little girl needs to watch out.
Let’s put it this way – if you’ve got a problem with 11-year old girls wielding guns and swords, shooting folks in the head with glee and dropping curse words like a sailor, then this movie probably isn’t for you.
While Kick-Ass is in the business for a laugh, Big Daddy and Hit Girl are the real deal, and once they join forces, Dave is in for the ride of his life. Before long, he’s living out a real-life comic book saga and learns that crime-fighting might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Directed with a sure hand by Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake” and “Snatch”), “Kick-Ass” is an outrageous riff on traditional comic book movies. The film hits all the requisite comic-book-movie buttons (origin story, super villains, dual identity crises, etc.), but brings them into the real world in a gritty way.
The performances are all uniformly good, including Christopher Mintz-Plasse as D’Amico’s son who formulates a plan to trap Kick-Ass. But Cage, who does a bad goof of Adam West’s Batman voice, isn’t very good.
The standout here is Moretz. Asked to do things on film that no child has ever done (and maybe shouldn’t ever had to do…if you’re a prude like that), she brings a bravery and grown-up sensibility to her role that allows the audience to accept the morally-questionable things her character does.
“Kick-Ass” isn’t going to be for everyone. Already being attacked by parental groups everywhere, the filmmakers are unapologetic in portraying mayhem and violence, most often perpetrated by a child. Most of all, though, the film is entertaining and stays true to its convictions to the very end.
For a Hollywood studio film, that’s pretty amazing.
KICK-ASS; DIR: Matthew Vaughn; SCR: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn; STARS: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz. Rated R