I make two pledges in this review. The first: I shall not specifically refer to the film’s quality as being “kick-ass”, nor will I directly infer that my own ass was somehow “kicked” by its awesomeness. The second: I shall not succumb to my deepest, darkest impulses, and regress to my teenage fanboy self in a flurry of over-stimulated euphoria. Now that that’s out of the way…
Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass is about as exciting as movies get. Not just because it is a (mostly) anarchic splatter-fest that celebrates (nay, encourages) acts of ridiculous violence, but also the fact that it was made completely outside of the studio system, and is now set to become a cultural phenomenon. It’s one thing for filmmakers to spend their own cash bringing their intensely personal vision to the screen. But to find $70 million for a film in which a 10-year-old girl drops the c-bomb before eviscerating a gang of drug-dealers with a double-edged sword? Please join me in a slow-clap.
Aaron Johnson stars as Dave Lizewski, a teenage comic book fan who, bored of his sexless adolescence, decides to become a masked vigilante just like his animated heroes. He christens himself Kick Ass, although his early crime-fighting exploits end with his own admission to the local hospital. He soon gains notoriety (thanks to a couple of viral YouTube videos) and ruffles the wrong feathers – notably mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong – hilarious and menacing as always) and his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Dave must also contend with a masked daddy-daughter-duo (a wonderfully hammy Nicolas Cage and a show-stopping Chloe Moretz) also intent on dismantling the mob – limb by limb. Things are starting to get a little too real for Kick Ass, as he deals with larger threats than simple muggers. Fighting crime doesn’t pay it seems. Oh wait, local hottie Katie Deuxma (Lyndsey Fonseca) is suddenly interested in Dave? She just might be worth getting shot over.
Kick Ass is ridiculously fun, proving director Matthew Vaughn to be equally adept at helming dramatic thrillers (Layer Cake) as well as rollercoaster-esque action (well, Kick Ass, obviously). As far as comic adaptations go, it’s right up there. It somehow manages to capture the cartoonish energy of Mark Millar/John Romita Jr’s series, whilst also translating into a wholly satisfying film. Unfortunately, where Millar’s comic deliriously skewered superhero comic conventions (to an almost self-destructive extent), Vaughn’s film is more than willing to conform to some of the genre’s tired tropes. I understand why. If the characters were as uniformly unlikable and motive-less in the film as they were in the comic, the movie would be unwatchable. That being said, it’s hard not to note the irony that many of the elements of the genre that are mocked by Millar are appropriated here.
But save that argument for the comic-book vs. film debate. Kick Ass, the cinematic experience, is hard to top. It’s frenetic, funny, and dementedly ignorant of acceptable social mores. What elevates the film from mere fanboy-porn (although that is a fair designation), is the character of Hit Girl (Moretz’ sword-wielding tween assassin). Funnily, this controversial, family-group angering young lady is perhaps the most morally in-tune character of the entire film. And despite her obsession with gutting local thugs, she might actually be the first great female superhero to grace the silver screen. Sure, she’s no role model. But parents shouldn’t mind if their kids idolise Hit Girl, particularly over certain other female cinematic icons. Hmm, I wonder what foul-mouthed Hit Girl would do if left alone in a room with The Twilight Saga’s Bella.