Kick-Ass is a goofy, mixed-up movie that examines what would happen if regular people became super heroes. I don't think this movie is sure what it is: teenage angst flick, revenge crime-stopper thriller or sensitive slice-of-life indie slacker comedy. But one thing is sure: Kick-Ass has tons of spurting blood combined with more than enough curse words to garnish an R-rating, plus an 11-year-old heroine using the "c" word and chopping off limbs like a ninja assassin. Basically this movie has its moments, but it's a mess.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a geeky high-school student and comic book fan. His life is bland, he goes unnoticed by girls and he gets mugged by thugs in alleys. After pontificating that the world needs real super heroes to do the right thing even if they don't have powers, he orders a super hero suit online and goes out to make the world a better place. Dave heads out for his first battle and promptly gets his ass kicked. This doesn't deter him from his quest, however, and he somehow overpowers his next batch of thugs and is captured on video, spawning a huge Internet craze. Meanwhile across town, father-and-daughter crime-fighting duo, Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), are in training to fight a mob boss (a wildly funny Marc Strong).
Drawing from Tarantino's pop-culture sensibility, director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) provides a gritty lens when needed, coupled with some insanely disconnected soundtrack music (like the theme from Banana Splits and Joan Jett) and strings together a bunch of intertwined events with a variety of excitement. But the last act falls short, deflating the novelty of a little girl slicing and dicing her way through mob henchmen.
Based on the comic Kick-Ass penned by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass is bloodier and funnier than one would think, but it misses the mark more than hits any bull's eyes, coming across as a low level Super Bad meets Ironman. Aside from some dazzling action sequences, the best parts involved the sarcastic banter between the geeks.
British actor Johnson brings believable innocence to his confused alter ego's plight. Strong is still the best villain going these days and his tongue-in-cheek comic timing of a super serious bad-ass crime boss is hilarious, though he'll get a lot of flack for punching a little girl... twice! Moretz is a great actress and steals the show, but unfortunately she's paired up with Cage's stumblebum acting style. Seemingly unaware of which direction to take, Cage plays goofy/wacky at first, then channels Adam West's Batman for his super-hero persona. These are not layers. These are inconsistencies.
Kick Ass relies heavily on overused concepts, from using cartoons to tell a back-story, and a Taxi Driver inspired "talking-to-the-mirror" scene. It also takes stabs at the power of the Internet, skewering MySpace and YouTube.
Combining family-movie sentimentality with grind-house debauchery, Kick-Ass stays true to the comic book inspired idea that violence is here to shock and titillate, but then defeats its purpose by becoming way too formulaic: mob guys are dolts, real people are sensitive and there is no such thing as crime fighters, just crime killers. Like the teens obsessed with Kick-Ass comic books, we are supposed to share something in common with the film's pop vigilantes, but all I shared was popcorn with my date.
Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong.Nicolas Cage, Michael Rispoli
Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Rated R