Three unlikely superheros are surprisingly hilarious ass-kickers.
The superhero movie for people who are sick to fucking death of superhero movies, Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass is a rude blast of rancid attitude and giddy violence. The film is so juvenile and depraved that several UK publications have insisted it’s actually dangerous.
It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, giving a well-deserved wedgie to Hollywood’s recent glut of solemn, costumed avenger epics.
Aaron Johnson plays the title character, a dorky teenage fanboy named Dave Lizewski who wastes his days reading comics and beating off to elaborate sexual fantasies about his English teacher. Dave’s finally fed up with the world’s injustices, so he takes to the streets wearing a green and yellow scuba suit, calling himself Kick-Ass and attempting to fight crime. Initially, this doesn’t work out so well.
But thanks to You Tube, Kick-Ass becomes a viral video phenomenon. Unfortunately for Dave, this means he’s attracted the attention of a Mafia boss (Mark Strong) who has been losing henchmen at an alarming rate lately to mysterious costumed superheroes. It seems that Kick-Ass isn’t alone out there, and lurking in the shadows are Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz)—a brutally efficient father-daughter team of bloodthirsty vigilantes. He walks around in a Batman costume; she’s 11 years old.
The instantly iconic Hit-Girl will presumably be the source of too many outraged op-ed pieces and even more hipster Halloween costumes. Watching a chipper tyke in a purple wig and Robin-mask drop the C-word while decapitating everyone probably shouldn’t be this entertaining, but the character grows more adorable as the body count skyrockets. Moretz, who you might remember as the fingernails-on-a-blackboard little sister in (500) Days of Summer, strikes the right note of cheerful exuberance as she’s slaughtering roomfuls of mafiosos and the joke just never gets old.
She’s assisted by another deliriously batshit performance from Nicolas Cage. Something about Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant re-boot seems to have reawakened the actor’s daredevil instincts, and his effusive, doting dad routine amidst the carnage is almost as great as the Adam West accent he puts on whenever wearing his silly crime-fighting costume.
Based on the comic by Mark Millar, who penned the similarly indefensible Wanted, Kick-Ass takes nerd fantasies to ecstatic heights of absurdity. After all, it’s only after revealing his identity that Dave gets to sleep with the hottest girl in school. (Before that, she just assumed he was gay.) “With no power, comes no responsibility,” our young hero reminds us during a boots-knocking session, and though I haven’t read the source material, looking at Kick-Ass and Wanted’s lessons of better living through macho aggression, one might assume Millar’s one of those guys who was profoundly affected by Fight Club without ever quite understanding that it’s a satire.
Director Vaughn has a grand old time tweaking tenets of the superhero genre. Dave’s squeaky, “woe is me” narration makes a mockery of Spider-Man, and even Hans Zimmer’s repetitive Dark Knight score gets a sly bit of ridicule. Shot through a digitally amped-up color palate by cinematographer Ben Davis, the movie’s vibrant artifice goes a long way toward making the mayhem feel harmless.
There’s also another great turn from young Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as the mob boss’ lonely son, aspiring to a career of super-villainy. Striking up a friendship with Kick-Ass via MySpace (which I believe makes the movie a period piece set in 2007) this endearingly lispy young actor once again makes me laugh simply by walking into a room. Who’d have predicted that out of Superbad’s three horny teens, McLovin’ would be the only one whose act didn’t get stale?
At almost two hours, Kick-Ass feels a bit windy. But the crazy-pants over-the-top finale is so boisterous, kinetic and just plain wrong that it’s impossible not to applaud. (It also contains the greatest Elvis Presley music cue in the history of movies.) I laughed. God help me, I laughed.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Running time: 117 minutes
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