Dir: Matthew Vaughn
While Kick-Ass may be as schizophrenic as its characters – alternating between flat-out comedy, action and spoof- it works because it hews to the conventions established by multiple comic book origin stories. Kick-Ass’ protagonists firmly fall into the Batman-type genesis rather than be bit by a mutant spider or born with uncanny powers. Not only is it a tale of revenge, but it also sets up its masked vigilantes for more adventures like any good comic book story should.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust) and based on the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass poses the question: What would happen if an everyday kid decided to don a wetsuit and start fighting crime? With the proliferation of every shitty super hero getting his own movie now, the notion isn’t that far-fetched. Enter high schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who decides to fight crime in New York City. Operating under the name Kick-Ass, Dave has no training and no power other than the moxie and desire to clean up the streets. It’s no wonder he gets knifed in his first attempt to stop a car theft.
But Dave isn’t the only super hero wandering the streets of Manhattan. In fact, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his young daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) are trained and looking to get revenge on a mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). It isn’t long before Kick-Ass pairs with these two skilled killers to fight D’Amico and his goons.
The movie is successful because Vaughn handily mixes the comedic and the gory elements, never afraid of pushing the envelope too far in either direction. The film will not appeal to everyone- some of the fights are rather vicious and you need to get used to a young girl calling people “cunts.” But for those who are willing to go for the ride and accept whatever is thrown at them, Kick-Ass is both exhilarating and hilarious.
More Kill Bill than Dark Knight, Kick-Ass is less interested in pathos than constructing a kick-ass action film. While Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s quest for revenge is much more involving than Kick-Ass’ search for self-identity, the point of the film isn’t emotional investment, it’s about a good time at the movies. True, many films can be written off in a similar manner but the intelligence operating behind Kick-Ass, as well as its mastery at playing with and around comic book story tropes, makes it not only an adrenaline rush but a perfectly reasonable two hours of escapism that is certainly better than the majority of super hero swill Hollywood has thrown at us in the past few years.