Words: Saam Das
Film: Kick-Ass (2010)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz
Spoiler-free review of the brilliantly fun 'Kick-Ass' below, made for an astonishing $28 million (according to Matthew Vaughn).
Dave Lizewski (Johnson) is a teenager at high school. He's not the jock. He's not the mathlete. He's not even the funny one in his small group of friends. Dave has heady dreams though. He wants the hot girl. More so, he wants to be a superhero. But this is also a world where a 12 year old girl uses the "c" word (yep, cunt) freely, severs limbs with glee and gets punched in the head by a 45 year old man. This is Mark Millar's comic book series 'Kick-Ass', brought to the screen by Matthew Vaughn.
"How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero?" asks Dave Lizewski (Johnson) before becoming the film's titular wannabe superhero, Kick-Ass. But Kick-Ass is small time. He has no super powers. Unless you count being a human punch bag. That doesn't stop Mark Strong's gang boss character Frank D'Amico from mistakenly attributing the deaths of several of his henchmen to Kick-Ass. Instead, this is the work of the vigilante father-daughter combination of Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit-Girl (Moretz). So Kick-Ass gets dragged in to the mix and with Christopher Mintz-Plasse emerging as another supposed caped crusader, Red Mist, plenty of killing ensues.
Never mind the well choreographed action, it is the dynamic between Big Daddy and Hit-Girl that perhaps best represents the 'Kick Ass'. A relationship that would ostensibly appear in a "bad parenting guide" in The Daily Mail is based around vengeance but also moments of tenderness. Of course, the notion of raising a child as a sweary, killer assassin is somewhat inexplicable until you meet Cage's ludicrous (yet wonderful) characterisation of Big Daddy, based upon Adam West's version of Batman. And while Cage's level of performance is almost matched by all the other leads, it is Moretz who consistently steals the scenes, with Hit-Girl proving to be a consistently exciting screen presence.
There is a cloud of moral outrage surrounding 'Kick-Ass'. However, the film also has its own strong sense of morality. One of Dave's main motivations to become Kick-Ass is the point when he gets mugged and a middle aged man simply watches from a nearby window. Later while being told how he's "fucked up" for protecting a guy he doesn't know from being beaten up by three other blokes, Dave notes that what's fucked up is the fact that three men are beating up another guy and everyone's just standing around, recording the fight on their cameraphones. That's real talk.
Unfortunately, 'Kick-Ass' thinks it's clever than it actually is. The "gay BFF" to boyfriend transition is horrifically clichéd and a sequel is set up with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. Indeed, should that sequel appear, we should not only hope to see more action and wit but also more of the underwritten character of Marcus, who in one of the few failing elements of 'Kick-Ass', appears to be used as mainly an expositional tool.
Forget the minor character issues. Forget the swearing. Forget the clichés. Forget the fact they're still using MySpace in the film. Believe the hype. Matthew Vaughn's 'Kick-Ass' is an insanely brilliant, utterly fun, balls-to-the-wall action film.
'Kick-Ass' is out now in UK cinemas and will be getting to US audiences on April 16th.