I would like to begin with the following statement: HO-LY-SHIT! Kick-Ass by Mathew Vaughn is a movie that truly deserves its name. This is a comic book movie that takes every comic book movie convention, spins them over their heads and adds into the mix an eleven-year-old girl who punches, shoots, and stabs gangsters right after saying what I hope will be one of this year’s most memorable movie lines. To say that this film goes over the top implies that you have to redefine where the top is.
The “hero” of the movie is Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) an average high school in New York who lives in a suburban neighbourhood that really resembles the one Peter Parker lives in. Dave is an average kid in every sense of the word: he is not athletic, he is not the brightest kid in school, nor is he the dorkiest. He is just somewhere in the middle and enjoys hanging out at the comic book store with his friends. One day he asks them why is it that no one has ever tried to be a real super hero. It’s just one of those questions that people ask in a casual conversation and the answer that Dave gets and is one he would get from any other people involved in the conversation: there are no superheroes because they would probably get their asses kicked.
Despite this accurate answer, Dave orders a scuba-diving costume on-line and gives the hero business a shot under the name Kick-Ass. Unfortunately, the two petty thieves he tries to fight stab him in the guts and he gets hit by a car. The recovery involves a lot of surgery that affects his nerve-endings and as a result some his bones need to be replaced by metal prosthetics. “I look like Wolverine” says Dave as he looks at his X-rays. Not quite, but the next time he fights goons in the street, he is almost impervious to pain and the onlookers record the battle and post it on YouTube, making Kick-Ass an Internet sensation.
This attracts the attention of gangster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), who cannot believe that this pipsqueak could be possibly be responsible for the recent robberies of his business that have left many of his men dead. Wrong masked hero as it turns out. Just as Kick-Ass is just trying to be a good citizen and maybe get the attention of a girl in school, Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) are waging their own personal war on D’Amico and they do not take prisoners. Damon’s alter ego is Big Daddy, whose costume looks like something Batman would wear, and indeed when Cage dons the costume he is definitely channelling Adam West from the 1960s Batman TV show.
Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show as Hit Girl, who is trained by her psychotic father into the art of killing people with knives, guns, and what seems to be a lance. But, hey, don’t worry; she wears a bullet-proof vest. Daddy even shoots her in the chest so that she gets used to it when the bad guys do it for real.
Also worthy of mention just for the awesome costume and the pimping ride is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as D’Amico’s son, Chris who comes up with a plan to help his father find Kick-Ass. Having read so many comic books himself, he figures that Kick-Ass can’t trust anybody except another superhero, so Chris dons a black cape and a red suit, calls himself Red Mist, gets a Mist Mobile and contacts Kick-Ass on MySpace in order to lure him into a trap.
This is another way in which this is definitely a movie of our time. Most of the characters have read comic books or have seen comic book movies so they know all of the clichés. The way to become famous is not to do something heroic, but to do something so out of the ordinary that someone will record it with their cell phones and post it on YouTube. Even the villain finds a way to use viral media in order to carry on his dastardly plan.
What sets this movie apart from any comic book movie, or any movie for that matter, is that it dares to go where no hero story has ever gone before. These heroes have no super power so when they run out of bullets, they realize that they just might get shot and that this is not like in the movies. Yet as the movie moves toward the so violent-you-wouldn’t-believe-it third act, characters get dismembered, mutilated, crushed, burned, and one man actually explodes in a giant micro-wave. In that aspect it is clearly not a realistic movie, but who cares? The point was clearly to push the boundaries and have a lot of guilty fun.
The ending leaves room for a sequel, although it’s hard to imagine what else the screenwriters (Mathew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, who worked from a comic created by Mark Millar and John S. Romita) could possibly come up with next. It’s hard to imagine, but I imagine it would kick a whole lot of ass.