“Kick-Ass,” the latest from director Matthew Vaughn, is a wild ride from start to finish. Simultaneously a superhero movie and a riff on superhero movies, the film is full of ribald humor, over-the-top violence, and a surprising amount of heart. It’s a tad long, but it doesn’t once wear out its welcome. Just when you think you’ve seen how far over-the-top this film will go, it goes one step further.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) doesn’t have much going for him. He only has a few friends, he’s not talented at all, and girls won’t give him the time of day. While hanging out at the local comic book store, Dave wonders why real people don’t try to be superheroes. Thousands of people want to be like Paris Hilton, Dave says, so why doesn’t anyone want to be Spider-Man? Sick of being mugged everyday walking home, Dave decides to take action. And thus, Kick-Ass, Dave’s crime-fighting alter ego, is born.
Things are rough-going at first. Dave/Kick-Ass is stabbed and hit by a car, but all the metal plates put in him only make him stronger, and soon enough, he is back on the streets. When someone records Kick-Ass protecting a man from three thugs, our hero becomes a viral sensation and attracts attention from a number of different sources.
The first is from the father-daughter superhero team of Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). These two are working to take down New York’s mob kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), who Big Daddy blames for his wrongful imprisonment and the death of his wife. They see potential in Kick-Ass but really just want to make sure he stays out of their way and doesn’t get hurt. The other person to take an interest in Kick-Ass is D’Amico himself. He thinks Kick-Ass killed some of his men (it was actually Big Daddy), so he has his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) don a mask and cape (his superhero moniker: Red Mist) to lure Kick-Ass into a trap.
The film is as enjoyable as it is because it works as both a straight-up superhero movie and a parody of such films. “Kick-Ass” is bloody and violent, as violent as any superhero movie ever (it absolutely earns its R-rating). It also features a solid, although familiar and certainly incredible, storyline. The best thing about the film, though, is the humor. A surprisingly large number of the jokes land. Some of them will appeal to a specific group of people (superhero fans will take delight in some of the inside jokes, specifically related to Nic Cage’s character, but I won’t ruin it for you here), but on the whole, it’s the kind of stuff almost anyone will find funny. Despite its rating and the subject matter, I think the film could appeal to a broad spectrum of people. It’s just so damn enjoyable.
Aaron Johnson nails the character of Dave/Kick-Ass. This is the kind of role that was tailor-made for Michael Cera about two years ago. But since he’s moved on to shit like “Year One,” they filled the role with a relative unknown. He has the social awkwardness thing down pat, and his comedic timing couldn’t be better. Nic Cage steals the spotlight in many of the scenes he’s in. This is precisely the kind of role he should be doing. Enough with the generic action hero stuff. He really ought to do more darkly comedic stuff like this. The real scene-stealer however is Chloe Moretz. Hit Girl will undoubtedly be the character you cheer for the loudest and remember most vividly.
In terms of the overall movie-going experience, “Kick-Ass” is very similar to “Zombieland.” The audience will be loud and very into it. The film dares you to have a good time, and I doubt anyone will be able to resist its charms. There aren’t many films out there that are as funny, unique, or as much fun as “Kick-Ass.” The violence will turn off some, but strong word-of-mouth should (I sincerely hope) make it a hit this April.