Bored from masturbation and the typical high school life of a nerd, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) one day decides to let his imagination take over. Sick of wondering the why of being an actual superhero, he decides to re-invent himself as one, calling himself Kick-Ass. As he costumes up and ineptly attempts to thwart minor crimes, he comes across Batman wannabe, Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his 11 year old daughter, Mindy aka Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz). Though their's and Dave’s intentions are similar, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the real deal, killing and (literally) taking apart New York crime. Particularly, a violent drug syndicate led by Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).
Appropriately titled, Kick-Ass is a definitely unique film despite director Matthew Vaughan applying obvious homage and certain formulas within its fast paced, blood soaked screenplay. That uniqueness for me mainly stemed from its ability to splice between the stark, semi-crude teen humour with severe dramatics (witness Kick-Ass’s attempt to stop two intimidating car thieves ending with the hard nose reality of such a situation). It may be jarring for some, but as the film goes on, it finds its vibe however multi-genre it ends up being, and still doesn’t try to be anything more than it was initially conceived as; pure comic book. In a sense, it’s understandable that some older critics have not been favourable – when it is in the mood, Kick-Ass wants you to feel the consequences whilst still happy bringing the jaw dropping anti-realism to its more violent action scenes. A frustrating experience for some no doubt.
It should be said however, Kick-Ass really does do excel in those action stakes. Breaking up the story in jolts, it is filmed in a way that feels truly cutting edge, while still managing to acknowledge its inspirations in the execution. The John Woo–inspired gun play is outstandingly staged. In one sequence, blurring the line between video game and movie, an attack by our young female protagonist, and filmed through the eyes of a pair of night vision goggles, appears as a cutting edge FPS, adding a surreal quality to be sure. Is it an intentional device to help audiences separate themselves from seeing a child do these things? Is it suggesting movies are more akin to a video game than real life? Or is it done because it just looks cool...maybe the latter is closer to the truth, but I have a hunch there is more going on than just comic book action. Which, while its agenda’s can be an ongoing debate, there is no denying the obvious; Kick-Ass is a contemporary pop culture manifest complete with its own instant cult figurehead; eleven year old Hit-Girl. It will be difficult to avoid her impression in the near future, particularly if we’re talking sequels, which the film quite certainly sets up – true to genre form.
Knowing that all this carnage is perpetrated by an 11 year old girl merely makes it more exuberant in all honesty. Perhaps some have trouble accepting that violence, presented in certain ways, is very entertaining to a lot of people. Be it wielded by an adult male, 11 year old girl or crazed monkey, and a staple in blockbuster filmmaking. After all, Kick-Ass’s pint sized killing machine even rivals Quentin Tarantino’s Beatrix Kiddo. Vaughan showing he certainly owes a lot to that director’s own approach to pulp fiction and on screen violence as well. Performances are solid all round, and it would seem, that perhaps this, finally, is a presentation of 'Generation-Y' on screen that can be embraced as both realistic and a mock; while Mark Strong and Nicholas Cage relish the lines they’re given. Cage in particular is impressive dealing out the pain and the humour – his Adam West approach to talking whilst in costume is a highlight.
Feeling like the spawn of Watchmen and Judd Apatow, with a bit of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman thrown in, it succeeds admirably as a “comic book movie” more than anything else. Having never read the comic however, I cannot make comparisons as an adaptation. The film is definitely for a niche market and many will hate it for many different reasons, which means it will probably only ever retain relevance as a cult favourite. As someone who walked out of the cinema slightly bewildered by the sense of witnessing something so fresh for a change though, its few actual filmmaking issues or cliché stumbles, couldn’t fault the fact that it never stopped entertaining me.