Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 117 minutes
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Craig Ever wonder why most superhero films feature squeaky-clean protagonists and hold back on the brutality and crudeness? It could be that they were saving all the carnage and coarse language for a single movie in which these traits spill out into the title: “Kick-Ass.”
Comic book-loving high school student Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) has been wondering something for quite a while: Why has nobody ever attempted to be a superhero? Why has no one ever put on a costume and gone out into the night and tried to defend the helpless?
Dave doesn’t have any superpowers, unless you count being invisible to the girl (Lyndsy Fonesca) he secretly pines for, but after ordering a brightly colored wetsuit off the Internet, he figures, “Why not?” His costume does little to help his fighting skills, but under the name Kick-Ass, he unintentionally becomes a Web sensation and starts to worry the criminal populace.
But when Kick-Ass allies himself with much more formidable crime fighters, father/daughter team Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), he finds himself taking on much more than he can handle.
Johnson shines as Dave, bearing more than a slight resemblance to Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker, though the similarity continues once he slips on his green and yellow spandex. He never really looks the part of a superhero, and that’s precisely the point from the get-go, as his first attempt at vigilantism results in a switchblade jammed in his gut and getting run down by a car.
However, this gets him metal braces on his bones and a decreased sensitivity to pain, which can only help in cleaning up the streets, especially when he’s taking on mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), a lumber tycoon dead-set on taking out all costumed heroes. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is pleasantly inelegant as his son, Chris, who doubles as Red Mist, an equally powerless and slightly clumsy super with a limitless bank account.
Hence, his stylish ride, the Mistmobile.
But when it comes to serious superheroes, Cage truly seems the part, uttering the ellipsis-laden speech patterns of Big Daddy, a disgraced cop turned Batman lookalike who’s brought up his child to get vengeance on the criminal underworld. And Moretz does her duty well as 11-year-old daughter Mindy, hiding her blonde pigtails under a purple pageboy wig as the pint-sized terror Hit-Girl, taking out a room full of drug dealers with a gory ruthlessness like no other in a scene set to the theme song to “The Banana Splits.”
Tra la la, indeed.
The blood-spattered sequences we see here pale in comparison to movies such as “Sin City” and “Watchmen,” which admittedly reinforce the argument that not all comic books are for kids. The difference here is that the characters are not depraved sickos with warped consciences but are more or less just normal folks donning capes, masks and eyeliner to make a difference in the world.
And that in itself is a tad unsettling. But what’s a movie for if not to push the envelope?
Though it directly parodies moments from “Spider-Man” and “Batman,” this is no spoof like the lame lampoon “Superhero Movie,” and it’s a great improvement on other homemade hero adventures “Blankman” or the recent Woody Harrelson vehicle “Defendor.”
The cheekiness of the adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic is best exemplified in its commentary of the sensibilities of the digital age, when anyone can be famous on YouTube for the slightest thing, but if Dave’s MySpace inbox is any indication, even brain dead computer jockeys need a hero.
If its title character is any indication, “Kick-Ass” isn’t for anyone uncomfortable with foul language, but add to that list an escalating recurrence of bodily dismemberment and an opener with a would-be Hawkman plunging to his demise, and you’ve got a surefire way to put off potential viewers.
But hey, isn’t that exactly why you want to see what all the fuss is about?