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Kick-Ass

Rachel Winterbottom on the comedy value of wetsuits and foul-mouthed young girls

Written by . Published on April 1st 2010.


Kick-Ass

Upside down kisses, iconic symbols in the sky, skin-tight leather with the dexterity of Lycra, capes, angst and super powers. Who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? In reality, we get all of the angst and none of the perks and although superheroes don’t actually exist, bad guys do. So, aside from certain death, why has no one ever tried to become one?

Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy is Batman as depicted by Fathers for Justice. He’s what any real vigilante would have to be: quite mad.

This is exactly what typical teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) asked himself before deciding the obvious conclusion is to order a yellow and green wetsuit, get a Myspace page and go out and bust some asses. Simple, right? Only, this being reality (sort of), the first fight he picks ends up with him stabbed and then run over.

Once recovered (and now more metal than boy), an undeterred Lizewski dons the costume once more and ends up going from zero to most-watched video on YouTube after saving a man from a gang fight. Meanwhile his crush, Katie Deauxma, assumes he’s gay and invites him to become her BFF which he happily accepts due to it involving rubbing fake tan on her body and sleepovers. Things are certainly looking up for our hero. That is until he inadvertently draws the attention of local vigilantes Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

This father-daughter team are on a revenge kick to take down local crime boss, Frank D’Amico (a generic Mark Strong) and his gang of thugs. Their schemes to off his men one by one in bloody and interesting ways are attributed to Kick-Ass, which immediately puts him on D’Amico’s hit list. This finally gives the crime boss’s slightly disappointing geek-boy son his shining moment, as he hatches a plot to ensnare Kick-Ass by pretending to be his wannabe sidekick, Red Mist. Is Kick-Ass about to get his tush whipped?

Writer/director Matthew Vaughn’s take on Mark Millar’s comic Kick-Ass could have gone either way. It has Nicolas Cage in it, not everyone is amused by an 11-year-old girl saying the ‘c’ word and most people prefer their heroes super. Worse still, Jane Goldman – garishly haired wife of Jonathan Ross – worked on the script. The last Goldman/Vaughn venture resulted in Stardust. It turns out that children must make swearing fun, however, because Kick-Ass pulls it all off beautifully.

Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy is Batman as depicted by Fathers for Justice. He’s what any real vigilante would have to be: quite mad. His alter ego is a bumbling, all-American dad, a part that’s perfect for Cage whose acting ability is now based on maintaining the expression of someone desperately trying to overhear a conversation in the next room. To be fair to Cage, being in Kick-Ass has almost (but not quite) given him some post-National Treasure cool.

Brit Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy) was the perfect choice for Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass. Even if he is that annoying version of a geek that only needs to take his glasses off and suddenly he’s RPattz (shudder). With his Harry Potter frames and the ability to jerk off to anything with mammaries and squawking, awkward vocals, even as Kick-Ass Johnson’s Lizewski is the relatable geek who bleeds and bruises like a peach.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse (doomed to be forever known as McLovin) originally auditioned for the eponymous role, but the taking the glasses off rule doesn’t work the same magic on him. He is naturally brilliant at playing Chris D’Amico, AKA Red Mist, however. There aren’t many that could pull off the red quiff and black leather combo. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t appear earlier as the pair are great together. He even has a Mist Mobile. And a cape.

As good as these two are, the real star was always going to be the murderous 11-year-old. The excellent Chloe Mortez, (500 Days of Summer) as Hit Girl/Mindy McCready plays a very adult role (someone on the row behind sniggered a severely misjudged “jailbait” at one point). This purple-haired protégé is a cart-wheeling, death-dealing demon child.

It could have come across a bit gimmicky; there’s usually only so much fun to be had from a foul-mouthed kid before it starts to get too real, but Kick-Ass hits the spot just right. The ‘c’ word isn’t even the most scandalous part of the film, although only because it’s outshone by the same little girl shooting a man in the face. It took guts to have a child casually crush a man to death at the push of a button, but not only did Vaughn pull it off, he made it funny.

These are heroes whose motives are debatable (without being as heavy-going as Watchmen), with suits you see the zipper on and blacked out eyes that stay that way even when the masks come off. You never see Batman hastily rubbing the guy-liner off with a Kleenex.

Comic-scribe Mark Millar also wrote Wanted, the film version of which took itself far too seriously. Luckily, Vaughn hasn’t fallen into that trap. Kick-Ass might have a bit of a Hollywood ending (Millar likes his finales dark), but it does it with wit, sharp dialogue and panache. Blood is drawn and spilled in vibrant, comic-book reds. Violence is frequent and thugs are unapologetically expendable. Kick-Ass is a hugely enjoyable teenage movie for the Superbad/Spiderman crowd. Violent, brutal, sadistic, funny, controversial. Kids, don’t try this at home.

8/10

Kick-Ass (15) is on general release now.

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