PLOT: A geeky, teenaged comic book fan, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to become a superhero, despite possessing no special abilities or strengths. His first foray as the costumed hero Kick-Ass is almost his last, with him spending the next few months in intensive care. Upon his release, he gives it another try, and soon begins making headlines after one of his outings ends up becoming a YouTube sensation. However, he soon runs afoul of a drug lord (Mark Strong) who mistakenly believes Kick-Ass is behind the killing of several of his top men. These killings are actually the work of father/daughter superhero team, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), with a vendetta against the drug lord. Soon, Kick-Ass finds himself caught up in some very real and very bloody superhero action.
REVIEW: KICK-ASS kicks ass!
There, I said it. I’d be willing to bet that phrase is going to turn up a lot now that KICK-ASS is finally hitting theaters, as it’s truly everything the fan boy hype has been cracking it up to be since its debut at BUTT-NUMB-A-THON several months ago. Director Matthew Vaughn’s three for three in my book.
Vaughn does the same thing for superhero films with KICK-ASS that he did with crime dramas for LAYER CAKE, and fantasy films for the criminally underrated STARDUST. This is a film that works on all levels. On the one hand, it’s a satire of superhero flicks like SPIDER-MAN, THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON-MAN, with the film taking the piss out of all the established clichés of the genre (complete with a hilariously botched first outing as a superhero, which ends with him naked and bleeding in the hospital, leading to rumors among his classmates that he’s gay- although this ironically lets him get close to the girl he likes). However, while KICK-ASS is essentially a comedy, it still works as a straight superhero flick, as the bad guys are real, and the violence hits hard.
While I haven’t read any of the Mark Millar comics this is based on, from what I gather the film sticks pretty close to it’s source. The film has a serious edge over the other superhero flicks out there, as Vaughn wholeheartedly embraces the R-rating with some of his heroes, particularly the half-mad Big Daddy, and his eleven-year old protégé/ daughter, being almost as insane as the villain.
Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl is going to be the one everybody talks about once this film comes out. When I first heard that much of the action in the film was going to consist of an eleven-year old shooting it out with drug-dealers, I assumed it wouldn’t work. However, Moretz really pulls off the role, with her possessing a frightening edge that makes her seem much older than she actually is. She acquits herself brilliantly in the numerous action scenes, particularly the instantly classic Hit-Girl intro, which has her take down a room full of baddies with a couple of butterfly knives, and awesomely choreographed kung-fu action. Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy gets in on the action a little later, with a memorable warehouse shoot-out, effectively scored with John Murphy’s now-classic 28 DAYS LATER theme. As for Cage’s performance, rest-assured, Cage delivers in a big way here. This is the Cage we know and love from films like RAISING ARIZONA, FACE-OFF, and LEAVING LAS VEGAS, with his playing the role to the hilt; complete with a hilariously exaggerated Adam West style of speech with in his Big-Daddy costume. Between this and BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, I have high hopes that Cage; once acknowledged as the best actor of his generation is making a comeback.
Mark Strong, who seems to be the go-to villain in every big film that comes out these days, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as his son/Kick-Ass sidekick, Red Mist, are also very good, with Plasse bringing a touch of McLovin’ to his role. SPIDER-MAN fans will be amused at the way the Strong/ Plasse relationship sends up the Osborne father/son relationship from the SPIDER-MAN movies, with Plasse's Red Mist being conflicted between his loyalty to his dope-dealing, murderous father, and his new role as sidekick to Kick-Ass, who he eventually begins to like despite himself. I also dug Clark Duke (HOT TUBE TIME MACHINE) as Kick Ass’ high-school bud- although his screen-time is limited.
As good as the supporting cast is, the whole film would have collapsed has Vaughn not found the right guy to play KICK-ASS, and he really lucked out with star Aaron Johnson, who’s bloody brilliant as our hero. He impressed me in a big way as John Lennon in the recent NOWHERE BOY, but he’s even better here as Kick-Ass, with him carrying the whole film on his shoulders effortlessly. At only nineteen Johnson’s really proving himself to be a great actor in the same league as someone like Ryan Gosling, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s funny as the impossibly geeky hero, but what’s great about Johnson is that he’s also able to pull off some of the more dramatic scenes after this takes a dark turn during the final act. Now, some people may complain that the tone of the film is inconsistent, but it worked for me, as there is a certain point when the film starts to take itself somewhat seriously, but thanks to the skill both in front and behind the camera, the transition is seamless.
Another great thing about KICK-ASS is the use of music. Judging from his brilliant use of music in LAYER CAKE (the Duran-Duran ‘Ordinary World’ sequence is a classic), Vaughn knows how to choose tracks for his films. Obviously, he took a lot of care selecting the soundtrack, with the film having three credited composers, in addition to a whole slew of source music from artists ranging from The Prodigy, New York Dolls, and even Ennio Morricone’s theme from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE gets a work out. The film also has a gorgeous, wildly colorful look courtesy of cinematographer Ben Davis who also shot Vaughn’s other films. I was lucky enough to see this projected digitally, and the look was outstanding.
All in all, I found KICK-ASS to be an incredibly fun time at the movies, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun at a movie. It’s a rockin’ good ride, and I look forward to seeing it again. This is a must-see!