Why doesn't anyone ever actually try it?
It makes sense. If you think about it. I mean, we go to superhero movies and watch superheroes on television and read superhero comic books and what not...why hasn't anyone actually tried to be a superhero?
Thus follows the logic of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an invisible high school nerd who is neither geek nor gamer nor anything else. Instead he is an ordinary teen with a hyperactive imagination, a desire to be popular with the girls, or at least a girl, and a wrist that's well on its way to carpal tunnel due to way too much whacking off.
With a diving suit turned superhero outfit bought off the web, Dave decides to give the old superhero gig a go and, well, despite an initial ass kicking, good ole' Dave quickly becomes a Youtube sensation whose popularity soars in this age when a simple camera phone can instantly turn virtually anyone into a worldwide web celebrity.
Before long, Kick-Ass is joined by the even more vigilante father and daughter team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), an 11-year-old girl whose very existence in this film violates virtually every value I have regarding children and violence.
But, oh my, does she ever kick ass.
Of course, fighting crime inevitably attracts the attention of, well, criminals and, in this case, the local mafia head, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), is an old enemy of Big Daddy who now considers Kick-Ass an obstacle that simply must be removed before his empire is destroyed. Enlisting the superhero fantasies of his almost 18-year-old son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is reborn as Red Mist.
A darkly orgasmic blend of cinematic taboos violated with hedonistic glee, Kick-Ass takes the superhero genre and flips it on its ass, flips it back again, turns it around, twists it a few times then ties it into a not so neatly wrapped badass superbow.
Those who are easily offended, or even not so easily offended, may very well struggling not so much with being offended during Kick-Ass but by the unstoppable laughs that will easily arise anyway.
The simple truth is that Kick-Ass is dark, violent, irreverent, relentless, boundary crushing and very, very funny.
The master stroke of Kick-Ass, co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, is that through it all Vaughn manages to infuse each character with layer upon layer of just enough heart and/or humanity so that we actually become invested in their stories.
Dave Lizewski, Mr. Ordinary aka Kick-Ass, has such an unabashed heart for what he's doing that you can't help but fall completely in love with him.
Damon, aka Big Daddy, and Mindy, aka Hit Girl, have such a profoundly moving back story that it's hard not to be deeply inspired by this unfathomably off-kilter father/daughter bond even when the father in question is doing target practice with the daughter as target.
Back to Mindy...Seriously, shouldn't a film featuring an 11-year-old girl who chops off the limbs of bad guys and herself experience a violent ass whoopin' somehow feel wrong? Somehow? Really? In an interview with my pals over at The Film Yap, Moretz noted that if she used the same language she uses in the film at home she'd be grounded.
Yet Moretz is the highlight of Kick-Ass, a hilarious and adorable blend of The Bride with An American Girl. If Hit Girl were 18, she'd be America's next cinematic wet dream. As it is, the first time she pops up on screen you just sit there with your jaw dropped to the floor going "I can't believe they're actually going there."
Trust me, Vaughn goes there. Repeatedly.
Even Nicolas Cage, who was once pegged as the next Superman, is spot on perfect doing his best impression of a vengeful Batmanesque (Is that a word?) superhero with a score to settle. It's Cage at his most glorious, somewhat reminiscent of his recent turn in Bad Lieutenant 2. There's something unapologetically satisfying about watching Cage seek vengeance upon a system almost simultaneous to his real life adventures in dealing with his own financial issues.
Vaughn succeeds where Sam Raimi and crew failed, by making his young superhero into a believably awkward and vulnerable young man who truly is doing to do the right thing, fit in and even get the girl of his dreams (Lyndsy Fonseca) even if he has to play like he's gay to get her. Aaron Johnson's superhero more resembles Chris Makepeace's reclusive Meatballs nerd than a larger than life superhero.
Supporting players are equally solid, including yet another consummate baddie for Mark Strong and Christopher Mintz-Plasse's McLovin style superhero blend. Lyndsy Fonseca and Clark Duke also add depth to the supporting cast.
Man, I loved this film.
With the possible exception of The Dark Knight, no superhero flick in recent memory has so perfectly blended hardcore action, authentic humanity, full and rich humor, multi-layered characters and an abundance of truly risk-taking, bravado filmmaking.
Adapted from a comic book series by Mark Millar, Vaughn wisely went outside studio financing for Kick-Ass, allowing Vaughn the freedom to keep the film's not quite as market-friendly R-rating and ensuring a more faithful adaptation to Millar's works that should satisfy both fanboys and those who've never heard of the series.
Camera work by D.P. Ben Davis is imaginative and as irreverent as the film itself, while Russell De Rozario's production design lends an artistic hand to the film's bold and humorous blend.
While it seems undeniable that there will be those offended by Vaughn's almost Tarantino-like balls to the walls violence, including multiple scenes involving kids as young as 11, Vaughn creates such a perfectly constructed and styled film that it's nearly impossible to not be sucked into it all. While the film's marketing campaign gives a slightly false impression of a more gentle tone, rest assured that Kick-Ass earns its R-rating and, despite the presence of the 11-year-old Hit Girl, is not to be considered a family friendly film.
Instead, Kick-Ass is a film that kicks ass while never letting us forget that being a superhero isn't always about being bitten by a spider or getting caught in some sort of nuclear accident and suddenly acquiring superpowers. Instead, being a superhero is about making a choice and, when the time comes, having the balls to stand up for yourself, stand up for others and kick ass.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic