“Kick-Ass” features no radioactive spiders, no superhuman powers. Instead, director Matthew Vaughn (“Stardust”) delivers an ultra-violent comedy about a New York teen determined to become a superhero (and get the girl), only to find himself sucked into an unfolding fight between an ex-cop-turned-vigilante and the drug kingpin who ruined his life.
Adapted from the Icon/Marvel comic of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.—which was filmed as the monthly series was still unfolding, much like “Akira” —“Kick-Ass” satisfies cravings for graphic comic violence (think: John Woo, Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino) with multiple rounds fired, knives thrown and limbs severed or pierced. In other words: guys, leave your girlfriend/wife home, see it with your buddies, share laughs over inside references to comic books/movies, and spend the rest of the night repeating the film’s eminently quotable dialogue.
“How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” is the central question that eats at our hero, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), and launches him into his quest to do something about the petty criminals who pick on him and his friends. After being pummeled, stabbed and hit by a car on his first day out as Kick-Ass, Lizewski is left with a body full of metal holding his bones together (“Hey, I look like Wolverine”) and peripheral nerve damage, so he can barely feel the impact when he takes a hit.
Desensitized Dave once again dons his Kick-Ass costume (a wetsuit) and his intervention in a gang brawl turns him into a YouTube phenomenon. But his viral popularity also leads to a case of mistaken identity when drug kingpin Frank D’Amico believes Kick-Ass to be the costumed crusader killing off his men and stealing his product.
Instead, that would be Big Daddy (aka Damon Macready, played by Nic Cage), the vigilante with a gosh-golly demeanor and an apartment covered floor to ceiling in firearms, who’s been plotting revenge against D’Amico – the man who set him up years earlier.
But it’s Chloe Grace Moretz as Big Daddy’s foul-mouthed sidekick, Hit-Girl—his 11-year-old daughter Mindy, the Robin to his Batman—who steals the movie with her shocking/hilariously endearing vulgarities and a gusto that takes Natalie Portman’s Mathilda Lando from “Leon” and cranks it up to 11.
(Warning: Hit-Girl video preview is 18 and over.)
Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad,” “Role Models”) stars as Chris D’Amico, the comic-book-geek son of the drug kingpin, who desperately wants friends and his father’s attention. With the family business in danger, Chris dons a cape to become Red Mist, earning the heroes’ trust while leading them into a trap.
Despite the film revolving around high school students suffering through John Hughes-like indignities, “Kick-Ass” rightly deserves its R rating. And not for just for Hit-Girl’s mouth. “Kick-Ass” features sex, nudity, drug use and some disturbing violence. (Even Moretz says kids should not see this film.)
If you’re in the 18-45 male demographic, you’re golden. “Kick-Ass” does exactly that, and will likely hold you over until “Iron Man 2” hits theaters on May 7.