“A new breed of superheroes will be revealed.”
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz,
Synopsis: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.
Now this is a movie that lives up to its title. As far as comic book superhero (or, more accurately, non-superhero) movies go, Kick-Ass is one of the few that is likely to appeal to people who don’t have a fan-boy mentality when it comes to men in tights with gadgets or superpowers, but who crave a fast-moving action flick that provides bloody thrills without taking itself too seriously. It taps into the same creative source as other superhero flicks — i.e. the universal desire to be able to right injustices without suffering unpleasant consequences or pain — but from a completely opposite approach. Dave Lizewski (British actor Aaron Johnson), the would-be superhero of Kick-Ass, is an ordinary, borderline-geeky, school-kid whose only power, as he wryly observes, is to be invisible to girls. Dave’s crusade against crime isn’t aided by super-powers or expensive gadgets, but fuelled by a desire to brighten up his dull existence and to get his own back on the unthinking bullies who make the lives of his kind so miserable. Why, he wonders, has nobody in real life ever attempted to become a superhero?
It’s a good question, the answer to which is fear of pain and death. But Dave is a callow youth with little life experience. Dressed in a green wetsuit with yellow piping that he bought online, he practices his moves in front of the mirror in his bedroom with the misguided confidence borne from reading too many comic books. Of course, the intrusion of reality quickly brings an end to his naivety, and shortly before he is run over by a car, his alter-ego Kick-Ass emerges from his first meaningful encounter with real criminals with a knife wound to the gut.
Fortunately, Dave survives the encounter with both criminals and car, but his nerve-endings are conveniently dulled so that he no longer feels pain the way you and I might. His next encounter, with three hoods beating up a lone man, proves more successful — and is filmed by a number of witnesses and uploaded onto the internet. Suddenly, Kick-Ass is a nationwide phenomenon, sparking a number of copycats.
Kick-Ass’s exploits also catch the attention of former cop Damon Macready (Nic Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), who are intent on launching an offensive on powerful drugs baron Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Damon’s wife committed suicide while he was in prison on a trumped-up charge orchestrated by D’Amico, and now he wants revenge. In the guise of Big Daddy and Hit Girl, Damon and Mindy follow Kick-Ass to the den of a drugs dealer working for D’Amico and save his life by killing the dealer and all his men, thereby marking themselves as enemies of D’Amico.
To say Kick-Ass is plot-heavy is an understatement, but that suggests that it has remained loyal to its comic-book origins. Comic books don’t have a lot of time or space to develop characters. Any characterisation must largely be produced as a by-product of the action, and apart from Dave, who serves as the film’s narrator, that’s largely the case with Kick-Ass. Villains and super-heroes alike are, well, cartoonish, and the world in which they operate looks the same as ours, but in fact bears only a tenuous similarity. of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; Kick-Ass isn’t trying to be realistic.
The look of the movie is also closely related to the look of a comic book. Many of the compositions look like they belong in a panel on a page. The colours are rich and vibrant, with an emphasis on primary colours. The blood — and there’s a lot of it — is unnaturally bright, and sometimes seems to hang in the air. Cinema references are also plentiful, with nods to spaghetti movies, De Palma’s Scarface and Battle Royale (or maybe Tarantino’s Kill Bill) amongst many others. All these are violent movies, and the Kick-Ass comic book is too, so it’s not surprising that the movie also has its fair share. And while I don’t have a problem with violence in movies in general, the violence suffered by the character of Mindy is more than a little disturbing, particularly in a final confrontation with D’Amico in which she is viciously kicked and punched. Overall though, Kick-Ass is one of those rollercoaster movies that sweeps you up within its first few minutes and rockets you through its story before off-loading you at the other end, breathless and disoriented and hungry for more.