Kick-Ass is a film about doing something special with nothing but your own fair hands to get you started. But not only does the plot follow this route, but the film’s path to production. Based on Mark Millar’s comic book of the same name, film rights were bought before the title was on shelves. Director Matthew Vaughn then held a couple of dinner parties with his wealthy friends and before long Kick-Ass’ rumoured $70m production budget was raised, an astonishing achievement for an independent film, even given Vaughn’s increasing clout in Hollywood.
His third outing in charge behind the camera, Vaughn’s Kick-Ass is about a typical teenage boy. Tired of merging into the crowd, and bored of his current life, Dave Lizewski (Johnson) however, decides to do something about his frustrations. After buying a costume online, comic-book crazed Dave takes crime-fighting into his own hands, and under the moniker of Kick-Ass, sets out to become a real life superhero.
Somewhat predictably, Dave’s first excursion as a vigilante doesn’t go well; he’s badly beaten, stabbed and hit by a car, though with damaged nerve endings, is now left with an above average ability to take a beating. Hardly a superpower, but it’s a start.
Kick-Ass’ second time on the streets is somewhat more successful, and intervening in a gang fight outside a diner, Dave fights off three men, all filmed on a cellphone from inside the restaurant. Sure enough the video is posted on the internet and he becomes an overnight star. Dave, however, soon unwittingly crosses one of the New York’s biggest mob leaders, and it’s only so long before he’s out of his depth in trouble, with nothing more than two trusty batons to fight for his life.
Controversial for its portrayal of excessive violence and swearing, especially from fellow vigilante Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz, aged 12 at the time of filming, Kick-Ass is The Dark Knight-meets-Superbad, and pulls it off with perfect aplomb. The action is fast and hard-hitting, with a sleek style it was always apparent Matthew Vaughn was capable of after his work on the promising if flawed Layer Cake.
Kick-Ass perfectly blends comedy with action, without forgetting to develop the plot along the way, and Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s screenplay deserves great credit. The dialogue is witty and incisive, capturing the one-liner conversations between teens without ever feeling fake or forced, with an amazing depth to the plot and narrative that you wouldn’t expect from a largely teen and young adult-targeted film.
Crossing paths along the way, fellow heroes Big Daddy and Hit Girl, played by Nicholas Cage and the aforementioned Chloe Moretz, and copycat crusader Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, fill up the caped-character quotient, sharing the limelight to produce a multi-layered attention field. The success of each, and further the lead Kick-Ass and villain Frank D’Amico (Strong), is down to some wonderful performances across the board. Mintz-Plasse has at last moved beyond his McLovin’ role from Superbad, alongside The Bad Lieutenant, this film gets Nic Cage’s career well and truly back on track, while Mark Strong has quickly become the go-to for creepy baddie and Aaron Johnson has now made a name for himself.
With a jaw-dropping sequence to close the film, Kick-Ass is remarkably fun and endlessly entertaining, even the clichéd love story keeps you guessing and won’t draw a yawn. The pacing is just right, and though the story struggles a little in the second act, that’s a minor grumble.
Ever since early footage screened at Comic-Con last year, the buzz surrounding Kick-Ass has been building to fever-pitch, and for once, it’s thoroughly deserved, and then some.