To his credit, Matthew Vaughn manages to draw an almost perfect line between where “the real world” ends and comic book fantasy begins – and that is truly a tough feat to pull off in a film like Kick-Ass, which wants to purport itself as “reality.” In a similar fashion, the tone of the film is well-balanced between demented hilarity and poignant sincerity, with the former never coming off as foolish, and the latter never really coming off as cheesy or misplaced. Vaughn clearly “got” the source material and knew how to translate it to the screen intact. It was a big risk (no studio would finance this film, so Vaughn pulled together the funds himself) but one that was well worth it, in my opinion.
For adult comic book movie fans, I don’t think I have to sell you on this film – if you’re looking for confirmation that it lives up to the hype, it does. Kick-Ass is funny, twisted, thrilling, highly enjoyable and even manages a few moments when it feels moving and insightful. It also looks great, and the action sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in a “realistic” comic book movie. Streets fights look savagely accurate, while martial arts sequences and shootouts are slickly polished and well choreographed. One criticism: Some of the later action sequences really do get quite over-the-top (hence the missing half-star), but by that point in the film, most people will be having too much fun to care.
If you consider yourself more of an average moviegoer with moderate tastes, then you need to really decide up front if you can handle a film that has very explicit violence (some of it inflicted upon teens and children); moments of comic book absurdity; unabashed teenage raunch; and a homicidal little girl who curses streaks bluer than most sailors’ uniforms. I will tell you that if you sat through Watchmen, but found that film to be very slow and boring, Kick-Ass basically tackles the same subject matter (the “reality” of being a super hero) only in a much more fun, fast-paced, tongue-and-cheek fashion.
It helps that the actors on screen seem to being having fun as well. Aaron Johnson gives a strong breakout performance as Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass. The story calls for him to tap into both the comedic and dramatic wells of acting, and not only does Johnson pull it off, he makes it interesting to watch. As a leading man he gets very high marks (I say he’s a great candidate for that upcoming Spider-Man reboot over at Sony).
Nic Cage gives one of his better performances as Big Daddy, doing a hilarious riff on Adam West’s campy 1960s version of Batman. Christopher Mintz-Plasse adds yet another great geek character to his resume playing Red Mist, a cocky young crime fighter who has questionable motives. Mintz-Plasse has definitely proven that he is more than just “McLovin” and continues to hold his own onscreen, despite his impressive co-stars.
And while it might seem strange that a classically-trained stage actor like Mark Strong would do well playing a one-note depraved psychopath, he still manages to make Frank D’Amico a villain who is almost as enjoyable (if not more so) than the heroes he’s battling.
However, there is no debate that young Chloe Moretz is the belle of this ball. A lot of people will be up in arms about her performance as the foul-mouthed vigilante Hit Girl (one scene of foul language in particular seems to be riling people up), but Moretz never once comes off as some exploited child actor. Quite the opposite.
Like Johnson, Moretz is in strict command of her performance the whole way through; she’s movingly dramatic at times, scathingly witty at other times, cutesy, badass – you name it. I didn’t come away from this movie worrying about the young actress’ mental welfare – I just had three words burned into my brain: Breakout movie star.
Kick-Ass is easily the most enjoyable tentpole movie I’ve seen this year, and ranks well within my top 5 comic book movies of all time. Fans of the genre should be jumping up and down in anticipation; for the average moviegoer, there’s is a lot to enjoy if you don’t mind some slightly twisted R-rated subject matter. Just remember: These aren’t your child’s comic book super heroes… Leave the kids at home for this one.
You have been officially warned.