Kick-Ass Review

Published 5 years ago by
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Screen Rant's Kofi Outlaw reviews 'Kick-Ass'

Director Matthew Vaughn has demonstrated with his previous two films (Stardust and Layer Cake) that he enjoys both epic adventure and dark subject matter. It’s probably why he was attracted to a film like Kick-Ass – a demented re-imagining of the classic super hero origin story (think Spider-Man meets The Untouchables) based on the equally demented comic book series by Mark Millar (Wanted) and John Romita Jr.

In Kick-Ass, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an average high school kid stranded somewhere in the invisible middle of the jock/geek hierarchy. There’s truly nothing remarkable about Dave except the scope of his young imagination, which he usually dedicates to his ‘self-satisfaction’ fantasies or the many comic books he reads.

There is one thing Dave has always wondered, though: Why don’t more people attempt to become real-life superheroes? Lord knows New York City could use more of them, if only to loosen the vice-like grip of crime bosses like the ruthless Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), whose reign of terror makes even the most righteous citizen turn a blind eye to injustice. How can good prevail over evil when the average person is too scared to fight for what’s right?

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Well, after being mugged one too many times by the same two crooks who prowl the alley behind his local comic shop, Dave Lizewski decides he is going to do what others are unwilling to: Don an elaborate costume and fight crime under the moniker of (you guessed it) “Kick-Ass.” Dave’s first outing as his flamboyantly dressed alter-ego doesn’t go so well; real-life heroism, he learns,  is rarely a successful enterprise. But a few stitches later, Dave actually manages a small act of heroism (caught on cell phone video, of course) and Kick-Ass is suddenly catapulted to the status of Internet phenomenon.

Once he officially breaks into the super hero business, Dave thinks he has finally earned the respect he’s desired – although he would trade it all for a chance with his high school crush, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). In order to impress the girl, “Kick-Ass” ventures into a seedy neighborhood to ‘thwart some villains’ who have been bothering Katie and there he meets two “real” vigilantes, Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and his deadly little sidekick, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). Daddy and Hit Girl have a personal vendetta against Frank D’Amico – one that can only be settled with lots blood and lots of dismembered bodies. But Frank D’Amico is not a guy who lays down easily – certainly not for some clowns in Halloween costumes.

Dave Lizewski quickly learns that real life is no comic book fantasy, and that he has stumbled into the middle of a war he is not prepared to fight.

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Kick-Ass is pretty much the holy grail of comic book movies for adults. If you’re not familiar with Mark Millar’s work on Kick-Ass and Wanted, it’s pretty obvious that he was one of those young comic book geeks who would always nudge his friends and ask, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?Kick-Ass the comic book was filled with sick riffs on Spider-Man and Batman mythology, and director Matthew Vaughn – along with his Stardust co-writer Jane Goldman – certainly got the joke. 

What if nerdy Peter Parker had tried to make a difference without that radioactive spider bite? What if a borderline sociopath like Batman really did have a child sidekick? These are all fair questions to ask of comic book lore, and they’re questions that Kick-Ass attempts to answer – often to shockingly hilarious results.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. I haven´t read the book, but I just saw the movie. It really kicks some serious ass. Best movie I´ve seen in a long time…

  2. the movie was entertaining but at the same time a huge disappointment. i have to laugh at all the reviews using the word “disturbing” to describe the movie since they took every disturbing element of the comic out of the movie. call me jaded but a cursing sword wielding ten year old doesnt disturb me;the real reason shes that way, thats disturbing, but they took that out of the movie. A ten year old doing coke because her dad told her its a secret government super soldier drug, thats disturbing, and absent from the movie. what daves female friend does to him after he confesses his love, thats disturbing, and taken from the movie. dave and bigdady are not meant to be likable or sympathetic characters. the filmakers totally changed the meaning of the story and took all the darkness from it. this could have been a very good movie that truly shocked, disturbed and entertained. instead its just another comic book movie.

  3. Fair's fair.


    Yes, Big Daddy in the comics was a nut job who lied to his daughter about their history. The true origin in the movie was basically the lie that BD told Hit Girl in the book.

    I don't hold it against the movie writers though. I think the final comics were written after the movie was in production.

  4. Truly entertaining and definitely 4 star rating. Aaron Johnson would be a good fit for spider-man and chloe moretz how about spider woman in a few years r just start her as spider girl !!!

  5. kickass cant even kick its own ass. this is why movies suck today that are made to target 17-24 year olds even though thier R rated. this film doesnt know what to be genre wise or demographic agewise.
    its suppose to be a comedy obviously, yet has action badly paced in the movie. its suppose to be a superhero movie but too utterly idiotic (with pathetic hero and stuff like the red mists hockey mask being laughable and the jet pack). if your being a superhero because your pathetic, thats not why superhero's are born.

    kickass has no reason to fight crime other than he's inept and pathetic, if thats your reason you need therapy not a costume. kickass should have been beatup out of costume and trained and found by nic cage and bonded with him and his daughter and all decided to fight crime instead of making fun of kickass and treating him like he's inept. he never emotionaly developes and thiers nothing remarkable about a movie wich steals from other movies (batman, kill bill, superbad etc.) but doesnt make the movie its own. too much time is given to hit girl and this movie is the worst film that only 20 year olds love ive seen since the watchmen (although I give the ultimate watchmen a C). this is a movie you watch once and flush down the toilet. Chronic pathetic Monkey Sp* teenager superhero's is your guys's idea of epic? cmon. I rank this movie down with Ernest saves christmas.

  6. might i say over the top action and thiers no bonding between nic cage and kickass but too much time given with cage and his on screen daughter wich you really dont emotionaly feel kickass really wanted to kick anyones ass. another thing is like in the first fight after the stabbing, the guy he saves looks like he's part of the gang beating him up. this is a movie designed to copy other movies and comic books and make money and suck the cash out of 17-24 year olds wallets.

  7. it would have been a greater movie had they had like comedy with the fighting with kickass screwing up and disposing of bad guys accidentaly or something. this is badly paced, badly written and wears itself then after the first 15 minutes. end of rant.

  8. thin sorry :p.

  9. Sheesh, don't hold anything back. Let us know how you really feel.

    There's no emotional connection between Big Daddy and Kick Ass because there really is no connection between them. There's supposed to be a connection between BD and Hit Girl because… she's his daughter.

    Yes, Kick Ass (the character) is lame. That's the whole point. He's not some trained assassin like Batman. He's a high school student who puts on a costume and tries to help people. If he'd put in time at the gym and the dojo then he might have been less lame, but then not so successful as the protagonist.

    It's not a comedy per se. It's a pseudo-documentary about an average Joe who tries to make a difference. The humour arises from the very natural absurdities that arise when people try to become super-heroes.

    I find the points you criticise the movie on are the points that I found made the movie so entertaining.

  10. Finally saw this. Cool flick. Was shock by who gets killed off.

  11. i loved this movie, that being said, like alot of movies, i dont feel like a sequel will do it justice, but i do welcome it, simply because, i loved the characters and felt emotionally involved with them, i consider this one of the best comic book movies ever made.

  12. What’s the point of being a geek if you’re not smart? this guy is both lame and dumb, the name should really knot be Kick-ass, should be DUMB-ASS. And, yeah, sure, Hit-girl is awsome but still don’t think killing all those guys is right, and yes, they are the bad guys but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

  13. I was cool with the movie “until” an eleven year old girl started killing people (can you say homicidal maniac?). I don’t care if the comic was like that – THIS is where I draw the line and go no further. Bad taste and poorly executed (no pun intended). I’d say two stars, and I’m being generous!

  14. Those who oppose this film are laughable in their reasoning. The parts that were in bad taste were what made this film particularly good. This film wasn’t made to teach the audience morals or justify the actions of the characters. It’s purely an entertainment piece, and it does it’s job on that point in spades. Trying to pile-drive your moral or ethical code into a film for criticism’s sake is blatantly stupid. What is it, do you all want to be force-fed the same boring garbage Hollywood gives you every year? I commend them for trying something new, even if it was low brow in nature.

  15. yo peeps kick ass is an awsome film watched it 3 times in a week it was awsome yeeeeeeeee monnnnnnnnn

  16. for all you people out there bashing this movie for not having an emotional connection between BD and kick-ass, there was never supposed to be one, sure kick-ass is the main character but his story isn’t the main story line of the movie. the whole movie ends up merging his story into Big Daddy and Hit Girls story. Their story is what the movie is pretty much about. Kick-ass is just an interruption on their story. and it’s not meant to be just a comedy movie, it’s more than that. this movie is a combo of action, comedy, and drama. that’s what it boils down to with a litttle bit of romance in the back between Dave and Katie. so stop bashing the fact that there is no emotional connection between BD and KA when there was never supposed to be.

  17. Thanks for this authoritative one!

    • You are…very mistaken sir and…use far too many periods….