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?
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.
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.