Theatrical review: Kick-Ass

There’s a new kind of superhero in town.

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Certificate: 18
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriters: Jane Goldman, Mark Millar
Cast: Aaron Douglas, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Distributor: Universal
Running Time: 117 mins

“How come no one’s tried to be a superhero, in real life?” geeky high schooler and comic book fan Dave Lizewski (Johnson) muses. “Cos they’d get their ass kicked,” comes the reply from his equally comic book-obsessed pals who are also, unlike Dave, big fans of reality too. Despite these naysayers, and with the help of a green leotard and mask, becoming a real life, if superpower-less, superhero is exactly what Dave does.

Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s instant classic, Matthew Vaughn (Stardust)’s comic-to-screen adaptation is an origin story unlike any other. Dave can’t fly, or shoot webs from his wrists, or stop bullets with his eyeball. Heck, even Batman, who had no powers either, had a host of specially designed crime-fighting ‘toys’ to play with. Dave does not. This doesn’t deter him and, after a spot of training (ninja skills, rooftop patrols, the usual) and newly christening himself Kick-Ass, Dave quickly becomes that which he craves – a kicker of criminal ass lauded for keeping New York’s streets safe. His newfound fame, though (he has a website where civilians can request his help), brings him some unwanted attention, firstly in the shape of two, much more skilled, cape-wearing crime-fighters – the foul mouthed, pre-teen Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Dark Knight-alike Big Daddy (an on form Cage) – and then, more problematically, the city’s crime king Frank D’Amico (Strong), who doesn’t like tight clothes-wearing oddballs gumming up his business.

Comic fan Vaughn and screenwriter Goldman take Millar’s anti-superhero source material and transpose its best elements to the screen – its knowing, comic book convention riffing, its spiky characters, and its potty-mouthed ultra violence. Vaughn refuses to pull his punches or tame the rougher edges (the scene-stealing Hit-Girl’s razor-sharp tongue for one), and pulls together some fantastic bang-for-your-buck set pieces laced with punky wit and attitude. In Kick-Ass, he’s got a hero we can really root for too, a geeky and terminally uncool outsider who never gets the girl, and his early antics are a lycra-clad riot. The film strays off course, though, with its move towards the middle when its premise segues into a more conventional comic book movie narrative. But ‘with no superpowers comes no responsibility’, and Vaughn revels in this same freedom: his Kick-Ass is a flawed but enjoyably fresh (non)superhero movie.

Napoleon Dynamite crossed with Peter Parker, Kick-Ass is violent and wilfully non-conformist. Superpowers or not, this is decent.