Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Matthew Vaughn, director; producer (w/Brad Pitt and others);
Script w/Jane Goldman based on the comic book by Mark Millar & John Romita, Jr.
Starring: Aaron Johnson (Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass), Chloe Grace Moretz (Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl), Nicolas Cage (Damon Macready aka Big Daddy), Mark Strong (Frank D’Amico), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Chris D’Amico aka Red Mist), Jason Flemyng (doorman), Lyndsy Fonseca (Katie Deauxma)
Violent, funny and compulsively watchable, Kick-Ass was bound to be a hit, especially among the legion of fans who have read and loved the comic book about a nerdy teenaged wannabe costumed hero. Now, it has gone viral thanks to an intense controversy surrounding the costumed hero’s pal Hit-Girl, a foul-mouthed 11-year-old killer who wears plaid skirts and sports pig-tails. Media outlets across North America are acting outraged about Chloe Grace Moretz’s portrayal of the saucy action heroine who shoots out the lights of approximately 50 bad guys in the film and—far worse—uses not only the “f” word but also the “c” word.
The media spin-doctors are already out in force reassuring us that Ms. Moretz is really a nice girl and rarely swears at home. And I don’t mind admitting that it is somewhat reassuring to be informed (over and over again) that Hit-Girl is a remarkable performance, not a document of the real Chloe Moretz.
In any case, she’s an amazing talent and I don’t think I’ve seen a side character take over a movie so completely since Angelina Jolie rose to stardom and Winona Ryder descended to irrelevance in Girl, Interrupted. Ms. Moretz is unlikely to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Hit-Girl but being compared to the Hollywood nymphet triumvirate of Brooke Shields, Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman is surely high enough praise for any 13-year-old.
Kick-Ass stars Aaron Johnson, of course—not Chloe Moretz. He does a good job of playing Dave Lizewski, a seemingly ordinary American high-schooler, who has a few friends, a crush on a girl named Katie, and is neither an athlete nor a scholar. Invisible, in other words, until he stumbles on a big idea and has the nerve to try it out. His idea is more of a question: why hasn’t anyone donned a colourful costume and gone out to fight crime? After all, Batman did.
Dave finds out soon enough. Dressed absurdly in a tight green uniform that makes him look more like an adolescent version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon than a superhero, Kick-Ass is knifed, beaten up, run over by a car and left for dead in his initial encounter with bad guys. After a stay in hospital, Dave goes out again with better results, fighting three guys to a stand-still. Luckily, this time a teen-ager with a video camera shoots the whole clash and puts the scuffle on the Internet. Kick-Ass becomes a star overnight.
Even better for Dave, Katie begins to pay attention to him—but for the wrong reasons. She assumes he’s gay—there had been no good explanation for his savage beating—and takes him on as a friend. In a crazy attempt to attract Katie to his “heroic” side, Dave dresses up as Kick-Ass to defend her against a thug who had threatened her. But just when this third Kick-Ass fight is looking grim, with a room full of dealers and pimps ready to take him on, Hit-Girl comes to his rescue, killing every last one of them.
Comic book plot machinations take over the rest of Kick-Ass. Turns out that Hit-Girl and her ex-cop father Big Daddy are out to get Frank D’Amico, the head of the local Mafia. Frank’s son, who just happens to go to the same high school as Dave, comes up with a plan to smoke out Kick-Ass, who the D’Amicos mistakenly think is destroying their mob, piece by piece. (Actually, it’s Hit-Girl and Big Daddy who are threatening the D’Amicos, not Kick-Ass, who has virtually retired since his encounter with Katie’s thugs.)
Dressed as yet another costumed character Red Mist, the younger D’Amico lures Kick-Ass out of hiding, befriends him and finds out about Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. All of which leads up to the big confrontation between masked heroes and the Mafia. The winner? Hit-Girl is the one who truly kicks ass—in the film and in the celebrity sweepstakes.
If violence and extreme language doesn’t turn you off, Kick-Ass will entertain you. If it does, there’s always Mozart.