MovieMantz Review: ‘Kick-Ass’

“Hero at Large”

Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

With a name like “Kick-Ass,” you know what you’re in for. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s the beauty of this stylish, action-packed and gloriously entertaining superhero satire from director Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”). The truth is, it’s not for everybody, especially when a foul-mouthed 11-year-old girl takes down a room full of thugs in a blood-soaked brawl. But for comic book fans looking for a cool and clever deconstruction of the genre, this R-rated cross between “Superbad” and “Kill Bill” is the movie we’ve been waiting for.

Based on the comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., “Kick-Ass” tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an awkward teenager who takes his passion for comic books and superheroes to another level – a level that’s either incredibly brave or unbelievably foolish, depending on your point of view. After donning a green and yellow wetsuit, he takes to the streets of New York to fight crime as Kick-Ass – a masked vigilante with idealistic ambitions, despite the fact that he can’t even fight his way out of a paper bag.

But after one of his scuffles gets posted online, Kick-Ass becomes an Internet sensation, inspiring the imagination of the American public. It turns out that Kick-Ass isn’t the only game in town, as he also has to contend with the highly trained father-daughter team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) – fearless sociopaths who have waged their own personal war against a local mob boss (Mark Strong). When they reluctantly join forces, Kick-Ass will have to decide if he has what it takes to live up to his name.

Far from being just another superhero movie, the $28 million-budgeted “Kick-Ass” is a hip, daring, gleefully violent breath of fresh air, and not just because of the outrageous Tarantino-esque action scenes and pop-cultural references. In addition, where “Spider-Man,” “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” were based on comic book characters, “Kick-Ass” features a hero who actually read the comics based on those characters.

“Kick-Ass” was co-created by John Romita Jr., a Spider-Man artist since the 80s (and whose father, John Romita Sr., defined Spidey’s look back in the 60s), so it makes sense that Dave Lizewski and Peter Parker have so much in common. Both grew up as only children in New York, and neither could get a date to save their lives. But where Parker got his physical powers from a radioactive spider, Lizewski got his figurative powers (i.e. his confidence) from the Internet, making him the first costumed hero to take full advantage of the world wide web.

And as Kick-Ass, British newcomer Aaron Johnson gives an excellent star-making performance, and he’s bound to get a lot bigger after his next movie, “Nowhere Boy” (in which he plays teenage John Lennon), opens this fall. Mark Strong seems to relish playing the menacing local mob boss, while Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from “Superbad”) makes his mark as his eager-to-please son, who fakes being a superhero to lure Kick-Ass into a trap.

But without question, Chloe Chase Moretz steals the movie. After making her mark as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wise and precocious little sister in “(500) Days of Summer,” Moretz is far better than an 11-year-old girl has any right to be as Hit Girl, an assassin who swears like a sailor and turns her enemies into mincemeat. Her role is comparable to Natalie Portman’s star-making turn in 1994’s “The Professional,” and Nicolas Cage is perfectly cast as her revenge-fueled father, who makes Bruce Wayne’s Batman look like a model citizen.

“Kick-Ass” might stir up come controversy for supposedly glorifying violence, but it has the colorful look of a comic book movie, and the fight scenes are too over the top to be taken seriously. Superhero movie fans will love the references to past genre classics, but the screenplay (written by Vaughn with Jane Goldman) also has moments of tenderness. That’s why “Kick-Ass” is as good as its name. Of course, the ending leaves the door open for a sequel, and by the time that comes around, moviegoers will know what they’re in for.

Verdict: SEE IT!

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