There’s a scene in Kick-Ass—the one that introduces the father and daughter played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz—that is the funniest scene I’ve witnessed in a movie so far this year. It’s also the sickest, and whatever feeling this scene leaves you with will probably represent how you feel about the movie as a whole.
Kick-Ass is one hilarious, super violent, sick puppy of a motion picture.
Adapted from a comic book written by Mark Millar and directed by Matthew Vaughn (the highly underrated Stardust), the movie is wall-to-wall fun for those who go for this sort of thing. Aaron Johnson plays Dave, a bullied high school student who is invisible to girls and has had enough of losing his cell phone and lunch money to assholes.
He mail-orders a superhero outfit—it makes him look a little like a pathetic Power Ranger—and starts roaming the streets looking for trouble. When he battles some men beating up on one lone guy, and bystanders film and post the video on YouTube, Dave becomes Kick-Ass, an internet sensation.
There are others in his city dispensing cartoon-violent vigilante justice. Cage and Moretz are Damon and Mindy by day, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl by night. Let it be said that this provides another opportunity for great, goofball work from Cage who, after last year’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, is definitely on a roll. When he’s Damon, he’s a concerned papa using extreme measures to train his daughter in crime fighting. When he’s Big Daddy, he uses a hilariously stilted, odd line delivery that had me laughing through every word.
And then there is Hit-Girl, a wigged, masked Tasmanian devil who wants cool knives for her birthday and will slice your legs off at the knees because, well, that’s about how tall she is. Moretz steals the movie in a breakout performance that, nevertheless, makes this film an absolute no-no for preteens. Let me assure you, you don’t want any of your kids mimicking what Moretz does in this film. It would be bad for your furniture, and really bad for your limbs and face.
Making yet another appearance as a villain, Mark Strong delivers some of his best work yet as Frank D’Amico, a crime lord looking to rid the world of Kick-Ass while still trying to find time for his teenage son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The father-son relationship is summed up nicely in a scene where dad discusses movie theater snacks with Chris while a former associate screams from torture in the background.
Mintz-Plasse also represents another superhero wannabe in the film, the stylish Red Mist, he of the funky hair and secret agenda. Mintz-Plasse is doing a good job of sticking around after playing Fogel in Superbad. He’s pretty much a slight variation on Fogel with all of his roles, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Johnson provides a nice grounded performance at the center of the movie. The script requires him to run the whole “Girl Thinks He’s Her Best Friend” routine with costar Lyndsy Fonseca, and that gets a little tired. But, overall, it’s a fun part for Johnson, something akin to Peter Parker with an overactive libido and no real superpowers.
With all respect to Johnson, the film truly lights up when Cage and especially Moretz are onscreen. Credit Vaughn for making some magically weird soundtrack choices, including the Banana Splits theme song and Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” playing while Hit-Girl annihilates bad guys.
So, if you like your comic books bloody, and you can attend a screening without bringing any kids along, Kick-Ass is a really good time. If you should bring your kids, whatever harm comes to your limbs and living room furniture is entirely your fault.