Kick-Ass **** (out of ****)

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goodman based on the comic book by Marc Millar and John S. Romita Jr.
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Moritz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Michael Rispoli
Rating: R (strong, brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and drug use)
Running Time: 117 min
Release Date: 4/16/10

At the outset of Kick-Ass we start with Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a very none-descript high school student, who has a couple of equally non-cool sidekicks. Their main interests other than girls, who are not interested in them, is comic books. One day Dave asks his friends why no one ever dresses up in a costume and fights crime for real. One of his friends points out correctly that if one where to actually try that they would get their ass kicked.

Dave is undeterred and buys a mail order costume. Eventually he chances to confront a couple of tugs trying to break into someone’s car. Yes, he gets his ass kicked. Then he gets stabbed and hit by a car. When he gets out of the hospital and one assumes some physical therapy (not shown), he resumes training to be Kick-Ass his nom de guerre. In his next encounter with crime he fairs somewhat better and fellow teen’s cell phone camera videos of his battle with street thugs goes viral on the internet. Kick-Ass becomes a household name. Some someone is even planning a comic book about him.

In a parallel story we learn that a former police officer spent five years in prison after being framed for drug dealing by mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) after refusing to become corrupt has also become a costumed vigilante. Damon Macready aka Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) has pattered his persona after Adam West version of Batman but with a lot less respect for the law. He has also recruited Mindy, his 11-year-old daughter, into his plan for vengeance. It seems she was a good learner. This duo has funded their operations by stealing drug money from the D’Amico street operatives and accumulated a $3 million dollars cash stash. In an opening scene we see on one such mobster being tortured trying to explain the he didn’t take the money but someone looking like batman did.

David has had a crush on Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). She was totally uninterested in him until a rumor spreads that he is gay. Being a liberal young lady, who volunteers at a needle exchange clinic, the idea of having a gay best friend appeals. Not exactly what Dave has in mind but he goes with the chance to be with her. A man she knows from the clinic named Rasul has been bothering Katie and she makes an off hand comment that she could use the helps of someone like Kick-Ass to tell him to leave her alone. Dave seizes the opportunity and soon finds himself is a sleazy apartment surrounded by several dangerous thugs. It looks like this is going to be the end for K-A when in comes Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who proceeds to kill these rather formidable thugs with some dispatch. Hit Girl is Big Daddy’s daughter. This begins loose relationship between the duo and K-A whom they see as a hapless wannabe but as Hit Girl says with some potential.

Having seen his complete incompetence next to the duo, Dave has second thoughts about his life a super hero. But, unfortunately for him was misidentified by the mobsters has the individual responsible for deaths of eight of D’Amico’s people and the theft of a lot cash. Enter Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), D’Amico’s son, who has been spoiling to get into the business with a plan to get Kick-Ass. He assumes the masked identity of Red Mist pretending to be a crime fighter and fan of Kick-Ass. I’ll say little more about the plot but that there is plenty of action to come.

Clearly Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show. Compared to Hit-Girl the Kick-Ass character is really out of his league even with his rally late in the show. This has not been without some controversy. Film critic Roger Ebert is appalled at the image of a merciless 11-year-old girl killing like its fun. Is this character credible? In fact are any of the super hero movies credible? Or, even most action movies for that matter? Also, I would point out the child soldiers in Africa as an unfortunate example of this possibility not to mention several school shootings in our own country. In fact that is what is disturbing about all of this.

Kick-Ass is a rather Tarantino-like flavor with allusion to Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Matrix, John Woo films, and others. This is a hard R movie and is not for children. It is very funny in places or very disturbing in others. Or, perhaps what is disturbing is that it is funny! Thus forewarned go and enjoy.

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