“Like all serial killers there comes a point where just imagining it isn’t enough” There is so much deliriously and hilariously wrong with this line and as the self-deprecating voice over delivers it, you realise that Matthew Vaughn has delivered a classic.
Based on Scottish writer Mark Millar’s graphic novel the film takes place in present day New York. The protagonist, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a fairly average high school nerd who’s only real power is being invisible to girls. He’s not even the funny one within his circle of friends and is increasingly tired of living a mundane life and letting others walk all over him. Thus he decides to become a costumed super-hero named Kick-Ass. Hospitalisation follows his first fight with two thugs but the resulting damage to his nerve endings allows him to become a better fighter. Soon he becomes a YouTube hit and attracts the attention of a real crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and super-hero/father-daughter team Hit Girl (Chloё Grace-Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), all three far better equipped to live the life he fantasises about.
This is a sharp satire on comic books ever and their readers. It’s a Kill Bill type of confection where everything is stylish, intelligent and VERY funny. There is a pleasing amount of parodying comic books mixed with realism and subversion in a film about wanting to be something but being totally inept at it.
There are comic book style fractured families where parents are criminal, psychopathic, indifferent or just plain dead. The parents have failed their children and the kids have to find themselves amidst all of the awkwardness that adolescence brings and these kids use comic books as their guides.
The film starts as a clever parody of Spiderman most explicitly when Kick-Ass first dons his suit. Dashing across a rooftop, about to attempt a jump Kick-Ass suddenly realises the folly of the situation and puts on the breaks, letting loose a string of obscenities as he hits the edge. The film always reminds us of his vulnerability and the gap between fiction and reality.
The diner fight is a highlight as it exposes his amateurism as he dashes around, flailing his batons at criminals and taking a bit of a beating. Any other super-hero or trained fighter would coolly dispatch these low-level thugs with a few precise blows but Kick Ass is more of a punching bag than Jason Bourne or Batman would ever be.
Kick-Ass himself is analogous to the very audience the film parodies. By tapping into some of the wish-fulfilment that real life nerds long for – fighting ability, cool girls and comic book references it contrasts it with the fact that Kick-Ass is still human. His physicality remains awkward and he’s naive and prone to self-doubt and cowardice.
This is where Big Daddy and Hit Girl come in. Highly trained and heavily armed, the two offer a balletic and lethally efficient way of dealing with bad-guys and Kick-Ass realises he really is in way over his head. However he has a nerdish reaction to them, considering them awesome.
The film is smart enough to question his, and by extension our desire by to see Hit Girl and Big Daddy in action as it reveals that super-cute 10 year old Hit Girl has been brainwashed through comic books by her obsessive father. In making Hit Girl, Big Daddy has effectively thrown away her childhood, a criminal act in itself.
As Hit Girl Chloё Grace Moretz delivers a fantastic performance, every fight she’s in is uncomfortable to watch yet entertaining edge of the seat stuff as we see her going up against towering bad guys. Aaron Johnson is great as an unlikeable, dishevelled protagonist. Mark Strong is convincing and charismatic as the mob boss whilst Nicolas Cage has returned to the twisted characters we love to see him play.
The style of the graphic novel is rendered well into the film with text inserts like and Big Daddy’s journal and back-story taking the form of a graphic novel. The comic book world is continually referenced to from Steve Ditko, Batman, Genki Gear and Shojo Beat.
In short, it was so much fun and is one the first films this year that I’m going to see again.