Movie Review: Kick-Ass

"How come no one's ever tried to be a superhero?"  This is the question that plagues the mind of one comic book obsessed high school dweebie in Kick-Ass, the exhilarating big screen adaptation of the graphic novel by Mark Millar.  The inquiry serves as a promising theme for the film and addresses the notion that one doesn't necessarily have to be bitten by a radioactive spider or own a mansion full of high-tech gadgets to win over the admiration of his fellow citizens.  Director Matthew Vaughn (helmer of the underrated British gangster thriller Layer Cake) has a lot of fun with the source material and remains mostly faithful to it throughout the movie, including all of the brutal violence and coarse language that has recently twisted up the panties of numerous film critics all over the country.  By now you're probably wondering, does Kick-Ass in fact kick ass?  Well, let me ask you this -- does Powered Toast Man fly backwards?

Kick-Ass stars up-and-comer Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski, a mop-topped and soft-spoken dork who spends most nights seated at his computer "making deposits in the spank bank."  With his virginity well intact and no one to keep him company besides a stack of funny books, Dave concludes that his ordinary life has become all too predictable and decides to do something about it.  He purchases a scuba wetsuit online, makes a few modifications and hits the streets in search of criminal scum despite possessing absolutely no superpowers.  When a video surfaces on the Internet of Dave fending off three thugs at once as his alter ego Kick-Ass, Dave is launched headfirst into the spotlight for the first time in his life and his world is turned upside down.  Of course, becoming the biggest YouTube sensation since the "Charlie Bit My Finger" kids has its drawbacks, and before you can say "Holy gimmick infringement, Batman!," Kick-Ass attracts the attention of the city's biggest and baddest hooligans.

Mark Strong (of Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and next year's Green Lantern) plays Frank D'Amico, the film's main villain and one of the most ruthless, take-no-shit evildoers in recent movie history.  D'Amico leads a vicious crime syndicate and paints a target on Kick-Ass's head when he assumes that the spunky hero is responsible for dispatching several of his henchmen.  What D'Amico fails to realize is that Kick-Ass has unknowingly inspired other heroes to surface, most notably the father-daughter crime fighting duo of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), a family torn apart by D'Amico's past misdeeds and hell-bent on exacting revenge.  When Kick-Ass eventually joins forces with the far more capable tag team of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, things get out of control in a hurry and the movie barrels forward to its intense conclusion which turns out vastly superior to the one in the comic book.

Director Matthew Vaughn took a huge economic risk with Kick-Ass, raising the funds himself to get the picture produced when several studios refused to fork over cash in exchange for the violence to be toned down for a wider audience.  Kudos goes out to Mr. Vaughn for not sacrificing his artistic vision to make a few extra million dollars in the box office.  Kick-Ass definitely earns its R rating -- Kick-Ass is beaten within an inch of his life in his first fight, Big Daddy wipes out an entire warehouse full of baddies with magnum force, and the pint-sized Hit-Girl slices and dices her way through a gang of drug dealers with the help of a double-bladed staff while uttering hilarious lines like, "All right, you cunts.  Let's see what you can do."  The Hit-Girl character has created a sea of controversy which strangely hasn't helped the film's performance in the theaters.  Roger Ebert christened the movie as being "morally reprehensible," but someone should inform that old square that this movie isn't aimed at the PG crowd.

The Verdict: It's a shame that Kick-Ass hasn't quite lived up to the hype from a financial point of view because it's a riot from start to finish.  Part of this unfortunate business may have something to do with the way the movie was marketed as the previews made it look much more goofy and hokey than it actually is.  For a film that was basically an independent venture for a handful of producers (including Brad Pitt), the finished product comes off sporting the same kind of professional gleam as any of the Spider-Man installments, and it's a hell of a lot more entertaining than The Incredible Hulk or Superman Returns.  I'll give Kick-Ass an 8 out of 10.

Kick-Ass Trailer:

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