A comic book adaptation that takes huge pride in sending up superheroes and does so to delightful fun and violent effect.
Matthew Vaughn is a director who likes to subvert genres. Layer Cake
took the British gangster film and injected it with Michael Mann (Heat)
like cool and Stardust took the fairytale concept and skewed it to
something resembling The Princess Bride. That he met Mark Millar, the author on who’s comic series Kick Ass is based, was surely a match made in heaven. Millar also wrote the comic of Wanted so you get an idea of how he likes to play with the idea of ‘hero’.
Despite the obvious collaboration of Vaughn and Millar, Kick Ass did
not have an easy road to the screen. Passed by all the major studios as
too controversial Vaughn went the independent route and it pays
dividends. There is nothing here dictating how a film should pander to
the audiences’ needs and ironically it will lift the spirits more than
your average run-of-the-mill comic book film.
Dave Lizewski (Johnson) is a normal high-school nerd who one
day decides to try his hand at being a super-hero and transforms himself
into Kick Ass. Little does he know there are already vigilantes at work
in his city in the form of father-daughter sidekicks Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit Girl (Moretz). When king-pin gangster Frank D’Amico (Strong)
believes Kick Ass is responsible for a series of attacks on his men he
sets out to destroy the would be hero. With the help of Big Daddy and
Hit Girl, Kick Ass must stop the bad guy, get the girl and all in time to do his homework.
Matthew Vaughn recently stated that the super hero genre was ‘dead’
due to the formulaic manner the films have adopted. This was perhaps an
unwise comment considering he is currently directing X-Men: First Class.
But he might be right and if so then surely Vaughn, and Kick Ass, are
partly to blame. For Kick Ass follows that familiar ‘origin’ story but
does so with its tongue firmly in its cheek and as such mocks, in the
blackest comedic way possible, the super-hero concept more than any
other film to date.
The story seems to follow the Spiderman trend (Dave even
appears to live in a replica of Peter Parker’s house) of a picked upon
geek who longs for a girl he could never get only to find himself
empowered, in this case by nerve damage that prohibits Kick Ass from
feeling pain. This allows him to put aside his fear and become the hero
he always had inside. Where it differs is that Dave is no Peter Parker.
Even as Kick Ass, he is still terrified and pathetic in battle. The real heroes, Big Daddy and Hit Girl, are as dysfunctional as a modern day Adams Family and all of this wrapped in a world where, and this is crucial, super heroes are a ridiculous concept.
brings a brilliant slant to the whole affair and injects it all with a
boundless energy that is immediately contagious. He colours with a
vibrant graphic novel pallet but is able to perfectly balance the more
serious beats. While it is intended to be fun, and by the end if you are
not fist pumping and jumping with excitement your inner geek is dead, there is also genuine heart. This is best seen in the tragedy involving Hit Girl’s missed childhood and misguided father. Jane Goldman (Stardust)
and Vaughn’s script finds moments of tenderness that are hugely
touching. Much of these are aided by a score that is up there with the
powerhouse of a Dark Knight and lend huge gravity to proceedings.
Kick Ass, Aaron Johnson, continues his rise to stardom that started with Nowhere Boy.
He brings just enough warmth and wide-eyed gaze to make him a loveable
protagonist. Nic Cage is clearly revelling in his Adam West (TVs Batman)
impression, while Mark Strong is an actor who is endlessly watchable in
his villainy. However, the film is stolen from all concerned by Moretz
as Hit Girl. Sure Hit Girl is one of the best screen characters since
Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt in Fight Club) but Moretz was only
ten when she started filming the part. As profanity and high-kicks
erupt from this young actress you cannot help but be swept up in her
violent ways. She has even perfected a Clint Eastwood snarl out
of the corner of her mouth. It is no wonder that she is currently being
cast in any role of that age group, including the Hollywood version of Let The Right One In, off the back of this.
Over the top, violent, uplifting and one of the most enjoyable
films of the year. Kick Ass does exactly what it says on the tin. If it
has not already expect this to form cult status like a Tarantino film on