Kicking Ass, Taking Fame

April 30, 2010, 12:13 a.m.

For those of you expecting a high-budget, blockbuster, “Marvel-esque” style from superhero film “Kick-Ass,” you’ll be severely disappointed. However, those in anticipation of daring dark comedy, biting humor, excessive violence and characters with real heart will find that this movie goes above and beyond. Adapted from the popular comic book, this film, directed by Matthew Vaughn, not only stays true to the original story–pleasing the fans–but also opens itself up to a newer and wider audience, as evidenced by its place at the top of the box office the weekend of its release.

The story follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an entirely unremarkable teenager living in Manhattan. He loves comic books, but isn’t really a nerd, but he’s definitely not cool, either, he says. He and his two best friends spend their time browsing comics and chatting about girls–specifically Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). Dave speculates as to why nobody has ever actually tried to be a superhero, and despite being shot down by his less ambitious buddies, he orders a green scuba outfit online and becomes “Kick-Ass.” His wide-eyed good intentions capture the audience’s collective heart pretty early on; Dave is convinced that people don’t need super powers or Bruce Wayne’s fortune to do good things for other people. Looking completely ridiculous, Dave hits the Manhattan streets, and right off the bat, tries to prevent grand theft auto–and gets his ass kicked by the bad guys, who have street skills and knives.

Even after a visit to the hospital, Dave remains determined. It is this tenacity that transforms Dave’s character from being a bump on a log to incredibly endearing. Johnson, despite being a native Brit, adds a charming quiver to his voice, coming off as unsure yet eager, and putting a spin on a character that Michael Cera could pull off in his sleep. The standouts of the film, however, are Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his foul-mouthed daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz). Desperate for revenge on an evil mob boss, Damon and Mindy have spent their lives training in combat, knives and guns. The characters are introduced with Damon shooting Mindy point-blank in the chest, just to practice–don’t worry, she’s wearing a bulletproof vest, and, like a good dad, he buys her ice cream afterwards.

Kicking Ass, Taking FameScenes like this are just preparation for the Tarentino-esque fights in which Mindy absolutely unleashes on the bad guys–parents across America are outraged by the graphic violence perpetuated by an 11 year old girl. Appropriate or not, Mindy (or her alter-ego, Hit Girl) actually does kick some ass. Killing at least 20 people in the course of the film, Hit Girl is well-trained, an incredible shot and, most importantly, hilarious.

Hit Girl is not the only other superhero that Dave finds himself matched up with and outstripped by–Red Mist, the Bowie-esque, marble-mouthed villain (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is the son of the mob boss in question (Mark Strong), and will do anything he can to protect his father and vanquish Kick-Ass and Hit Girl. Mintz-Plasse performs with subtlety, hinting at angst and danger like a gothic version of his unforgettable McLovin’ from “Superbad.”

Though “Kick-Ass” regularly provides some level of social commentary, more often than not, the movie is obsessed with shocking the audience, by either making them laugh or making them squirm. The story does have a lot of heart, but when it comes down to it, “Kick-Ass” is buoyed by a quirky cast, an abundance of awkward comedy and a whole ton of seriously graphic violence.

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