This is the superhero movie Tarantino doesn’t have the guts to make.
It’s hardly surprising that there should be gratuitous violence and swearing – after all the source material was written by Mark Millar, famous for an acclaimed-yet-filthy run on Wildstorm’s ‘The Authority’ and a subversive reimagining of Marvel’s Avengers in ‘The Ultimates’. But co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn has taken Millar’s ‘what if someone really did try to be a superhero’ opus and hasn’t just celebrated it for its geek value; he’s made it the epitome of cool as well. Teenage, comic worshipping geek Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) one day says enough is enough and decides to become a real superhero. More fool him – he’s stabbed almost to death in merely the first reel, but the surgery he undergoes reinforces his skeleton to rob him of feeling most pain. Upon his recovery he continues his mission and realises he’s not alone – whilst on ‘patrol’ he collides with the ubiquitous Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), two properly established ‘superheroes’ with a penchant for extraordinary violence and murder. And all three of them get the attention of New York mob boss Mark Strong, who targets them for death. Any takers on who wins and who loses?
‘Kick-Ass’ subverts everything, from Spider-Man through to the Punisher, teen movies through to ‘Kill Bill’, even comic book team-ups. Whilst we’re nominally supposed to support Dave, we’re constantly reminded how stupid and irresponsible he is, and our support for the dynamic duo is even more subversive. Superheroes are hardly supposed to kill, yet the father/daughter team rip through Mark Strong’s henchmen like forces of nature; Cage’s Big Daddy is essentially committing extraordinary abuse by turning his daughter into a murderer but we laugh at her every excess. But at no time does the film ever lose track of the story it’s trying to tell. Sure Vaughn wants to blow your mind with violence which does put Tarantino to shame, but it’s never at the expense of acting or plot, and somehow manages to remain true to the source material.
The film has marked differences from Millar & artist John Romita Jr.’s comic though. Where the book remains very dark, negative and incisive from start to finish, Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane (Mrs Jonathan Ross) Goldman temper their film with a lighter touch. Much has been made of Kick-Ass’ relationship with the girl who thinks he’s gay, who when he reveals the truth in the book tells him to ‘fuck off’; when the same sequence occurs in the film he gets the girl. And Nic Cage too plays Big Daddy largely for satirical laughs, in sharp contrast to the book’s character. Yet poking fun at both Michael Keaton and Adam West’s takes on Batman stops the film from being too nihilistic, and it’s a delight to see the risk-taking Cage from yesteryear finally making a reappearance after so many years. Ultimately however the film belongs to Hit-Girl, all sassiness and stylised violence, the likes of which put Uma Thurman in ‘Kill Bill’ to shame. Perhaps the most politically incorrect film character in a generation, Moretz owns every frame she’s in, and effortlessly steals the show from lead Aaron Johnson (who is perfectly well cast himself). She’s without doubt worth coming back for repeated viewings of – somehow despite the extraordinary excess (which you’ll find yourself cheering out loud at), and not being the lead, she manages to be the heart of the film (which paradoxically has plenty itself).
‘Kick-Ass’ will without question go down as one of the greatest superhero films of all time, will set Aaron Johnson up finally as the face (and body – yum) to watch, and you should run, not walk, to catch it.
This trailer is NOT for children and NOT for anyone who wants to avoid the best bits of Michael Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass before it’s release in April. The rest of you enjoy…;)