Reviewed by: Max Crawford

If you're not already sick to death of the phrase "does exactly what it says on the tin", then brace yourself: as an apt, concise description of Kick-Ass it's about to get a lot of mileage.

"Spider-Man with a likeable hero meets Kill Bill with an 11-year-old heroine" would be only slightly less apt. Based on the comic by Mark Millar, it asks the question: "Why aren't there any real-life superheroes?" The obvious answer - that without superpowers, they would merely be heroes, and they would consequently die in short order - is helpfully provided by the supporting cast. Our hero (portrayed with assurance by Aaron Johnson) is undeterred, however, and one ill-advised internet purchase later he's costumed and ready to serve up some vigilante justice as Green Power Ranger lookalike Kick-Ass.

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Of course, he's just a high-school kid with no idea what he's doing. In a more family-friendly film he'd take a bit of a beating and learn an important lesson. Instead, in a scene which sets the tone for the rest of the movie (OTT cartoon violence that's thankfully Robocop-hilarious rather than Jackass "hilarious") he's beaten, stabbed, and then run over by a car. He's left with deadened nerve endings and a body held together by metal plates, making him slightly-better-than-average at taking a beating. This is his super power! Finally he can live the dream, so it's out of the hospital bed and back into action. One successfully-taken beating later and he's a YouTube sensation, destined also for massive popularity on MySpace. Of course, not all publicity is good publicity.

The attentions of a local crime boss follow, and it takes the intervention of "real superhero" father-daughter team Big Daddy and Hit Girl to prevent Kick-Ass from getting his ass kicked clean off his pelvis. This glimpse into a larger world highlights for our hero just how far he's gotten out of his depth, and that's just the beginning…

If this all sounds a little familiar, it's because obvious parallels are being set up just to mess with you later. The film stays just on the right side of knowingly self-aware, excusing the major flaw in its basic premise without getting too smug or annoying. One trope that could have done with subverting is the hero's useless love interest not getting to do anything interesting, but at least she manages not to actually get herself kidnapped. The only female character who gets any real screen time is Hit Girl, a gleefully psychotic, foul-mouthed 11-year-old crime fighter and the best character in any superhero movie by miles. Chloe Moretz steals every scene she's in, her chemistry with Nicolas Cage is a joy to watch, and she delivers some memorable lines that'll make you glad this was an independent production. Kick-Ass is the sort of flick that studio interference would have completely ruined, so props to Matthew Vaughn for making the right decision there.

Further credit is due to Vaughn for some outstanding action set-pieces, including an ace first-person-shooter section and a magnificent tracking shot that really emphasises Big Daddy's prowess as a one-man fucking-shit-up-machine. The only real gripe with the action sequences is that there perhaps aren't enough of them. Fortunately, the film has enough pace and the actors enough presence to carry things along without giving anyone time to get bored. Mark Strong turns in a muscular performance as a cartoon villain and Nic Cage breaks a string of lacklustre performances by turning in the best parody of Adam West since, well, Adam West.

With fan excitement well rewarded, Kick-Ass should live up to its name at the box office.

Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2010
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Following an accident, a young man decides to dress up and reinvent himself as a superhero.
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Read more Kick-Ass reviews:

Nick Da Costa ***1/2

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writer: Jane Goldman, Mark Millar, Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Christover Mintz-Plasse

Year: 2010

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK


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