Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a nerdy superhero comic book fan boy who goes unnoticed at his high school, except for his two equally nerdy buddies, Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters). Tired of his boring life, he takes a page from his treasured comix and decides to become a superhero. Without super powers, though, this is a lot more difficult than it seems for “Kick-Ass.”

It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If this is the case, then director/co-writer Matthew Vaughn is REALLY flattering Quentin Tarantino and his gore-fest called “Kill Bill.” “Kick-Ass” is not for the fainthearted with its copious violent fights, graphic mayhem and lots of blood. Vaughn and his co-scribe Jan Goldman tell their violent tale with tongue firmly planted in cheek, as one would expect when the principal murderous protagonist is an 11-year old femme called Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). Her dad, ex-cop Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), is still grieving over his wife’s suicide years before and blames mobster boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) for her death. Vengeance will be theirs as these masked avengers take novice super hero Kick-Ass under their wing and kick mobster butt.

“Kick-Ass” may derive much of its mayhem from “Kill Bill,” but the filmmakers make it their own, especially when Hit Girl takes on a gaggle of gangsters single-handed and does them in creatively. The violence is tempered by the darkly wrought humor that permeates the entire film.

The super hero fans are not going to get Spider Man or Iron Man here. Matthew Vaughn and company turn the super hero image on its ear, reinventing the genre. It is likely to spawn a sequel but I think “Kick-Ass” says it all in the one telling. I may not be a fanboy but I had a ball watching this goofy dark comedy. I give it a B+.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, "The Greatest") is invisible at school and spends his afternoons with buddies Marty (Clark Duke, "Hot Tub Time Machine") and Todd (Evan Peters, "Never Back Down") at a comic book store. He's not ignored by the local thugs who shake him down in the shop's back alley.  After wondering why one never sees a real, ordinary person turn themselves into a super hero, Dave orders up some custom scuba wear and dubs himself "Kick-Ass."

There are three stories running through "Kick-Ass" which intersect eventually and they have different aspects to recommend them, but it is Chloë Grace Moretz's ("(500) Days of Summer") Hit Girl, a little sister to "Kill Bill's" Gogo Yubari, who is gaining all the attention, both for the young actress's seemingly effortless cool whether taking out hordes of bad guys in nasty fashion or for slinging out language that would make a woman twice her age blush.  But almost a week after seeing "Kick-Ass" I have to admit it hasn't really stayed with me.  It's a pop confection that owes as much to Quentin Tarantino as it does to Mark Millar's comic book series and its titular hero isn't really very interesting.

As directed by Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake") from a script by his "Stardust" scribe Jane Goldman, "Kick-Ass" begins with promising irreverence as the death of Dave's mother from a brain aneurysm is shown in a match cut profile of the Lizewskis breakfasting at their kitchen table.  The Kick-Ass bootup is a rocky road as - what's this? - Dave is knifed, beaten up and even hit by a car on his first crime fighting attempt.  Marveling at all the metal shown in a full body x-ray, Dave is both worried about being in trouble with dad and joyous about his Wolverine-like internals.  When he next suits up and attempts to stop a gang beating on a guy, he's more successful because a) they think he's crazy and b) a teen videotapes the whole episode on his phone and the video goes viral, even making national news.

Earlier, we meet Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "Superbad"), the son of the city's richest citizen Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong, "Sherlock Holmes"), in the comic store where Dave's attempt to befriend him was shut down by a beefy bodyguard.     Chris is itching for his own transformation - into daddy's trusted circle.  Dad's a bad guy who's just had large amounts of drugs stolen under the nose of a henchman who swears they were taken by some guy who 'looked like Batman or something.'  Frank begins to think he's got to take down Kick-Ass and his son is thrilled to throw out an idea of how to do it.  Meanwhile, we meet Frank's real problem - Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) is bent on revenge and has raised his daughter Mindy like a Ninja warrior.  (He also seems to have unlimited funding - Mindy mentions *millions* - that is never explained and is even more mysterious once we discover why he wants revenge.)

There is no doubt that "Kick-Ass" is entertaining (although there are those who will recoil at the Mindy McCready dichotomy) and it does have fun deconstructing the whole super hero ethos while remaining quite devoted to its peculiarities (such as how nobody recognizes people they know quite well as soon as said person dons a half mask).  There are three completely different motivations for the emergence of Kick-Ass, Red Mist and the Big Daddy/Hit Girl duo (why not, impress dad and play with toys, wipe out bad guys) and they all go about creating their personas in different ways (low rent, expensive cool factor and scientific).  The script neatly crosses their plot trajectories, creating quite the Judas character into the bargain, but Kick-Ass, best described as Spiderman without the ability, is just a nerd with a passing fancy.  It may get him the girl (Lyndsy Fonseca, "Hot Tub Time Machine"), but it was never really believable that the cute Aaron Johnson would have been ignored in the first place.

In its third act, "Kick-Ass" becomes quite grim.  There is torture involved, not to mention a young girl witnessing the death of her father (and Cage still has the afterglow of his "Bad Lieutenant" performance here).  The final extended action sequence is beautifully choreographed from the minute Mindy shows up, but it is also heavily indebted to Tarantino - it's even scored with Morricone.  Still, Moretz really delivers, and, thankfully, is actually put into danger.  Why, then, does the thought of a sequel, clearly set up here, exhaust me?  "Kick-Ass" isn't as fresh as it thinks it is and I doubt it has anything further to say.

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