Tarantino-vile and largely entertaining, Matthew Vaughn's (Layer Cake) Kick-Ass is a funny and action-packed super hero spoof. The film is fundamentally an action comedy, with offensive language and blood splattered about the hilarious and jaw-droping gags. In the midst of the ridiculousness mangled bodies lies a super hero movie that suddenly looks very outdated.
In the film, teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) loves comic books and hates society's apathy towards crime. He decides to become a super hero, Kick-Ass, roaming the streets of New York City and fighting muggers and the like. He is almost killed in fights more than once, and his acute lack of super-powers forebodes a short career. However, he has help soon as the well-trained Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her partner, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), start taking out gangsters in a serious way. They have a vendetta against mobster Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), whose son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), becomes Red Mist, another super hero, to befriend Kick-Ass. Most of this drama unfolds over the internet, through things like Youtube. All the while, Dave is trying to deal with being a loser of a teenager, trying to spend time with his friends and win the heart of Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a girl who believes he is gay.
Kick-Ass fails as the commentary on super heroes, and the possibility of real-life super heroes, that it sometimes believes itself to be. Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009), based on a juggernaut of a graphic novel, already covered that territory: people dress up as heroes because the costumes are a sexual fetish, people fight crime because they're driven maniacs, someone with real super powers makes costumed heroes irrelevant, costumed heroes die when shot. Watchmen analyzed the phenomenon within the context of an alternate-reality United States, one rife with political turmoil; Kick-Ass simply wants us to watch our characters kill and be killed. And the film fails in the same way that many felt Watchmen did: the real people who try to be heroes do, in fact, pull off superhuman feats, therefore equalizing their story with the average comic book instead of keeping it about comic books. Hit-Girl is 11 years old, but she defeats a cemetery's worth of grown men while jumping around like a foul-mouthed, purple-haired Yoda.
Thankfully, Vaughn stays away from the obnoxious filmmaking so prevalent in today's action films. This wasn't made by Tony Scott. When a strobe light effect is created, it isn't because the editing is so fast that the viewer can't tell what's happening, it is because there is actually a strobe light being used for tactical advantage by a character. The movie, which is based on a comic series by Mark Millar, is relatively derivative, from the tight spandex to the use of iconic music from other films, including Danny Boyle's Sunshine (2007) and 28 Days Later (2002) and Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More (1965). And, in the spirit of anime, Hit-Girl drops the f-bomb, killing grown men while wearing a skirt. Yes, she is sexualized at one point in the film.
So I liked the film, but it isn't for the faint of heart.
By the way, there are some mainstream critics that have written, "Kick-Ass kicks ass!" and crap like that. They get paid for this stuff! Really??!! I mean, really? Where'd they get that one?