Kick-Ass plays as both as homage to superheroes and the superhero movies that have swamped mainstream movies over the last few years, and as its own movie of that new genre in its own right. Those who are at all into masked heroes and other such geek-like things will get a kick out of the prolific references throughout. And those who are your more average movie goers will likely just kick back and enjoy the splendid action it has to offer in spades.
The movie is based on the comic book series of the same name by Mark Millar (who's also had his Wanted comic adapted into a big-budget movie). I have to admit I've never read it, but word is it's as profane and violent as you can get. Luckily, director Matthew Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman (who also worked together in the same capacity on Stardust) have decided to keep those extremities intact for the movie version.
The result is indeed a plethora of violence and swearing, and most of that is courtesy of an 11-year-old purple wig-wearing young chick nicknamed Hit-Girl (played wonderfully by rising star Chloe Moretz). She's just one of many superhero wannabes who have surfaced ever since Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnston) decided to don a custom green scuba outfit and call himself "Kick-Ass." Also getting in on the action are Big Daddy, the father of Hit-Girl (played by Nicolas Cage) and Red Mist (Christopher "McLovin'" Mintz-Plasse).
Kick-Ass is pretty much the perfect "fun time at the movies" movie. It provides everything a movie of its type should, but not only gives you enough but gives you more than you could ever want. Gunfights, fist-fights, chase sequences – all shockingly well choreographed – genuinely hilarious gags (both sight gags and in dialogue), a solid plot, and just about anything else you could want.
But in amongst all of the break-neck-paced, over-the-top thrills there's also the unlikeliest of attributes; it has some genuine heart. It doesn't go into overload with it, but with regards to Hit-Girl and Big Daddy there's a story going on that gives the movie more weight than it otherwise would have had. Who'd have thought that would be the case with a stylish comic book movie that has more of a body count than a Saw movie.
Johnston is funny and awkwardly charming as the titular Kick-Ass, at first a nobody student at his high-school, but soon all over the news with the most watched video on the Internet. References to modern-day popular websites and TV shows (such as Lost) are peppered throughout the film's inspired dialogue.
Nicolas Cage appears in one of his more worthy roles (he's about half and half with his career). He plays an often sarcastic but strangely likable (and even likeably strange) character that showcases an off-beat and sometimes crazy Nic Cage at his best (see Wild at Heart and Adaptation as other examples).
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, finally shredding his "McLovin' from Superbad" reputation (well, almost), is odd and often very funny as the bumbling Red Mist. A sort of K-Mart Robin to Kick-Ass' wannabe' Batman. It's simultaneously an odd yet perfect casting choice.
However, without a doubt, the highlight character (and just highlight in general), of the entire movie is Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. She's as innocent looking as you'd expect any 11-year-old to be and yet give her a knife or a gun she'll lay you down quicker than you can utter one word. It's rather shocking to see Moretz – 13 in real life – spouting such explicitly language (even the "C" word is used) and killing bad guys left, right and centre. A true wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was one. Moretz will next be seen in the remake of Let the Right One In - mark my words, this girl is going places.
Director Matthew Vaughn brings a vibrancy and energy to the proceedings, making the action scenes pop and crackle making them some of the most fun in quite some time. The pace and tone is quick and light, despite some surprisingly heavy moments, and even at just under two hours the film whizzes along. The credits were rolling and still I wanted more. Kick-Ass will most definitely be watched over and over without it becoming boring.
On paper, the amount of violence packed into these two hours might seem a bit excessive. But Vaughn has found a way to make it both plentiful and playful: almost cartoonish in a way. Make no mistake about it, plenty of blood is spilled but it never looks or feels excessive or in any way makes you want to avert your eyes. Perhaps it's the fact it's so over-the-top, but still the violence is just plain fun rather than offensively grotesque.
Filled with a lot of bloody action sequences, witty dialogue peppered with pop culture references, distinct and iconic characters, a killer soundtrack and a visual style that will put it firmly on the "most memorable of the year" list, Kick-Ass is exactly as the title suggests. Despite its graphic nature the movie should appeal to a wide audience, from those well versed in the superhero mythology to the more general audiences whose extent of superhero knowledge is Batman, Spider-Man Superman. The film doesn't hold the sort of weight as something like the heavy-hitter comic book movie-cum-crime saga, The Dark Knight (what does?). But for the type of movie it is you'd be hard pressed to find a more purely entertaining movie.