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USA 2010
Directed by
Matthew Vaughn
117 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4.5 stars

Kick Ass

Synopsis: Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical teenage, one of the invisible masses who just drift through their high school years. Then he asks the question that has been asked by comic book fans for decades, “Why hasn’t anyone become a costumed vigilante for real?” Donning a green wetsuit and sporting a couple of billy clubs, he becomes Kick Ass and suddenly the answer becomes clear

Kick Ass is one of those rare comic-to-film adaptations where you can honestly say the film is better than the book in every single way. Mark Millar’s comic, Kick Ass, on which this film is based, is a brutal and nasty story intent on stripping the dignity from every character on the page. That such a misanthropic piece of work could give birth to such a celebratory film as this is a small miracle. And it is a minor miracle of a film. Matthew Vaughn has a spotted career as a director with most of their best moments being bogarted from other films. Layer Cake was a solid crime thriller, but not on the same level as the Guy Ritchie extravaganzas Vaughn began his career producing, while Stardust never escaped the sense it wanted to be a modern version The Princess Bride and never quite nailed down its tone. But in Kick Ass, Vaughn’s approach of lifting shots directly from other films works a treat. It is, after all, a homage, love letter, and occasional spoof, of superhero cinema. And in the blending, it feels wholly original.

There is so much to love about this film. The way it nails a bitingly funny and sarcastic tone without ever dehumanising its characters, the over-the-top and insanely entertaining action set-pieces, and above all else, Nicholas Cage delivering his finest performance in years. His Damon Macready is a wonderfully textured character, and when you see what he does with the cadence of his delivery while in costume as the vigilante, Big Daddy… suffice to say there’s a reason his costume looks the way it does. And Chloe Moretz as his daughter/sidekick, Hit Girl, gets all the best action scenes, most of the best one liners, and is clearly destined for great things. And while the heroes get all the best lines, Mark Strong and Christopher Mintz-Plasse more than hold up the villain side of the equation.

The story moves at a good clip and it really works. There’s a wonderful line where Damon explains why he dresses up to fight crime, and it’s both a tender evocation of the love for his daughter and a terrifying insight into how driven he is. But everyone gets their moment, everyone gets to show that they can achieve if given the chance, even the villain of the piece. Much of the credit for this goes to Jane Goldman’s incredibly witty script. The dialogue is snappy and the plot is appropriately twisted, but there’s also a depth to the characters that’s absent in the comic and it sells the reality of the story, even as it ventures deeper and deeper into a comic book unreality as it progresses.

An ultraviolent paean to the strength of family and the optimism of youth, Kick Ass is dark, twisted and so damn entertaining I couldn’t stop grinning after I’d left the cinema. I want to watch it again.

FYI: There was a 2013 sequel Kick Ass 2 with the same cast but written and directed by Jeff Wadlow that failed critically and commercially.  




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