Saturday, April 17, 2010

Outrageous "Kick-Ass" does just that

Kick-Ass (2010)
117 min., rated R.
Grade: B +

Why no one has ever tried to be a superhero in real life is the thought posed by the live-action comic book "Kick-Ass," also the fictional name of crime-fighting wannabe, Dave Lizewski. 

Brit Aaron Johnson plays Dave, a socially invisible high school Harry Potter crossed with McLovin, who is determined to be a hero that's s-s-super. Before the legend of Kick-Ass is born, Dave gets the Peter Parker story: dreams of being a superhero vigilante like Spidey, orders a green, yellow-striped wetsuit offline, and works up the cajones to hit the alleys and take on knife-wielding gangs. Of course, he lacks any discernible powers, which makes Dave, ahem, Kick-Ass so darn relatable and sincere. Plus he wants to snag the gorgeous Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), who thinks he's her gay BFF. After his alter ego spawns some merchandise and the media goes buzz, a father-daughter team of vigilantes, who are like a classic Batman and Robin, try getting Kick-Ass to join them to take down a crime kingpin (Mark Strong), but they're far too experienced for the dweeb. Then the bad guy's geeky son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the real McLovin), assumes his own superhero persona, Red Mist, to help his dad. 

Nicolas Cage is very Cage-y as Big Daddy: nebbish behind his rimmed glasses and car-salesman stache, doing a William Shatner/Adam West voice, and loony as Nick Cage can be. But joined up with his daughter Mindy, going by the tag Hit-Girl and becomes a shooting target for her Daddy, who knew tiny ChloĆ« Grace Moretz would be the real standout, and hero? One of the most outrageous child performances ever, even against Macaulay Culkin's psychotic Good Son, 13-year-old Moretz blends pig-tail pubescence and fearless potty-mouthiness with daring, plucky glee. Her Hit-Girl is like a younger dynamo version of Uma Thurman's Bride from the "Kill Bill" movies. Let's just say her shocking use of the word “cunt” and style for blade-slicing mayhem kicks ass. 

Starting out as a deconstruction of the superhero ethos and giving it the finger, "Kick-Ass" isn't as subversive for YouTube-age satire as it thinks it is, with a mocking, cynical tone and ironic sense of humor. But it's robustly entertaining, outrageously violent, and appropriately kick-ass. And, apparently, it's faithful to its comic book source material by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr., being cut from the same cloth as "Sin City" (which gets self-referenced). Directed by Matthew Vaughn (of 2004's kick-ass "Layer Cake"), "Kick-Ass" smartly gets a deservedly hard R-rating with brutal violence, handled playfully against a soundtrack, that includes the Banana Splits and The Hit Girls' cover of “Bad Reputation,” and is just the right kind of outlandishly graphic over-the-top, bazookas and knife-throwing included. 

Now, it will help if your desensitivity to violence and blood-spurting is high. And sure, watching a little girl spouting off profanities and hacking off limbs isn't the most inoffensive entertainment, so on a morally responsible level, "Kick-Ass" won't sit well with unassuming audiences. Then again, how is it any more shocking than the "Saw" and "Hostel" movies combined? (Parents beware, don't take the kiddos.) But where it counts, on a colorful pop-art level for fanboys and Rodriguez-Tarantino-ians, it—all together now—kicks your ass!

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