First of all, the surprise of this movie should not be a surprise at all. Sure, on its face and even in the previews some may assume that KICK-ASS is about teenagers dressing up as superheroes and fighting crime and it makes for a charming little PG, maybe PG-13 movie about finding the real you in the midst of high school mediocrity. But the irony is, the movie is rated R (ratings matter, people) and the glaring clue that this is a more adult movie is the fact that the word “ass” is in the title. Apparently this is a clue at least a couple people missed, especially in my theater, as a couple of underage patrons were escorted out right before the previews. But other than the rating and the – some would call – vulgar title, the themes addressed in this action-comedy film are also what set it apart from what we would assume from the trailers. It comments on man’s responsibility to his fellow man and also the bonds of family, wrapped in an ultra-violent, well acted, genuinely funny and all around entertaining flick. And while young Aaron Johnson anchors the movie with his voice-overs as the titular character, the show is truly stolen by young Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage in a funny and sweet smaller role. Basically, this is a surprising flick on all accounts that can appeal to all areas of a moviegoer’s palate. But please be of age, because the ushers at your local theater are watching.
Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski as Peter Parker in the early part of the first SPIDER-MAN, ignored by most girls, picked on by bullies, who spends his time with his similar buddies at the local comic book store. And one day he wonders why no one has chosen to try costumed vigilantism in the real world, since we love it so much in fiction (movies, comic books, video games). This leads to him donning a green wet suit, arming himself with fighting batons and first failing miserably at fighting crime. As he gets the hang of it, he becomes an internet sensation, and is joined in fighting crime by Hit Girl and Big Daddy (Moretz and Cage) who fight crime as well but whose efforts are more concentrated on big time mobster Frank D’Amico (well played by Mark Strong). Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays the masked man Red Mist, but whose motivations for donning his outfit are different than the others. The plot lines go from the general task of fighting all crime to the more concentrated task of taking down D’Amico, basically following the same formula as the other superhero movies – Spider-Man fights all crime in the city, but the plot narrows in on Green Goblin. And although the origin of Kick-Ass is the initial focus, the back story for Big Daddy and Hit Girl is one told originally and humorously, with the dynamic between the two played adorably by Moretz, and with genuine paternal affection by Cage.
Johnson plays the laughs up initially well when we first see him at school with his friends and then in his first attempts at crime fighting, but then he gets another amusing storyline with a love interest from school, but he plays the serious parts of the film well also. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is McLovin’ again, but the outfit and his entrance as Red Mist are funny, and the Mist-Mobile is a bitchin’ ride. Mark Strong is continuing his streak of badass tough guys after SHERLOCK HOLMES, and switches his accent from British to mobster Italian rather convincingly. But really the top vote getters in this film are Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz. Cage for his amusing delivery of lines as Big Daddy (sounding very much like Bill Shatner) and also with his loving training of his daughter into the lethal killing machine that is Hit Girl (their first back and forth is hilarious). But Moretz as Hit Girl is truly kick ass. Her action sequences get the coolest soundtracks, from girl power pop songs to even an old school Ennio Morricone score from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, and she is a dynamo in full on KILL BILL form taking out countless D’Amico goons with the no sympathy and much blood-letting. She deserves her own movie. But integrating all these elements, with the Hit Girl character as the coup de grace, makes KICK-ASS a genuinely entertaining film. But as I said, please be of age.