It's evil. It's twisted. It revels in the abuse of children. But enough about The Daily Mail. Kick-Ass is finally here, and I'm glad to report it's an absolute pleasure to watch; an orgiastic marriage of superhero action and teen comedy that manages to be exciting, funny and, above all, original. It's a tabloid-worthy cliché, but it happens to be true in this case: you have never seen a movie like Kick-Ass.
Just as hero Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) wonders to himself, it's a miracle no one has thought of his concept before: why has no one ever tried to be a superhero, and more importantly for us, why has no one made a movie about it? Adapted from Mark Millar's "so-called graphic novel" by director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman, Kick-Ass explores the central premise with glee. The result is a movie by geeks, for geeks; one that's fantastic fun from start to finish.
With aspirations of fighting crime, young Dave mail-orders a green wet-suit, straps two batons to his back and tries to wash the scum off the streets. He gets his ass kicked. But then, after a freak accident leaves him with numb nerve-endings and metal-plated bones, he returns as Kick-Ass 2.0, a real-life superhero with a huge internet following and a growing media presence that forces equally real crooks to hide in the shadows. It's only when fellow vigilantes Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) arrive on the scene that Kick-Ass realises just how scary the role of superhero can be.
Wanted was proof that Mark Millar's ultraviolent graphic novels could make for thrilling movies; Kick-Ass is proof that cinema may well end up being his true calling. The action here is shockingly brutal, perfectly illustrated when Hit Girl cuts a room full of bad guys down to size - literally. With Kick-Ass made outside of the normal studio constraints, there isn't a whiff of compromise about it. It may have been a struggle to get it made the right way, but like Kick-Ass himself says: with no power comes no responsibility.
What's missing - and what The Daily Mail's overblown
fails to address - is any dulling sense of realism. Kick-Ass pertains to be set in the real world, but the gushing gore, the acrobatics and the wink-wink soundtrack (the theme from The Banana Splits, a sublime Elvis moment) are the clues: you are not meant to be taking this seriously. Millar's dialogue hits the nail on the head in this respect, particularly when a deadpan Hit Girl tells Kick-Ass how to find her: "Just contact the mayor's office, he has a special signal he shines in the sky... it's in the shape of a giant cock."
Matthew's Vaughn's stylish and colourful direction also plays a big part in Kick-Ass' success. Action is directed with a steady hand and does not cut away at the crucial blows - the Bourne shakycam has all been thrown out the window. A light and frothy tone has been applied throughout; how can dressing up in lycra and stalking the streets be anything but
ridiculous? Even the slower scenes, featuring Dave and his buddies discussing the new hero in their midst, play out with knowing winks to the inherently ludicrous superhero genre.
Vaughn's knack for building a great cast pays off handsomely. Johnson is superb in the lead, and along with last year's Nowhere Boy, is writing himself quite the CV at the age of just 19. Chris Mintz-Plasse, better known as Superbad's McLovin, may finally be able to shake off his teen persona as Red Mist, lending a not particularly complex character more layers than he deserves. Lots has been said about Chloe Moretz' Hit Girl, and people are right to talk: she's phenomenally confident and a real screen presence. It'd be a shame if her star-making performance was overlooked due to a few spots of bad language.
And Cage? Well... he's just immense. Every one of his recent 'abstract' roles has been building to this: a part that allows him to be totally cock-eyed and bonkers but still be the coolest guy on the block. His Adam West-inspired Big Daddy is a definite highlight, whether he's firing a gun into his daughter's bulletproof vest-clad chest or taking down a room full of bad guys with a zeal that belies his 46 years. It's very possibly the stupid-ass role he was born to play, and he looks like he's loving every minute.
Absolutely everyone involved comes away smelling of roses: the cast, the creators and the director. Kick-Ass is a movie that hits every beat required of it - the action is well directed, the comedy is genuinely funny and the emotional moments aren't too saccharine - and it's all executed with panache.
If you want to get serious, you could say that Kick-Ass is the movie that could finally drag comic-books into the credible mainstream. But being serious is to miss the point of Kick-Ass completely. If you can handle a bit of blood, a smattering of swear-words and some delightfully OTT violence, then you're adult enough to enjoy Kick-Ass for what it is: a shamelessly entertaining, fun movie and one that's the coolest of 2010 so far.