WARNING: do NOT bring your children to this movie.
Average tortured semi-loser teen and comic book fanboy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), inspired by his obsession, decides to become a real life superhero. He dons an internet bought wetsuit as costume and names himself Kick Ass. What happens to an average joe with no fighting skills trying to fight crime answers his question, “why aren’t there more real life superheroes?”
Enter the badass father daughter pair of vigilante awesomeness Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). They show Kick Ass what years of training and serious mental instability can do. The wrongly imprisoned cop out for revenge and his sword wielding 11 year old dynamo are cutting a bloody swath through the underworld, antagonizing local mob boss Frank D’Amico (baddie specialist Mark Strong).
Thusly ensues a 57 minute antidote for the droves of superhero movie fans who still feel bitch slapped with an idiot stick by the recent cavalcade of cliched, bloated, and ridiculous feature film releases of the genre. Director Matthew Vaughn, of the wonderful indie film Layer Cake starring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, mixes together an exciting, compelling and disturbing melange of Tarantino, John Woo, and Luc Besson, with a dash of 60s TV’s Batman tossed in. In this movie based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr, he throws superhero movies on their head, while still maintaining the best core genre elements of selfless heroism, lives saddened and tortured by loss, and an unerring sense of optimism.
This is not a movie to bring children to, unless like Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl, your kid is the type who asks for a butterfly knife for their 11th birthday. Those who like their morality black and white and their heroes neat and tidy, head back to the unambiguous world of pretty Brendon Routh’s Superman. There’s something about cheering the purple Clara Bow-wigged and leathered Hit-Girl, a Franken-pre-teen mash up of The Bride in Kill Bill and Leon’s Mathilda, as she spouts the C-word and slashes, stabs, and guns down bad guys that leaves me with a girl power grin, deeply disturbed, and questioning my place on the amoralmeter. Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz is scary good, the best kid actor since Jodie Foster in The Little Girl Down the Lane. As Damon Macready and Big Daddy, Nicholas Cage reminds us with his quirky acting choices and balance of understated and over the top why we love him enough to keep watching his movies. Twisted though they are, the two characters share a genuine love and parent child affection. Still, when they do what they do, and do it so well, you can’t help but squirm a little in your seat. While Kick Ass only aims to rid the world of injustice, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl have a score to settle, and don’t mind indiscriminately killing their way to it. If you’re in the room where they happen to find a bad guy, you’re pretty much dead by association.
I loved how director Vaughn and co-screenwriters he and Jane Goldman played up the ambiguity of what’s right and wrong and what can acceptably be considered justice. Is what Big Daddy and Hit Girl do justified or or does it border on mass murder? Is this movie a commentary on the thrill kill culture of gamers, or just a fun over the top romp that celebrates the unique voice and edge only possible in indie films? Is the controversy the movie has sparked in the movie reviewing community questioning good taste and moral artistic responsibility overhype or long overdue?
For me it doesn’t matter. I’m someone who laughed at the medieval scene in Pulp Fiction. Ultimately this feels like a great mix of a tortured teen flick a la Superbad and a new breed of Superhero movie. For those of you curious and off kilter enough to give it a try, you will see beauty and warmth and optimism in it, mixed with a truth rarely shown at the multiplex these days. Those who make that choice, having been warned of its blood, child wielding violence, and moral ambiguity, as big Daddy would say, “good call, babydoll!”
4 1/2 out of 5 stars