Kick-Ass (2010)

Rating: B-

Dir: Matthew Vaughn
Star: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mark Strong, Chloë Grace Moretz

High-school comics geek Dave (Johnson) sets out to become a real-life superhero, Kick-Ass, but ends up beaten to within an inch of his life. His example, captured by cellphone-cam, does achieve viral fame and he is blamed for a series of attacks on the empire of local crime-boss Frank D’Amico (Strong). Those were actually carried out by former cop Damon McReady (Nicolas Cage), whose daughter, Mindy (Moretz), is a foul-mouthed moppet with a disturbing fondess for weapons. The pair, known as Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, help bail Kick-Ass out of some stick situations, as when he tries to help his friend Katie (Fonseca). D’Amico demands the head of Kick-Ass “on a stick,” and plans to unmask the superhero on a live Internet broadcast, to discourage any others inspired by his example. Again, with the help of Hit-Girl, Dave escapes, but there’s a terrible toll taken during his extraction, and it’s up to the pair to go into D’Amico’s lair and make him pay.

It’s nice to see comic-book movies with a harder edge; the results have a certain grounded realism, in a way that the blundering, PG efforts of Marvel can’t match [the same creator, fellow Scot Mark Millar, was also responsible for Wanted]. Here, damage happens: people die, and it’s not pleasant or just for a plot device [something explicitly referenced early on]. It also helps that Dave is an endearingly-normal kind of guy, basically likeable – contrast Scott Pilgrim – though Mindy steals the film effortlessly, right from her first appearance, and in particular her demolition of an apartment full of thugs, joyously carried out over The Dickies’ Banana Splits.

Not everyone was impressed by her, the Daily Mail’s Christopher Tookey saying “It deliberately sells a perniciously sexualised view of children and glorifies violence, especially knife and gun crime, in a way that makes it one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever.. But I’ll write more about this separately, I think. Back at the film, rather than in the dark recesses of Tookey’s mind, the finale is a marvellous piece of action-cinema, Hit-Girl chewing her way through a horde of minions. I can’t help speculating the film might have been amazing if it had centered on her, and the dysfunctional relationship with Big Daddy, with Kick-Ass as a supporting character, rather than the focus.

It also does occasionally struggle with crossing the gap between being a comic-book adaptation and a parody of comic-books and their adaptations, wanting to be both: the first-half is more of the latter, before it shifts up a gear or two in the the final stages. That I enjoyed the mayhem more is perhaps indicative of something about my moral sensibilities – or lack thereof, mutters Tookey. Perhaps, for all their flaws, superhero stories are simply damn good fun.