Chloe Moretz is dressed to kill, and kill is what she does.
Kick-AssDirected by Matthew VaughnStarring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Mintz-PlasseRated R*8*Goes well with: Kill Bill, Snatch, Iron Man
What's the worst thing about Kick-Ass? That's easy. It's not the violence. It's not the swearing. It's the trailer, which makes it look like your standard cutesy PG-13 comic-book-superhero movie. It's not. No, Kick-Ass is a hard-R, profanely funny, ultraviolent experience that features a 12-year-old girl who cuts off bad guys at the knee (literally), shoots dozens of henchmen in the head and performs the kinds of over-the-top stunts not seen since John Woo left Hong Kong. That, you won't see in Iron Man 2.
Now, viewers will respond in a variety of ways. Plenty of folks will think the adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book is just ridiculous. Others will find it blatantly irresponsible that a young girl is committing scads of killings and using both C words (male and female). Still others—like me—think it's about time someone took the comic-book genre to the next level.
“The comic-book fans have been very enthusiastic about it,” Aaron Johnson, who plays the titular Kick-Ass, tells CityBeat. “We stuck pretty true to it. Mark Millar was on board. It's real people caught up in the imagination of a comic-book world, but it pays tribute to all those superhero movies by grabbing those cliché moments and putting a little twist on them.”
Johnson, a British actor, plays Dave Lizewski, a standard New York City high-school kid into the stuff most standard high-school kids are into: porn, masturbation and comic books. He gets fed up with all the world's injustice, so he orders a gangly wetsuit online, gets a couple of batons, calls himself Kick-Ass and heads out to the mean streets to fight crime. Bad move.
“He dives in naïvely, not thinking about the consequences,” Johnson says. “It smacks him back in the mouth pretty quickly.” In real life, if some 16-year-old tried that, he'd get his ass kicked. That's precisely what happens, because even though Dave has good intentions, he has no superpowers or training. Still, a couple of YouTube memes later, Kick-Ass is the city's hero and, suddenly, Dave is overwhelmed with the attention and stuck in the middle of a very real situation. He's not alone in the dress-up-and-fight-bad-guys game. Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, doing some kind of freaky take on Adam West) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz)—the 12-year-old daughter he's trained to be an absolutely ruthless assassin with a gift for brutality and one-liners—are going after mob kingpin Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), and they don't care how many bad guys they have to kill to get to him. But D'Amico is focused squarely on Kick-Ass, the guy everyone in town is talking about.
So, yes, it's graphically and brutally violent. But the violence, which is also seriously stylized, is one reason the movie works. For so long, comic-book movies have dumbed down the killing in hopes of selling more Happy Meals and action figures. Kick-Ass doesn't do that at all—it really is a movie that is of and about comic books. “It's not for young kids,” says Johnson. “We put our [Rated R] certificate stamp on it. And who doesn't want to see a young little girl beat the crap out of big blokes?”
Kick-Ass has a few moments that drag, and a subplot about the girl Dave crushes on thinking he's gay gets old. But it works because it doesn't shy away from violence, sex or profanity. Those are all things that teenagers and comic-book fans are into. And it's not just the violence or the R-rating that sets it apart from other films in the genre—it's the humor. More than anything, Kick-Ass is a comedy, albeit a comedy with multiple head shots and stabbings.
“I skipped past the violence when I read it,” Johnson says. “I saw it was there, but it felt like a Kill Bill to me. I'm a huge Tarantino fan. I was grabbed by the fact that there was actually a story to it. It wasn't just murder after murder. Everyone had a reason for what they were doing. And when I think of [director] Matthew Vaughn, I think of his movie Layer Cake. This guy produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. I hoped he could take this American comic-book movie, and make it different and original.
“We had the chance to put everything into it and make it as risky as possible.”
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