Make no mistake: this is an ultra-violent, R-rated action fantasy, adapted from a graphic novel that’s an irreverent, wish-fulfillment riff on superheroes and aimed at a specific, comic-book crazed audience. Even though I don’t consider myself part of that niche group, I can see where – for the enlightened – it could be gory, depraved fun.
There’s no doubt that Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a sad-sack loser who yearns to be a superhero. He’s a geeky Manhattan teenager who dons a goofy green-and-yellow costume, actually a scuba-diving wetsuit that he purchased on the Internet, and goes out into the mean streets out to fight crime. Combating a couple of car-thieving local thugs, his first outing is not only disastrous but almost fatal, landing him in the hospital. But a bystander videotapes him in his costume and puts the clip on YouTube, where he becomes a web sensation. Months later, having undergone extensive ‘reconstructive’ surgery that renders him immune to feeling pain, he’s back in action as Kick-Ass, hoping to impress a comely classmate, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). Certainly, he’s not as adept as the father-daughter vigilante team of disgraced/framed former cop Damon Macready and his awesome, pint-sized, pre-teen daughter Mindy – a.k.a. Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Maretz), clad in appropriately cheesy costumes. Plus there’s another masked crusader, nerdy Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who goes by the moniker Red Mist, and his father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), the dastardly mobster/villain.
Director Matthew Vaughn (“Stardust,” “Layer Cake”), screenwriter/producer Jane Goldman and production designer Russell De Rozario maintain Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s dark, sometimes obscure humor. It’s clever casting Chloe Grace Maretz as the spunky, katana-wielding, foul-mouthed, 11 year-old scene-stealer and Britisher Aaron Johnson as the typical American teenager; in stark contrast, Johnson will be seen next as John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy.” Not surprisingly, Nicolas Cage goes over-the-top obsessive with his dual character and Batman-like/Adam West disguise. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kick-Ass” is a slick, savvy, send-up 7, offering a brazen, aptly-named counter-culture diversion.