Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Rated MA 15+ (strong violence, coarse language and sexual references). 120 mins.
The title says it all: content, style and tone.
What might have been quite an amusing parody of the hero graphic novels, comics and superhero movies (and there are some amusing moments) has become something of a Sin City (which is referred to in the screenplay) for a younger audience. Sin City was clever but had a nasty and sometimes brutal atmosphere. Kick Ass could be far cleverer if it didn't rely so much on sending up the cliches while indulging them at the same time. This makes it something of a hotch-potch and the writing and the performances (generally very good) compound this.
There are several strands of story as it opens. Dave and his slacker friends are the targets of muggers and bullies and Dave dreams of overcoming them as a superhero. So far, so good and zany, especially when he buys a kind of scuba suit on-line and uses it as a costume. British Aaron Johnson (John Lennon in Nowhere Boy) seems effortlessly American high school student as Dave who sells himself on line as a kind of helper/vigilante and calls himself Kick Ass. (He also has hormonal and sex fantasy problems which are given undue attention.)
Meanwhile, the rich boy of the class (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad, Role Models) is revealed as having a nafarious gangster, drug-dealing father who is unscrupulously violent. The action soon becomes like father, like son as the son tries to trap Kick Ass whom his father blames for most of his troubles, and sets himself up as a helper hero, Red Mist. The father is played by Mark Strong, so good in so many films and showing what it is really like to act. (He has vicious language problems – amongst others.)
Meanwhile again, retired policeman, Damon Macready, coaches his precocious 11 year old daughter, Mindy, in the details of weaponry, even helping her by firing at her bullet proof vest so that she will be ready for the real thing. This too is amusing with Nicolas Cage giving a nicely judged performance as the eccentric father who dotes on his daughter. The daughter is played by Chloe Moretz who must be precocious in herself to have given such a performance. She has become the subject of some media controversy as to whether it was appropriate for a young girl to take on such a role – and say the swearing things she (often) does. They become true superheroes, Hit Girl and Big Daddy and to say they have vigilante destructive power is an understatement.
Then it all comes together for the hotch-potch, the funny bits, the satiric bits, the violent bits (no mercy and no prisoners taken), the foul-mouthed bits, some sexy bits. And, of course, the shoot-out ending, complete with bazooka, is slam-bang and multi-bang – for all and sundry in New York City to watch on TV (which decides it's too much for viewers, so then everybody rushes to the internet).
Too much of the comedy and the language is geared to leering laughter or disbelieving chortling. Of course, it is not meant to be taken seriously. Had the makers taken their comic intentions more seriously, it could have been a better and funnier movie.
Universal Out April 8 2010
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.