This is the exact question that Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) poses to the audience in the film Kick-Ass, though, cynically, he already knows what the answer will be. Dave, an avid comic book reader, questions why no one has ever attempted to be a real-life superhero. Dave knows that being a hero is not about having special abilities but rather the determination to want to help others. After being mugged on the way home Lizewski decides to create an alter-ego named Kick-Ass; and takes to the streets with his own brand of justice. Kick-Ass soon realizes that being a real-life superhero is far more dangerous than he ever imagined. Kick-Ass’ lack of experience shows when he comes across the efficient father and daughter superhero team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chole Moretz). As Kick-Ass gains more publicity another hero, the mysterious Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), emerges into Kick-Ass’ life. Is the Red Mist friend or foe? Also what ties does Red Mist have to a local gangster, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)?
Based on the comic by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass is one of those films that I have hard time recommending to anyone outside of comic book lovers, hardcore cinephiles, or those with a high tolerance for onscreen violence. Even then I am pretty sure there will be people in those groups who will hate this film. Besides being excessively violent, the overall execution is uneven on every level. Similar to Millar’s last film adaptation, Wanted, the characters in Kick-Ass never plays by the rules that the picture establishes. For example, we are told Kick-Ass cannot feel physical pain, yet this only seems to apply in certain situations. He can withstand a vicious beating from a D’Amico’s men but gets easily knocked out by the wimpy Red Mist.
A lot of the inconsistencies in the film are a result of the sloppy script. Characters are constantly flipping personalities based on the given situation. On minute Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) would do anything to break off her friendship/relationship with a drug dealer, yet later she is crying because she never wanted that same drug dealer to get hurt. It is maddening moments like this that will make you question why you are even bothering to watch the film but stick with it. Despite its many flaws, Kick-Ass turns out to be a fun, albeit twisted, hodgepodge of a film.
The key to enjoying Kick-Ass is to look at it as outlandish pop culture fare. The film tries hard to break every taboo in the book but it never has the impact of say A Clockwork Orange. Partly because director Matthew Vaughn has so much fun running around with his middle fingers up in the air that he forgets what caused him to do so in the first place. Kick-Ass will not stand the test of time like other comic book flicks, but it does have enough moments to raise it far above the ranks of Tank Girl and Daredevil. The best moments come from the most controversial characters in the whole picture, Big Daddy and Hit Girl.
It becomes evident early on that the most interesting aspect of the plot is not Dave’s/Kick-Ass’ plight to be a hero; but rather the father/daughter duo looking for revenge. To be honest, the film probably would have been better without Kick-Ass or Red Mist at all. As they merely serve as buffers for the darker, and more disturbing, content in the film. Both Cage and Moretz are exceptionally good in this film. Nicolas Cage gives a hilarious Adam West’s 1960’s style performance as Big Daddy. In the scenes with Moretz he tows the fine line between loving father and raging sociopath. Chloe Moretz brings the perfect mix of sweet and vinegar needed for a character as complex as Hit Girl. Now it is hard to fully praise a story arc that has a forty year-old man mercilessly beating up an eleven year-old girl, yet without Big Daddy and Hit Girl the film falls on its face.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is very flawed but I still found myself enjoying the film more than I anticipated. Unlike Wanted, Kick-Ass actually made me interested in picking up the comics just to see the similarities and differences with the source material. Again, Kick-Ass is not a film that I would recommend to the masses but for those willing to take a fun, and very twisted ride, for a few hours then you may want to give the film a shot.