‘Kick-Ass’ takes names

By Andrew Sheridan

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(Courtesy flickr.com)

“With no power comes no responsibility,” muses Dave Lizewski, pondering a decision to risk his life to play super-hero, “…except that isn’t true.” This is the central theme in Matthew Vaughn’s new film, Kick-Ass.

Adapted from the comic book of the same title, “Kick-Ass” is the story of a young man who, fed up with the indifference and apathy that the citizens of his city show towards the crime that runs rampant, decides to create a costumed alter-ego and bring some vigilante justice to the streets of New York. There is one problem, however: the newly-minted super hero Kick-Ass has no powers. He has no radioactive blood, no training, no special equipment and no clue about the realities of the criminal underworld.

The film starts off as an overt play on Spider-Man. Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson, is a hopeless high-school student who lives in the city, is raised by a single parent and can’t get a girl to save his life. The obligatory girl-of-his-dreams is present as well, in the form of the beautiful but unattainable Katie Deauxma played by Lyndsey Fonesca.This well-worn formula isn’t exactly overhauled, but it is given a new twist by the hapless protagonist.

The story’s main difference from the classic super-hero tales it references lies with Lizewski’s reasons for donning a mask. He isn’t bitten by a spider and no one he loves is murdered before his eyes. Lizewski simply comes to the decision that someone needs to stand up to street crime and make themselves known.

In his first public battle with thugs, Kick-Ass gets asked by an incredulous gangbanger “what the f*ck is wrong with you, man? You rather die for some piece of sh*t that you don’t even f*cking know?” He responds passionately, crouching over the bystander he is trying to defend, saying “Three assholes, laying it in one guy while everyone else watches? And you wanna know what’s wrong with me? Yeah, I’d rather die… so bring it on!”

The film’s story succeeds in bringing the concept of vigilante justice into the real world. Without any powers or abilities, Kick-Ass has the sense beaten out of him on more than one occasion, and as would likely happen in today’s world the masked crime fighter becomes an instant internet phenomenon.

Kick-Ass is joined in the film by a cadre of other masked avengers. Nicholas Cage provides the film’s only A-list star power in the role of Big Daddy, a no-nonsense crime fighter with a vendetta against the mafia. Big Daddy is joined by the story’s most interesting and controversial character, the twelve-year-old Hit Girl.

Hit Girl, played by Chloe Mortez, is foul-mouthed and hyper-violent. She achieves easily the highest body count and provides nearly all of the comic book one-liners. While this odd combination of sweet little girl and ruthless killer can be unnerving at times, it works well within the story and provides a comedic foil for the less deadly titular hero.

While “Kick-Ass” is a funny movie that provides a solid amount of laughs, it also has an abundant amount of violence. The film gets serious as the action between killers, heroes, mobsters and wanna-bes heats up, and “Kick-Ass” earns its R rating. With his use of stylized fights scenes director Vaughn brings to mind echoes of Quentin Tarantino, using “Kill Bill”-esque amounts of violence without the gratuitous gore.

The one real criticism of “Kick-Ass” is that the tone of the film jumps around fairly often. It swings from teen comedy to hard-core superhero action flick on a regular basis. However this is a minor issue, and does not seriously interrupt the flow of the film.

“Kick-Ass” is an extremely entertaining film. The comedy is solidly funny, the violence is action-packed, and it keeps the viewer entertained from its opening scene to its closing credits. It is certainly not your average family-friendly Marvel adaptation, but it is one of the best films to see at the theaters this season.

Andrew Sheridan can be reached at [email protected]