Kick Ass (15)

3.00

Matthew Vaughn's cartoonishly violent action comedy takes off from an interesting premise: you cannot dispense justice in a corrupt society if you don't wear the right clobber. It is perhaps a sign of the times that your average teen no longer considers being "a hero" good enough. Nowadays the only thing for it is to be a superhero, and if you can't be one, then act like one. This can-do attitude is what makes the first half-hour of Kick-Ass such a blast.

New York high-schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is nerdy and needy and knows it. He's so ordinary it hurts: "I didn't have a piercing or an eating disorder," he admits, and the only superpower he possesses is being "invisible to girls". It's a plaint reminiscent of Peter Parker, the regular guy who becomes Spider-Man, except that the goo Dave generates via his wrist isn't the prehensile webbing that allows Spidey to swing through the Manhattan canyons; it's just the stuff that all boys exude at a certain age. True, he's got the background of a would-be superhero, having suffered the loss of a parent (but not to violence) and a slow whittling-away of his self- respect. But Dave's journey of transformation has a more obvious starting-point: given all the people who want to be superheroes, how come no one's tried it?

So he finally unveils himself as "Kick-Ass", walking the streets in a green wetsuit with yellow trim ($99 on the internet) and matching head-mask. This alone might qualify as a sort of courage. His superhero gauntlets are a pair of yellow marigolds, for heaven's sake. No amount of practising in front of the mirror can help, however, when you have to leap across a parapet at a run, and as for the two thugs he confronts during an auto-theft... What's so enjoyable about this probing of the overlap between fantasy and reality is that it posits the questions that might occur to us if we had a sudden urge to play a DIY vigilante. Won't it hurt if I get stabbed? What would happen if a car mowed me down?

Dave finds out, painfully, but he emerges from hospital rebuilt, his limbs larded with metal plates and his nerve endings deadened. "This is awesome," he says. "I look like frickin' Wolverine!" Kick-Ass 2.0 is ready to go back to work. The blood-boltered caper that follows has its moments, but you will notice how the script (by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman) becomes more conventional – more like other superhero movies – as it proceeds. Dave's confessions of inadequacy at the start, and his inchoate grappling with the idea of self-transformation, are by far the funniest and best-written parts of the film.

That said, the real crowd-pleasers are two other self-styled caped crusaders, a domesticated Batman-and-Robin duo known as Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Our first sight of them is at target-practice: Big Daddy is pointing the gun, and Hit Girl is his target. The walls of their den are studded with every sort of automatic weapon. "Weird" and "mad" just about cover this partnership. You don't give much for the chances of their arch-enemy Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), especially after the inventively lethal fashion in which Hit Girl dispatches a roomful of his goons. The violence is at about the same point on the dial as Sin City and Watchmen, though the BBFC has for some reason decided that Kick-Ass merits a "15" rather than an "18". (It's based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John S Romita Jnr). Perhaps they reasoned that the shooting and skewering and slicing are so extravagant that nobody could really take it seriously. They may be right. But you don't have to be a Daily Mail reader to feel a ripple of offence at one particularly gratuitous use of a – or rather the – four-letter word. I have no problem with swearing on screen – most of the time I barely even notice it. But I do wonder how it contributes to anything – fun, credibility, the tattered remains of our innocence – to have an 11-year-old girl address a bunch of men she's never met before as "c**ts".

Vaughn's other, less serious breach of taste is his repeated shot of a gigantic billboard featuring Claudia Schiffer – his wife – as photographed by arch celebrity-fawner Mario Testino. It just says "no class". He makes happier decisions in the casting of the film. Aaron Johnson has gone from heartbreaker in Nowhere Boy to bonebreaker in this, and does the dreamy American teen very convincingly. Even better is Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl, a cherubic death-dealer in a purple Clara Bow wig. (I look forward to seeing her in the US remake of Let the Right One In). Even Cage, who's been phoning them in for a while, strikes some unexpected notes as Big Daddy, wearing the specs and wispy moustache of a geography teacher but apparently as ruthless as a Mossad agent.

You get the feeling that Kick-Ass could be a huge "audience movie", given its covering of certain bases – teenage angst, parent-child oddity, comic-book violence – and the sulphurous energy driving it along. It threatens to be a more interesting proposition, as a sly commentary on superhero movies, than it eventually proves, and I'm not sure I can forgive it that unwarranted obscenity. But it does, indubitably, kick ass.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most