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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
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.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines