Critics are knocking each other over to flout how much they like this film, probably in order to show how cool and in touch with modern culture they are by not being offended at a little girl who swears and kills people. Not like anyone stuffy enough to dislike the film. They’re losers. We’re not. Love us.
Trouble is, the build-up of media Lick-Ass can only end up triggering an “it’s not that good” backlash sooner or later. Which will be a shame as this is a fun film, with the smart premise of a superhero story set in the real world. Average teenage comic-fan Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) buys a crap suit and some sticks, and sets out to be Kick Ass. His only skill is a plucky determination. He gets beaten up quite a lot.
Stealing the show is the kid making all the critics quiver, little Hit Girl (an outstanding Chloe Mortez), the 12 year-old brought up by her bonkers daddy to be a lean, teeny killing machine. Said daddy became the highlight, played by Nicolas Cage channeling Adam West in a crap Batman suit. He is absurdity and hilarity rolled into one, with some gigantic teeth and a silly hair do. There are many componenets here that could create utter dirge along the lines of Daredevil or Batman & Robin, but Kick Ass has the right mix of tongue-in-cheek and seriousness to pull it off.
Nerd comedy (ala Superbad) mixes with uber violence (ala Kill Bill – well, all the films Kill Bill riffs off), with big nods to Raimi’s Spider-man and comic book name-checks sprinkled throughout. Superhero conventions are played to, then deliberately broken, leaving you with a fresh feeling of not really knowing what’s going to happen next. A slice of real darkness adds jeaopardy to the proceedings, and Mark Strong brings a fun villain in the form of a mob boss, with a wimpy son played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (no doubt now type-cast as McLovin’ for the rest of his career).
But Kick Ass sometimes has a whiff of familiarity, be it through the soundtrack (an odd choice to reuse a 28 Days Later track for a blistering fight scene, making it feel more wannabe than fresh newcomer), the uber violent school girl (Gogo Yubari wearing the same tartan skirt in Kill Bill) or the general nods to the superhero franchises that have already dominated our screens, some pretty damn successfully. Whether they’re deliberate or not, these feelings of de ja vu hamper the film’s efforts to find a unique voice. It’s a shame the spirit of originality doesn’t cover all bases.
Still, Kick Ass is a lively, surprising, funny and enjoyable film - a welcome breath of fun after the seriousness of Watchmen and Dark Knight. Whether the freshness will last for a sequel (no doubt in the works) is another story. Nic Cage makes this film worth the watch, Chloe Mortez a close second for dazzling confidence. Kick Ass scores a CF2, kicking 2010 ass with the highest score so far.