Kick-Ass is a comic-book adventure that has already upset the Daily Mail — would you believe? — with its extreme violence and the fact that a 12-year-old girl uses the word that is See You Next Tuesday although, if you can’t make Tuesday, I’m thinking Thursday would also be fine. But is this film anything to get all het up about? I don’t know. I can only tell you that my own het wasn’t upped. I keep my het in my socks and when I checked after the screening it was at exactly the same level as before.
The violence and language are so deliberately outlandish, so obviously and clownishly overstated, it’s surely a joke at the expense of action films that do genuinely and solemnly go in for this sort of thing. Kick-Ass is clever and quite fun, and if I didn’t enjoy it more it’s probably because I’m not a comic-strip aficionado and so most of the nods and winks and in-jokes flew over my head and off to wherever nods and winks and in-jokes go when they don’t hit their target, which is probably Broadstairs for a couple of days. Doesn’t everyone and everything always end up in Broadstairs for a couple days? I haven’t actually read a comic since Bunty. The four Marys, where are they now? That’s what I’d really like to know.*
It’s produced by Brad Pitt (husband of Angelina Jolie) and directed by Matthew Vaughn (husband of Claudia Schiffer) who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman (wife of Jonathan Ross) and stars Aaron Johnson (Sam Taylor-Wood’s husband-to-be) and now, if you don’t mind, I’ll lay off the marital updates, as I’m married to something of a dull nobody, and am only upsetting myself. The film is based on the Marvel comic written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita, and Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a New York teenager who isn’t a hit with the girls at school and is always getting mugged on his way home — hey, kid, you ever thought of changing your route?
Anyway, Dave wonders why nobody ever tries to become a superhero in real life — hey, kid, because you need superpowers, maybe? — and decides to give it a go, ordering a goofy green wet suit online and calling himself Kick-Ass, as in the tagline: ‘I can’t fly. But I can kick your ass.’ This is why Kick-Ass works better as a name than Walk Dog, say, or Water Plants. But Kick-Ass is not, initially, a successful superhero. In fact, on his first outing, when he fronts up his muggers, he gets stabbed twice and then run over. In other words: don’t try this at home, kiddywinks. Stay in and meet sinister people on Facebook instead.
The plot doesn’t add up to much, but doesn’t have to, as this is a film defined by its high-energy, go-for-it-whatever, convention-toppling spirit. All you need know, if anything, is that Kick-Ass unwittingly stumbles on an operation against the local drugs kingpin (Mark Strong) by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a vigilante ex-cop who dresses up like Batman, and his 12-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), who wears a purple Lulu wig, splatters brains, spins Samurai swords, throws Ninja stars and delivers that word. Miss Moretz is astonishing: fresh, vivid and strangely adorable even when she’s slicing someone’s limbs off with a machete.
I know, it sounds appalling. Why wasn’t my het boiling over the top of my socks and puddling on the floor? I think it’s because the violence is so knowing and cartoonish it sort of doesn’t really count. It’s like Jerry bashing Tom over the head with a frying pan. I’m the most squeamish person ever — ‘It hurts, it hurts, jab me up!’ I always shout when I’m in the dentist’s chair, and that’s just when the nurse is tucking a tissue round my neck — but I didn’t even flinch. This is no Antichrist or Reservoir Dogs. It’s a cleverly twisted version of your regular superhero pic, probably at its best when Cage exercises his warped parenting techniques, giving his daughter butterfly kick knives for her birthday and teaching her how to take bullets in her chest. Nice.
Ultimately, this isn’t my sort of film, and not something I’d choose to see in a zillion years. I am too old for it, just as I’m now too old for almost everything. I am not into the genre. At two hours, it’s probably too long, and it all ends rather conventionally in one of those protracted bloodbaths. But it’s mostly original and inventive and I didn’t come out thinking my time had been wasted, which is the main thing. As for that word, if you can’t make Thursday it will have to be the following Tuesday. Friday just wouldn’t make any sense at all, no matter how convenient it might be. Sorry.
* In Broadstairs, probably.