‘Kick-Ass’ Kicks Serious Ass

At first glance, “Kick-Ass” doesn’t seem like a film that would bowl you over. After all, this adaptation of the comic book series by Mark Millar doesn’t feature any recognizable superheroes and probably only garners attention for its catchy title. However, “Kick-Ass” overwhelms such expectations; it lives up to its name and is so far the most entertaining film of the year.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical high school geek. Inspired by the comic books he reads, he sets out to be the first real-life superhero. Despite a rough and painful start, he becomes an overnight sensation when he saves a man from a serious beating and dubs himself Kick-Ass.

As Kick-Ass, Dave encounters vigilantes Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), as well as another wannabe superhero Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). It isn’t long before he gets caught up in a bigger fight against local crime syndicate leader Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

As an adaptation, “Kick-Ass” is quite faithful to its source material. While the ending differs from that of the comics, it’s important to keep in mind that the cast and crew finished filming well before Millar released the last issue to volume one, which the film is based on. Furthermore, the film downplays the grittier aspects of the comics, but retains the adult nature and dark humor which is the keystone of the series.

The best change that screenwriters Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman made for the film is to further develop some of the characters, specifically Red Mist and Frank D’Amico. Though doing so leaves no room for the shocking twist seen in the comics and thus makes the plot a bit predictable, it allows for amusing character interaction as well as some of the film’s best lines of dialogue.

In the comics, the balance between realism and impracticality is always kept even, and the film keeps that balance until the final ten to fifteen minutes. Indeed, that is the only time when “Kick-Ass” suffers, as the story gets too ridiculous to believe and the CGI too obvious to distinguish.

Johnson hits all the right spots as Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass by effectively communicating the changes that Dave experiences on his journey. He brings to life the qualities that make Dave such a pitiful loser and, after donning the costume, adds more confidence and swagger. What also makes Dave such a convincing character is that Johnson, an English actor, adopts a believable American accent.

Cage once again shows his versatility as an actor by balancing action, emotion, and humor in his role as Big Daddy. Wait until you see his character in action — he’s like Batman, except he actually kills people. In short, Big Daddy makes Batman look like a pussy.

As D’Amico, Strong adds to his already impressive résumé. He has a gift for portraying villains, and this is no different in “Kick-Ass.” What Strong manages to pull off so well is making evil so morbidly amusing.

Most viewers will recall Mintz-Plasse as McLovin from “Superbad.” In this film, he’s better than ever. He approaches Red Mist with a certain drawl and goofiness that he often steals the scene from his fellow actors, who are already at the top of their game.

Finally, there’s Moretz as the foul-mouthed and ruthless Hit-Girl. Moretz is the highlight of “Kick-Ass,” as she steals the film with her violent nature and sarcastic attitude. She executes her scenes in a manner which the viewer will find adorable yet disturbing at the same time. If she did her own stunts, then that’s even more impressive.

Those who complain that Hit-Girl is way too much clearly haven’t read the comic series. There, her actions are much more gruesome and violent, which involve her skewering throats with chair legs and slamming meat cleavers into craniums.

There is no doubt that “Kick-Ass” will stir much controversy, especially with Hit-Girl. One can predict FOX news commentators discussing “Kick-Ass” within days of the film’s release. Speaking of which, will they even say the words “Kick-Ass” on television?

Accompanied by an energetic soundtrack, the superbly shot and edited action sequences are exhilarating to watch. When watching the characters fight scores of bad guys, the viewer will feel as if he has been dropped right in the middle of the fight.

Despite its fairly predictable plot and a dip in the final minutes of the third act, “Kick-Ass” is an impressive adaptation of a comic book series. With great performances, enthralling fights, and dialogue that Quentin Tarantino himself would be proud of, this is one of the must-see films of the year.