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The Globe and Mail

Kick-Ass: It's Hit Girl who packs the real punch

Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass.

3 out of 4 stars



  • Directed by Matthew Vaughn
  • Written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman
  • Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
  • Classification: 18A

Kick-Ass is some kind of twisted fun. Fun, because this is a comic-book movie with loads of octane and enough smarts to parody the genre even while exploiting it. Twisted, because the real star, its scene-stealer supreme, is a force of good charged with shooting and stabbing and beating and otherwise obliterating scores of bad guys, not unusual in itself except that our virtuous agent happens to be a prepubescent 11-year old who does her lethal handiwork while swearing like a drunken sailor. Say hello, if you dare, to "Hit Girl," and prepare to be mildly disturbed in the name of zippy entertainment. Welcome to Kiddies Kill Bill.

Twisted too is the genesis of the project. The creator of the comic is Mark Millar, the Scot who wrote Wanted; the director is Matthew Vaughn, the Brit who made Layer Cake: and these two, along with a largely British cast, are all intent on out-Americaning the Americans at the Yanks' own game. So the setting is New York, where we meet a familiar figure in Dave the high-school nerd (Aaron Johnson), a Brillo-haired lad "whose only superpower is being invisible to girls." Actually, that's a bit immodest - his onanistic prowess in front of a computer screen, one hand on the mouse and the other strategically lower, is quite extraordinary even by lonely teen standards.

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Otherwise, though, Dave is just your classic loser who accepts his daily muggings as life's due course. That is, until he doffs his specs, dons a green wetsuit with yellow piping, and transforms himself into Kick-Ass the superhero, striding manfully down the mean streets, whereupon, oops, Kick-Ass promptly gets his ass kicked by the mugger du jour. He awakens in the hospital, body bruised but ego intact.

His next outing is similar in execution yet superior in result: Watching this wacko, a cellphone videographer posts him and his costume on YouTube, the clip goes viral, and instantly Kick-Ass is that most modern of celebrities - the all-fame-and-no-talent variety. He's even caught the attention of Frank the mob boss, the evildoer who's convinced this evil-fighter is a threat to his dirty business. Better yet, buoyed by the attention, a more confident Dave is rising in the eyes of Katie the hottest babe in school. She used to think him invisible; now she thinks he's gay, and anoints him her new BFF. Hey, it's a promotion - our boy is happy in that closet.

This is the fun part, sending up the comic-book conventions and slicing in a little social satire too. Then comes something else entirely. Turns out there's a pair of real superheroes out there, not wannabes like Kick-Ass but the genuine, and genuinely disturbed, article. Meet the Macreadys, father Damon (Nicolas Cage) and diminutive daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz). By day, the doting papa instructs his beloved charge on the workings of every weapon in his mighty arsenal. By night, armed to the teeth, the twosome metamorphose into Big Daddy and, yes, Hit Girl, he in his Batmanesque getup and she with her short skirt, Clara Bow wig and that oh-so-potty-mouth. Facing them, wicked heads roll like gutter balls down a packed alley.

Cage plays the devoted dad with demented tenderness, but it's the tiny Moretz who steals the picture if not our hearts. Usually, killer children are confined to horror flicks, and presented as bad seeds or the progeny of the damned. Not here. This child is goodness without mercy, at once sacred and profane, a vigilante Barbie who has grown righteous before she has grown breasts. Sociologists will have a field day with Hit Girl.

Meanwhile, back in the wannabe camp, Dave finds a competing nerd in the mobster's son Chris, who can afford a spiffier costume and much flashier wheels. Suddenly, the movie switches back to the fun side of the tracks, briefly, until the two halves merge in a bloody and surprisingly dark climax. There, when the smoke clears, another chapter beckons, and, for once, the promise of a sequel doesn't feel like a threat.

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