Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson (Dave Lizewski), Chloë Moretz (MindyMacready/Hit Girl), Nicolas Cage (Damon Macready/Big Daddy)
It’s predictable but depressing that Kick-Ass garnered so much press coverage for all the wrong reasons. Instead of focusing obsessively on the fact that it features a little girl with the potty mouth of a docker and the death-dealing skills of a Shogun Assassin, the Tory tabs should have been celebrating a national success story. Here’s a film by a British director, made in Britain, written by a Brit, from a comic by a British writer, whose protagonist and principal villain are British actors. Taking a classic American template and bringing it bang up to date for the internet age, this is a movie that’s slugged it out with Hollywood heavyweights like Iron Man 2, and beaten them at their own game.
Kick-Ass is a great comic, blessed with one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” high-concepts. But the movie is far superior, and much of that’s down to screenwriter Jane Goldman. While Millar’s comics are brimming with bold ideas, his writing can have something of the eternal 14-year-old about it, an element of the snickering playground Butthead. Goldman brings greater emotional depth to the table, as well as goofy humour and bags of charm, fleshing out the characters of Dave’s buddies, and beefing up the romance thread – Kick-Ass beats high school movies at their own game too. And all of this is done in a fittingly off-kilter fashion, never selling out on the source material.
The cast is superb. Chloë Moretz may spit the C-word and fillet people with a samurai sword, but what really grabs your attention are her acting chops. Utterly convincing as an ordinary girl living an extraordinary life, her performance leaves you impatient to see the actress she’ll blossom into. Aaron Johnson is a likeable, vulnerable everydweeb, whom you’d never suspect hails from Hertfordshire. And then there’s Nic Cage. We’d love to have been a fly on the wall the day Cage decided that Big Daddy should talk in the halting manner of Adam West’s ‘60s Batman. On the face of it, it’s a rotten idea. And yet.. it works. The editor didn’t think so, begging Vaughn for reshoots because Cage’s scattershot emphases were so hard to cut around. But Vaughn took a risk, and it paid off.
Indeed, that’s the secret of Kick-Ass’s success. There’s so much more to praise here, from the vibrant colour scheme to the flawless soundtrack, with its combination of cheeky John Williams homages and killer cuts of bubblegum punk. But ultimately, it all comes down to a willingness to take risks.