Review in a Hurry: In a supercolorful, slightly heightened reality, a handful of folks are crazy enough to try to become costumed heroes. Their plans meet with often disastrous outcomes for them, but hilariously entertaining results for those of us who appreciate profane and slightly perverse humor.
Kick-Ass is being promoted like Watchmen, from the writer of Wanted, and while it has elements of both, it's more purely entertaining than either.
The Bigger Picture: "With no power comes no responsibility." Thus speaks comic book fan Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) after donning a bright green scuba suit and dubbing himself "Kick-Ass."
As he takes pains to also inform us, there's no particular motive for his ill-judged decision to attempt superheroics...It's just something he feels like doing. And on his first major attempt, he breaks nearly every bone in his body.
Reconstructed with metal implants and damaged nerve endings that no longer feel pain, Kick-Ass manages a little better on subsequent outings, thanks to his ability to take a beating. But when he gets mixed up with the highly skilled father-and-daughter vigilante combo of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), the mob, led by Sherlock Holmes villain Mark Strong, are none too pleased.
If there's a weakness to the movie, it's that Big Daddy and Hit Girl are more interesting than the title character. Cage, all nerdy tics in his civilian identity, dons a modern Batsuit while inflecting like Adam West; Moretz, in a star-making performance, is armed to the teeth in leather and a purple wig, plus she tears through mobsters like a miniskirted Yoda against clone troopers.
(Full disclosure of reviewer bias: Nic Cage impersonating Adam West could make any movie amazing.)
Compared to those two, Johnson's riff on the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man is a more subdued thing, with drier, more sarcastic humor, but it improves upon repeated viewings once the viewer gets past the initial impact of Hit Girl's flashy debut.
Kick-Ass was picked up by Lionsgate after select clips were screened at Comic-Con for a wildly enthusiastic audience. And it's that crowd who'll appreciate it the most, with its gentle ribbing of all things fanboy, from silly debates over who would win in a fight to unhealthy fixations on underage girls.
Culture critics will obviously dislike the then preteen Moretz's constant use of profanity and skill at cutting throats—though the word ass in the title was probably enough of a clue to them to stay away anyway (the Carmike cinema chain has apparently banned the film altogether for that very reason).
Bonus points for a score that cannily rips off cues from other superhero movies, augmented by beats from Prodigy's Liam Howlett.
The 180—a Second Opinion: For a movie that aspires to be so hip, the constant use of MySpace as a device to move the story forward is sooo yesteryear.
Stars + movies + paparazzi = Snapped On-Set!