Netflix UK film review: Kick-Ass
Ivan Radford | On 06, Dec 2014
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicholas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Watch Kick-Ass online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Have you ever watched Spider-Man and wondered what it would be like if Peter Parker cut someone’s head off? Mark Millar has. But blood and guts arent part of cinema’s superhero world. They’re part of the real world, where superheroes aren’t people with super powers, they’re people with big guns and a strange way of thinking. It’s tribute to Millar that the idea works so well – his comic book series lives up to its form: it’s novel. And incredibly graphic.
Who better, then, to tackle the twisted humour of Millar’s mind than Matthew Vaughn? Layer Cake and Stardust are hardly distinctive classics but after seeing Kick-Ass on a big screen, you see how perfect a fit it all is. Shunning studio funding for a free rein with the tremendous source material, Vaughn doesn’t go easy on the swearing. Or the violence. Or anything, for that matter.
Dave Lizewsli (John Lennon) is your average dork – he spends his days unnoticed at school and his nights filling Kleenex over thoughts of his English teacher. But one day an idea hits him: why doesn’t anyone in real life try being a superhero? The answer: they’d get the crap kicked out of them. One hospital trip later and he’s all set to go: Kick-Ass. Half wetsuit, half metal plates and a whole lot of stupid.
Trying to woo Katie, the girl of his dreams, Dave ends up on YouTube mid-punch up. Sure enough, Kick-Ass becomes an internet sensation overnight and soon, he’s fighting mob boss Frank D’Amico (Strong), alongside fellow vigilantes Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit-Girl (Moretz) – a 10 year old with a taste for knives, guns and the c-word. Setting up society’s saviours as unbalanced nutjobs, Kick-Ass pulls no punches in its dark treatment of the genre stereotypes: a jaded ex-policeman, Big Daddy is out for revenge against D’Amico’s wannabe Scarface, while Dave lives with his widower father, pretending to be gay just to get into Katie’s bedroom.
But while everything is laugh-out-loud funny, you still end up feeling some kind of warped sympathy for these crazy characters. It helps that they’re all clearly having so much fun – Johnson is a reliable lead, while Cage’s OTT Adam West impression puts him back at the top of his game. Even Christopher Mintz-Plasse outgrows McLovin’ as Kick-Ass copycat, Red Mist. And Chloe Moretz’s psychotic schoolgirl? She’s as bloodthirsty as you could imagine, with a disturbing streak of endearing naivety.
It’s all pulled off with consummate style. Jane Goldman’s sharp script, co-written with Vaughn, is a perfect port of Millar’s witty dialogue and post-modern references (even with that anachronistic use of MySpace). They chop and change the plot a lot, but every change works, moving from the comic book’s detached undermining of the superhero condition to, crucially, embracing the hyper cartoon-like reality with affection. What starts out as a cruel spoof becomes a feel-good celebration, complete with token flying scene.
Throughout, Matthew Vaughn’s direction is visceral, dynamic and overwhelmingly confident. Crafting a series of high octane action sequences, his hands-on approach shirks CGI for a good old solid smack in the face. If Quentin Tarantino made a superhero movie, this would be better. Shifting from strobe lighting to comic strip flashbacks, Kick-Ass is an individual, intertextual delight.
Kick-Ass is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.