You do not have to be an ardent cinephile to notice that we are neck-deep these days in superhero movies. This is true now, and it was true in 2010 when Kick Ass premiered. What made the movie special then was that we were not quite at the flood stage we are today. The Marvel phases were just getting cranked up, DC was in the midst of the Dark Knight Trilogy, but there were enough out there for an honest take on superheroes to be a hit. Well, it should have been more of a hit than what it was, anyway, but there is no accounting for taste. As you will see, it is something that is sneaky good, if sometimes bloody and vulgar.
Dave Lizewski’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) day-dreaming about superheroes brings us into the world of Kick Ass. Regarding what is alluded to in the previous paragraph, he ponders what it would be like to be a real-life crime fighter. His first vision is not a good one, as a mental patient escaped from an institution jumps off a building in a flight suit turned comic book character costume, and dies when his body crashes into a taxi below at terminal velocity. Nonetheless, his desire to experience that life does not dissipate. As a high school teen into comic books, he and his friends Marty Eisenberg (Clark Duke) and Todd Haynes (Evan Peters) often gather at a local shop plying these stories to their peers. He admits to them that he is tired of being roughed up by bullies, robbed by local ruffians, and not getting the girl he is in love with, namely Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). When Dave wonders why nobody actually stands up and does something about the flagrant crime, his friends scoff, saying that such a person would be beaten to a pulp. One day after yet another mugging, he goes home and orders a green scuba outfit, intending this to be his costume. Thus, Kick Ass is born. Unfortunately, his first foray into stopping law breakers ends exactly as his friends predicted, and he spends a significant amount of time in the hospital. On the plus side, the extensive nerve damage and rearrangement of bones have made Dave able to take a punch like a champ. It has also not dampened his resolve to continue being Kick Ass. As such, as soon as he is able to get another green scuba outfit online, he gets back out on the streets, this time concentrating on more small-time tasks, like finding lost cats. He also sets up a website where people can send him quests to fulfill for them. What launches his career in earnest is when he defends somebody in the streets being attacked by four men. The action is caught by several cameras and uploaded to the internet. This gets the notice of several people, including the local head of organized crime Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Actually, it is his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a classmate of Dave’s, who first brings it to the crime boss’s attention. The son hopes to impress the father, but dad has what he sees as more pressing matters. Another set of people who take interest in Kick Ass’ seemingly inept heroics are Damon MacReady (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace-Moretz). They are introduced as a loving father and daughter, albeit with Damon putting a large gun at Mindy and pulling the trigger so that she can learn how it feels to take a shot while wearing a bullet-proof vest. It is not long before they encounter Kick Ass, going as their alter-egos Big Daddy (who is basically Batman, but with guns) and Hit-Girl. I will let you work out who is who. Dave’s new life has given him a little confidence, and he has gotten close with Katie. When she mentions a drug dealer named Rasul (Kofi Natei) who is giving her problems, Kick Ass shows up at Rasul’s door to put an end to the harassment. This time, Kick Ass is in over his head, that is until Big Daddy and Hit Girl show up and murder everyone inside, taking all their drug money, and telling Kick Ass to leave this kind of business to the professionals. Big Daddy’s main target is also Frank, who Damon blames for ruining his life. In order to begin exacting revenge, Big Daddy takes out a warehouse owned by Frank. What leads Frank to Damon is a hidden camera, placed there by Chris so he can learn the family business, showing Big Daddy killing several henchmen and burning the place down. Frank, who has learned that Chris is going around town as a superhero dubbed Red Mist, uses this connection to set a trap for Big Daddy. Red Mist contacts Kick Ass claiming they are in trouble. They then turn to Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and they all meet at a safe-house. In the process, Hit Girl is shot, and Big Daddy and Kick Ass are captured. Their torture is broadcast on the internet as the revealing of the identity of Kick Ass, horrifying many, including Katie. They are saved by Hit Girl, though Big Daddy dies in the process. Now it is Hit Girl’s turn for revenge, and along with Kick Ass, they attack Frank’s downtown apartment. Hit Girl does most of the damage, but she is saved from Frank by the timely intervention of Kick Ass with a bazooka. They then reveal their true identities to each other, and Mindy goes into protective custody nearby. We close with Chris vowing to become a supervillain.
There is a lot of violence in Kick Ass, along with a sex scene. This is between Dave and Katie, and it takes place behind the comic book shop where they hang out. There is a lot in this film that would suggest that it should not be seen, and I would not recommend it to most audiences. Luckily, the aforementioned, er, exchange does not have any nudity. I guess that is something. What took me by surprise when I first saw it was Hit Girl. The relationship between her and her father is a genuine one, and it adds some value into a film that does not have much from a Catholic perspective. That is not the unexpected part. What makes you sit up and notice is watching an eleven-year-old girl dispatch criminals with violent ease. This takes place in the scene when Kick Ass is attempting to dissuade Rasul from bothering Katie. She bursts into the room, startling the occupants, and cheerfully killing everyone in the room. She can clearly handle herself in other ways, too. After saving Kick Ass, she drives the Red Mist’s tricked out Ford Mustang, and does it while operating a stick shift, no less. Her character is pretty unique, and she makes the movie.
I also appreciate Dave in Kick Ass. Standing up for the right thing is hard, and the whole of Christian history is full of stories that attest to this fact. While there have been no masked vigilantes that have made it into the hallowed halls of recognized saints, each one can be considered a superhero in their own right. Actually, the one who might come the closest is St. Joan of Arc. Fifteenth century French history is messy, and I will not bore you with the details. At any rate, it is not so much her military record that advanced her cause for sainthood. There are many legends surrounding her donning armor and fighting to rid France of the English, like being handed a sword by God. These have not been substantiated, nor are they likely ever to be. What we do know about thanks to the preserved records is her testament to her faith when brought up for questioning before quasi-ecclesiastical courts. I say “quasi” because they were largely acting without full Church authority. Whoever it was that was doing the questioning, they were pressing a lowly peasant girl who maintained her trust in God, all the way to being burned at the stake. Dave, too, had humble origins, and he survived hospitalization with the same commitment to doing right. There is a grace in such behavior.
If you can get past the sex and violence in Kick Ass, there is a decent movie here. The main characters, despite having a predilection towards solving problems with their fists in an un-Christian way, are good people all the same. While I do not support their actions, I wish the world had more people like them. It is also a serviceable break from superhero fatigue.