The list of fantastic comic book adaptations is getting longer and longer. We’re actually at the stage now where, when telling someone you’ve just seen a great comic book movie, you don’t have to immediately justify your recommendation.

Kick-Ass is a film that makes fun of superheroes as much as it reveres them. People might be surprised to learn that much of Kick-Ass is quite serious, tragic and emotional. After the oh-so-average double whammy of Layer Cake and Stardust, director Matthew Vaughn has really hit his stride here.

The film begins with Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) pondering why there aren’t any real superheroes, arguing that surely, out of millions of comic book aficionados, someone would take up the mantle. Ignoring his naysaying friends, he sets out to become the titular hero but finds out that – well, you know, it’s a really, really dangerous occupation.

It’s incredible just how grounded in reality this action comedy is. Every step of the way, we’re reminded that this is real life and you can get hurt. The point is so effectively made that every time an action scene popped up, I was actually very nervous for Dave and others. This, in itself, is an extraordinary achievement. How many times can you say that you’ve truly worried that something awful may happen to a superhero?

That’s not to say that this is a realistic film in any sense of the word – the lead characters are larger than life, the supporting characters are cartoonish – but there is a constant reminder that things could go horribly, horribly wrong for our hero at any moment.

As has been mentioned by many reviewers already, this is certainly a very violent film. I would hate to be the parent that didn’t do their research before taking their kids along. Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz, whom some may remember as the precocious younger sister in (500) Days of Summer) has to be one of the greatest big screen superhero incarnations we’ve seen in a long time, and truly unique. One might say that the character is written only for cheap thrills (“Yay! We get to see a preteen swear and kill scores of people!”) but there are hints of something much, much darker. Here is a girl who has effectively been subject to years of a abuse and clearly has decades of issues to sort out in front of a psychologist, yet the film manages to walk the line between popcorn flick and serious meditation on vigilantism so perfectly that it’s the perfect subtext – a disturbing element to the narrative that lingers in the shadows.

Moretz is clearly the star of the show, here but it’s with relief that Nicolas Cage has finally shown us just how good an actor he can be. Playing the dorky/psychotic father of Hit Girl, he really shines in a comedic role played completely straight. Mark Strong is great as the villain, Frank D’Amico, and I’m quite thrilled that he’s going to be playing Sinestro in the upcoming Green Lantern movie. Most importantly, of course, Johnson plays the average teenager with superhero aspirations with aplomb. He does risk being overshadowed by the supporting characters, but his everyday, commonsense approach to events helps keeps Kick-Ass grounded.

A rather glaring disappointment is that the soundtrack isn’t as awesome as it should be. Well, actually it is awesome. My problem is that the best bits aren’t original pieces of music. The song selection includes a bunch of well-known songs that we’ve all heard before and are fairly uninspiring, with the exception of Sparks’ ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’, which is a welcome inclusion. More disappointing, however, is the fact that one of the film’s best scenes uses John Murphy’s ‘In the House – In a Heartbeat’ from 28 Days Later. Since this is such an incredible piece of music, the scene works wonderfully, but I was so distracted that the music had been stolen from another film that it threatened to ruin it for me.

This is an hilarious and emotional roller coaster ride of a film and certainly the best action film to come out so far in 2010.

Rating: 4 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 14th April 2010
Hoopla Factor: 4.5 stars

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