Based on a comic by Mark Millar (Wanted), Kick-Ass follows Dave (Johnson), a geeky high schooler who decides to don a scuba suit and fight crime under the name “Kick-Ass.” After his exploits go viral online, he gets dragged into a battle between the brutal father-daughter team of Damon and Mindy Macready (a.k.a Big-Daddy and Hit-Girl, or Cage and Moretz), and sadistic mobster Frank D’Amico (Strong) and his son Chris (Mintz-Plasse). A superhero-action/comedy that lives up to the name.
While the comic has a much darker tone, Kick-Ass wears its costume with a manic, infectious glee. The story is effective not only because of the cliches it skewers (such as Kick-Ass’s lack of a dramatic origin), but in how it portrays the usually unseen parts of the superhero experience: the beatings, the deaths and the abject failures. Johnson does a great job in bringing humanity and charisma to Dave/Kick-Ass, and even pathos as he gets further out of his depth, but he never devolves to cynicism. The duo of Nicolas Cage (doing his best Adam-West-Batman impression) and the adorable-yet-terrifying Chloe Moretz steals their every scene. Her action sequences are amazing, but also a little unsettling, watching an 11-year-old deal death so readily. That will probably be a sticking point for some (along with the language and overall gruesomeness of the violence), but there’s a lot of heart to balance it out. Definitely not for kids or the faint of heart, but a fun time at the movies.