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Kick-Ass puts a new spin on the Superhero genre

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Kick-Ass is the superhero movie for the YouTube  generation. During an age where the person Kick Asssitting next to you on a subway could be the next reality TV star, a film like this rings true. Forget Superman and Spiderman, which will both feel dated after watching this wild, modern spin on the genre. Based on the popular comic books, Kick-Ass achieves an interesting blend of graphic violence, and cutesy, cliché superhero plot points. The result is something that is hardly consistent, but mostly fascinating, and always entertaining.

The film’s hero is just like any other teenage geek by day. Dave (Aaron Johnson) is invisible the popular kids and in love with a girl who thinks he’s gay. When he realizes one day that he wants to be seen as someone of importance, someone to help those in need instead of being a bystander, his fantasies manifest into reality. He orders a scuba suit from the Internet, and thus becomes Kick Ass, the newest vigilante crime fighter to grace the big apple. Unfortunately, Kick-Ass is not very skilled at first. Visually, he looks like a slow Ninja Turtle, or a “green condom”, as one villain hilariously notes. His first attack on a pair of muggers ends badly, leaving him hospital bound with serious injuries. However, the wounds heal, and soon the game is back on.

The plot thickens when two other vigilantes make their appearances known. Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) comes off as some kind of Batman knock-off, and his daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), is a killing machine inside the body of an 11-year-old girl. Both of them are out for revenge against a drug kingpin named Frank (Mark Strong) that had Big Daddy wrongfully imprisoned years back. The duo makes friends with Kick-Ass, but have their own agenda. However, all three-crime fighters get thrown in the mix when Frank catches on and uses his son to stage a trap between them.

Kick-Ass works because, for the most part, it’s more grounded in reality than any other movie about caped crusaders. These characters are flawed, and can be hurt, as shown in several sequences. The violence is also highly jarring, bloody and brutal, initially shocking and eventually numbing. (Kill Bill  anyone?) However, for the most part, that brutality also plays into the realistic nature of the movie. The other reason this movie works can be summed up in two words: Hit Girl. Destined for cult status, she is perhaps one of the most memorable superhero characters in some time. She looks like a girl scout by day but is a heartless avenger by night. She curses (F bombs galore), refers to the bad guys as a bunch of “c*nts”, and giddily screams when she orders her first bazooka online. Chloe Moretz should be applauded too for her gutsy performance. She brings serious badass spunk and shocking maturity to the part. Seriously, you will forget that there is a 13 year old behind that mask. Brilliant.

The movie, as enjoyable as it is, has some serous flaws. Tonally, it’s across the map. When you combine elements of a quick-witted coming of age teen movie with an ultraviolent graphic novel film which satirizes the Superhero genre, the results can feel like a rollercoaster. The zany energy that propels the film initially gives way to uncomfortable wince inducing gore and a sobering final act. By that point, the humor feels out of place.

Still, in the end, Kick-Ass  is a great ride. This is a film to be embraced despite its shortcomings. The characters are interesting, the take on the genre feels fresh and invigorating, and the film presents a group of everyday superheroes that any audience would root for.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com