31 March 2010
Superheroes have become a staple of modern cinema; everyone from Batman to Spider-man by way of Ghost Rider and Wanted - with so many comic books and graphic novels to draw from, and new ones being created all the time, there's a plethora of material ready and waiting for film-makers needed some inspiration.
Not to mention the fact that there's a ready-made expectant audiences for these films, made up of the legions of existing fans of these characters.
In recent years the genre has evolved, with movies like Mystery Men and Watchmen presenting a darker, edgier and and - some would argue - more cynical approach. Now some superheroes are presented as antiheroes, rather than saviours, as more dangerous than those they bring to justice. And now the the genre takes another twist with Matthew Vaughn's hotly anticipated Kick-Ass, a superhero movie without any suerheroes to speak of.
Up and coming British actor Aaron Johnson, who recently won some serious recognition for his portrayal of Beatles legend John Legend in Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy, plays ordinary New York school student Dave Lizewski. Living alone with his single dad, and with very few friends, Dave finds an escape from the mundane everyday in the comic books he loves to read.
One day, he makes the surprising decision to become a superhero, even though he has no training and definitely no special powers. In fact, the only thing he does have is a bright green-and-yellow suit and mask. But, that's enough for Dave to rename himself Kick-Ass and go after all of the Big Apple's biggest villains; which, more often than not, results in Dave being at the receiving end of some brutal beatings.
When one of these violent encounters ends up on You Tube - where else - it comes to the attention of gangster boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who mistakenly believes that Kick-Ass has killed several of his men. Frank comes up with a plan to get his revenge; he gets his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to reinvent himself as equally as made-up superhero Red Mist, in order to lure Kick Ass into the open.
Kick-Ass is, in a word, awesome. It's a colourful, energetic movie, and the fact that it has a pretend superhero at its core does nothing to detract from the action; indeed, it's ultra-violent in places, and it's a violence undiluted by the fact that Dave is, literally, fighting for his life with no powers to help him out.
It's an interesting idea; an normal kid decides he wants to be different and does something extreme about it, and is handled well by scriptwriter Jane Goldman and Stardust director Vaughn. Johnson is excellent in the role, demonstrating a geeky charisma that makes Kick-Ass a truly endearing non-super-hero.
Even though he's no stranger to Hollywood, having made the 2009 film The Greatest with Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan, Johnson's turn in Kick-Ass will surely make him a big star across the pond. Special mention, too, must go to Nicolas Cage and Chloe Mortez as father daughter vigilante team Big Daddy and Hit Girl, who dish out their own share of rough justice in the streets of Manhattan.
They almost - if not quite - steal the show from Johnson, and this trilogy of excellent performances help make this an absolute must see.
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