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July 19, 2010

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a fairly invisible high school student whose major concern seems to be worrying about how few friends he has on MySpace. He’s not unhappy, just normal and a bit unsatisfied. After a dull and frustrating mugging where a stranger ignores his fate he makes the decision to become a super-hero called Kick-Ass.

Despite getting very seriously hurt in his first crime-fighting encounter, he continues with his plan to restore his version of social justice.

Meanwhile…on the other side of the city…

Two real caped vigilantes, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his frighteningly young daughter, Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), are embroiled in a fight to the death against large as life and twice as ugly crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). As they pick off the kingpin’s goons a misunderstanding develops that means D’Amico believes Dave/Kick-Ass is his tormentor.

To save him from almost certain death, Big Daddy and Hit Girl intervene on one of Kick-Ass’s nightly patrols. And it is at this point that the movie becomes something entirely new and eye-opening. Bursting in on a drug den where Dave is getting utterly owned by a bunch of thugs, it is Hit Girl who signals the shift.

“Okay you cunts,” she says, “Let’s see what you can do now.”

And then she kills everyone. Nastily.

Some of this is just plain wrong. Which is fine, but you have to go in knowing that, otherwise the sight of an eleven year old girl chopping a drug dealer’s legs off below the knees will come as a substantial shock. All the more so since it follows a fairly long Geek’s Journey Through Amusing Knocks storyline that entertains but doesn’t really pull up any trees.

Moretz is the dark little heart of the second half of the movie, and although it’s sometimes very funny (and Cage has a great time sending up Christian Bale’s Dark Knight turn) it’s never 100% comfortable watching an 11 year old schoolgirl dishing out ultraviolence and swearing like a trooper,although that’s a feeling which may have been heightened by watching her being beaten up by a 45 year old man. But boy, she carries it along. Energetic, foul-mouthed, darkly funny and spikey, there is even a smidge of vulnerability thrown in there at just the right moment to trip you up. And no-one has ever said the word ‘bazooka?’ with more intensity.

It’s not for the faint-hearted. Laughs there most certainly are, but some of them you have to pay for.

A touch flabby around the sides and perhaps 10 or 15 minutes too long, Kick-Ass isn’t brilliant, but it’s a rollicking and unforgettable ride, and oddly enough, I’d kill for a sequel.

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