An issue I have always had with most superheroes is that, no matter what, they refuse to kill the villain. The Joker can escape from Arkham Asylum a thousand times and kill millions of people, but Batman will never kill him. The reasoning behind imposing such a strict code of ethics on these heroes is purely for marketing reasons. The Joker is as integral to the Batman mythos as the hero himself and killing him off would alienate readers and reduce merchandise sales. Some may also argue that superheroes are supposed to maintain a high moral standard because they serve as an inspiration for many, especially young people. I say fuck that. Chalk it up to my sense of justice, but superheroes, to a certain extent, are above the law. They are not cops who abide by every statute. If they did, Superman wouldn’t destroy the crap out of Metropolis, destroy private property, and beat the hell out of the villain. They exist because society cannot deal with the crime that plagues it. In light of all this, I tend to identify more with those heroes who kill the villains rather than merely detain them. This is partly why I so love Kick-Ass, but I mostly love it because it is simply a fucking awesome of a movie that brings out the ultimate comic geek in me.

Kick-Ass had an interesting development history. Although it was first released as a comic book, the rights to a film version were actually sold before the first issue of the comic was even published. The film script and the comic book were written at the same time and the whole project developed in a pretty interesting collaborative and organic manner that I have never seen before. Kick-Ass poses the question: What if superheroes really did exist? What would it be like to dress up like a masked vigilante and go out and fight crime in the real world? Is it possible? The story begins with a high school boy who, after witnessing a number of crimes, decides to take on crime himself as a masked hero named ‘Kick-Ass.’ As he is not athletic, his initial attempts at fighting crime are met with embarrassing failure. However, he perseveres and establishes a cult following in the city. We are also introduced to another set of crimefighters, a father-daughter duo who go by ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Hit Girl.’ They are not unlike Marvel Comics’ The Punisher, but more sadistic and violent if that can be believed. Every superhero needs a villain and we are introduced to him in the form of ‘Red Mist,’ who is the teenage son of a crime boss.

Some of you may be taken aback by the level of violence this film contains. Kick-Ass undoubtedly has some pretty graphic scenes that surely presented a challenge to the filmmakers when they had to present it to the MPAA for a rating. What makes the violence all the more shocking is that it is mostly committed by young teenagers, one of whom, Hit Girl, is about 13 years old. Not surprisingly, the film has generated controversy about a girl who has the mouth of a sailor and who commits bloody acts of violence. However, I have to say that I wasn’t disturbed by any of this. Perhaps I’ve been desensitized to violence in movies or maybe my own proclivity to cuss a lot prevents me from being offended by the language. Whatever the reason, I actually found the level of violence and heavy language to be hilarious, creative, and refreshing. Is it irresponsible to present a 13 year old vigilante who is trained by her father to kill? I don’t think it is. I have never believed that media companies should censor themselves or hold themselves out as puritanical arbiters of whats moral and right. If there is a good story to be told, then it should be told without having to secondguess yourself as to whether its going to adversely affect society.

Ok, now that I’m off my soapbox, let me just say that Chloe Grace Moretz, the actress who plays Hit Girl, completely lays claim to every scene she is in. The movie should have been called Hit Girl because as interesting as the other characters are, Kick-Ass would be nowhere near as entertaining if it were not for Hit Girl and her father, Big Daddy. Moretz displays a remarkable degree of maturity in playing this role and she handles drama, comedy, and action equally well. I cannot wait to see her in future projects and if her role here is any indication, Moretz has a bright future ahead of her. Another noteworthy performance comes from Nicholas Cage, who plays Big Daddy, Hit Girl’s dad. Cage is an actor who continually impresses me with his work. He has been coming out with a LOT of projects lately (undoubtedly due to his personal financial woes) and most of them don’t look promising. However, anytime I have seen Cage in a film, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Cage is a known comic book fanatic so its not a surprise he’s in this film and I’m glad he is. The father here is definitely sadistic for basically depriving his child of a childhood and training her to be a killer, but you come to empathize with him and, in the end, you pretty much buy into the life choices he has made for his daughter. The rest of the cast is good as well, but nothing that would be remarkable or noteworthy.

In the past few years, there seems to be less and less movies coming out with good film scores. Perhaps the issue is not with the score being bad per se, but that the type of film score used by most films has changed. Scores these days serve merely a purpose of being background ambiance to what is happening onscreen. Rarely do you hear scores that take on a life of their own that become memorable to the audience. Kick-Ass is one such rarity. It has a beautiful score (as well as a good soundtrack) that perfectly balances the humor and drama of the movie. There are a number of scenes in the movie that are greatly enhanced by the music. As of this writing, only the film soundtrack has been released for purchase, but hopefully the film score will be soon coming out as well.

Lets turn to the action of the film. By now, audiences have been thoroughly spoiled by creative action sequences conjured up in such films as The Matrix, 300, and last year’s The Watchmen. I’ve spent some time trying to come up with a new way of displaying action and I have to admit that I’ve been stumped. Kick-Ass doesn’t show you any action sequences that haven’t been seen plenty of times before. In fact, most of its scenes are pretty much taken straight out of past films. But you know what? Who cares! As a testament to the strong narrative and characters the filmmakers have come up with, the style of action actually feels original here. I didn’t mind seeing Hit Girl moving in slow motion towards the bad guys down a hallway just like Neo and Trinity did in The Matrix. By that point in the movie she so owns the audience that you’re with her all the way. I do want to point out one particularly moving and amazing action scene. It takes place in a warehouse where Hit Girl takes on a slew of bad guys. The scene is illuminated by a strobe light and Hit Girl performs a leap that makes her appear in the strobe like she’s moving in slow motion. The slow motion combined with the music creates a stunning moment that ranks among the best movie superhero scenes I have ever seen.

So with all of this praise I am showering Kick-Ass with, why doesn’t it receive a 5 out of 5 stars? Well, the film does have a few problems albeit they are very minor and may even go unnoticed by most of you. The first issue I have with the film is the character of ‘Red Mist.’ Compared to Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, the character feels underdeveloped and underused. He is the only supervillain so I was expecting him to play a much bigger role in the story. Moreover, given that he’s the rich, spoiled teenage son of an extremely wealthy crime boss, I was expecting to see him use a lot of expensive gadgets against the heroes. Instead of a bad version of Bruce Wayne/Batman, the character just ends up being a sniveling coward and a snitch for his dad. The film definitely sets him up to return so if the film becomes a financial success, I’m sure we’ll see him in an expanded role. Another issue I had with the film was its resorting to the typical crime boss for a villain. Although I kind of liked the crime boss character and he didn’t come off as too two-dimensional, I wish the filmmakers had come up with something more creative for the villain. Considering that we’re supposed to be in the real world, I wish we saw the crimefighters take on the types of criminals that we hear about more often on the news (i.e. gangbangers). The film contains a little bit of this, especially in the early scenes when ‘Kick-Ass’ first embarks on his vigilante career. Again, these are very minor issues and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film.

So how good is Kick-Ass? Before I saw this film, I regarded The Dark Knight as my favorite superhero movie. Kick-Ass definitely ranks up there with the best superhero films I have seen. Its unlike any other comic book film and its partly why I enjoyed it so much. The film reminds me of last year’s equally excellent The Watchmen. Both films have taken the comic book genre beyond your typical childhood fantasy action movie to a more sophisticated level of superhero storytelling. Because of this, I’m almost reluctant to go back and watch something like the upcoming Iron Man 2. Watching the latter film is like reading a trashy romance novel when compared to the high literature quality thats offered by Kick-Ass and The Watchmen. Yes, this is a very violent movie and if that bothers you, don’t watch it. Otherwise, I can’t recommend this movie enough.