It’s been a few hours since Kick-Ass finished and I’ve had a tough old time trying to organise my thinking on the matter. There have been two main trains of thought battling away in my head.

I’ve been looking forward to this film for so long that there was a very real danger it was on a hiding to nothing; that there would be no way it could live up to my expectations and I guess the bottom line is that while I laughed a lot and loved the set-piece action sequences, it really didn’t. I expected more and I expected better. There. I’ve said it. That’s the first train of thought.

The second train of thought is I probably will go back to see it again fairly soon. Maybe tonight.

If that sounds contradictory, it probably is, but contradiction is a description that fits Kick-Ass fairly well.

The story is centred around young Dave Lizewski, played with intentional awkwardness by Aaron Johnson who, amongst other things, cut his teeth on The Bill and Casualty. Dave is one of the many anonymous souls who wander the school halls, or so movies would have us believe. Neither a jock, nor a comedian, nor a true nerd, he just exists, mostly ignored, dreaming of getting the girl and following in the footsteps of his comic book heroes by fighting crime. A series of muggings and violence in his neighbourhood are his genesis in an overlong opening, and in response he dons a green tracksuit and mask and discovers his alter-ego, Kick-Ass.

Therein lies the first contradiction. Kick-Ass isn’t very kick-ass. A graphic knifing, beating and hit-and-run on his first outing results in lots of steel plates and severed nerve endings, meaning he’s largely impervious to pain, but his subsequent approach to crime-fighting is very much luck and determination over good-judgement and skill. His attention span and dedication to the whole enterprise is also rather limited, drifting into downright apathy, which kinda makes this something of a super anti-hero movie. I get it. I get the irony of that. It’s a neat device and it is funny. It’s just a little … mneh.

A couple of paragraphs ago I said the story centred around Dave and his Kick-Ass alter ego. Well, that’s not entirely true. Certainly, he’s the main character but the actual story is happening separately with other people, other villains, other super-heroes. It’s like, imagine Rambo 2 told from the point of view of the guy he ends up rescuing from the POW camp or Jaws told from the point of view of the mayor. And for me, that’s a bit of a problem because this other, main storyline is far more interesting. There are two reasons why it’s far more interesting: Nicholas Cage and Chloë Moretz.

Simply put, they’re better characters and they steal the show. Cage gets a lot of stick, deservedly so, for his lack of range and big ole chin but here he does a wonderful pastiche of Batman and other stock super-heroes to the point where he’s talking in “character”, he does. So. In a very. Staccato type. Way. He plays Big Daddy and in any other superhero film, he’d probably be the main character. He has a dead wife to avenge, he’s been wronged, served time for a crime he didn’t blah blah blah you get the idea.

The sting in the tail is the fact that his Boy Wonder side-kick is his eleven-year-old daughter, Hit-Girl, played by Moretz, who you may have seen in (500) Days of Summer. Moretz is just wonderful — absolutely wonderful — and it’s in her scenes where director Matthew Vaughn clearly starts to have some fun and you can actually feel the mood of the entire film lift.

There’s been a bit of fuss about the filth coming out of Hit-Girl’s mouth and I dare say there will be more to come now that the movie is on general release, but it’s not overplayed or gratuitous. In fact, if you’ve seen the red banner trailer, you’ll have heard the worst of it. In any event, all of that is secondary to the marvellous turn she puts in. She does funny, warm, fragile all very well and believably.

As a side note, the violence isn’t even that gratuitous either. It’s stylised, yes, and comic book and in places it’s over the top, but thanks to quick cutaways and edits, more often than not I was left feeling I’d seen more than I actually had.

On their own, the individual scenes of the movie are funny when they need to be, tense and action-packed when they need to be, violent when they need to be and moving when they need to be. I’m sure I laughed and gasped in all the right places. The look and feel of the movie is spot-on, too and there’s a micro/macro deal with the almost smalltown settings of Kick-Ass’s home and hanuts coupled with the majesty of NYC and both are dressed to the nines on the big screen. Added to that are some genius choices of soundtrack that make funny scenes funnier and made me sit up in my seat. And when Kick-Ass finally manages to live up to his name in the movie’s denouement, it is a genuinely breath-taking moment. Jonathan Ross’s missus, Jane Goldman, co-wrote the screenplay with Vaughn and while there are no real surprises, the dialogue is as sparkling as it is profane and it aims for, and pretty much reaches, Superbad territory.

Put together, though, and it’s a very jerky experience, lacking in cohesion and flow and left feeling way, way, way longer than it’s two hour running time. If you walk into the film expecting there to be some sub-plot and theme around “being yourself” and “it’s what’s inside that counts”, you won’t be disappointed but it’s this bit that just gets in the way. Pretty as she is, Lyndsy Fonseca’s portrayal of Kick-Ass’s love interest is largely irrelevant other than to be an attractive mannequin for aforementioned sub-plot and theme to be pinned to.

As a whole, it’s good enough fun, I did enjoy it and as Train of Thought #2 insists, I will go see it again if for no other reason than to see Cage and Moretz working their magic. And despite myself, I’ll end up with equally high expectations for the sequel.

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