The superhero genre gets a radical and immensely entertaining makeover in this ultra-violent comedy, writes MARK LUNDRIGAN
HOW do you make the perfect film adaptation of a comic book series? Find an extremely talented director and cast to pull the strings? Check. Bow to the fanboys by making sure it is ultra-violent? Check. Include an 11-year-old limb-lopping foul-mouthed girl as one of the heroes? Er, check.
The latter will be the talking point (or main criticism) of an action comedy that is so out there the Hubble telescope would struggle to spot it.
Of course, you cannot get away from the fact this is a superhero movie at its heart, which may turn off some people, but there is so much more - belly laughs, romance that for once does not feel out of place, action set pieces that could be considered works of art and a soundtrack to die for.
The film opens with hero-to-be, but currently a nobody teenager, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) moaning to his friends that it is about time a real superhero was on the streets, then deciding, secretly, that he is the man for the job.
After purchasing a ridiculous 'green condom' outfit from eBay, Dave turns into alter-ego
Kick-Ass. Despite being critically hurt during his first attempt at righting a wrong (the first of many shocking scenes), Dave bounces back more determined than ever, helped by the fact most of his nerve endings have been severed and he has metal plates fitted around his body.
Becoming an overnight sensation on YouTube after thwarting a group of thugs, Kick-Ass then becomes embroiled with 'real' father and daughter superheroes Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moritz) in their fight against evil gangster Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong).
After a breezy start, it is the appearance of Hit Girl that really ramps the film up to another level. Moritz, whose first words in her superhero guise are bound to draw gasps from sensitive audience members, is the star of the show.
Killing scores of bad guys without blinking an eye, you would think this would be uncomfortable viewing, but far from it.
Perhaps it is the upbeat punk soundtrack that goes with her killing sprees, or that the 'victims' are knucklehead gangsters who are killers themselves, or maybe that Moritz is so charmingly cute that you would root for her whatever she did.
Johnson in the title role has come a long way since starring as a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy and shows deft comedic touches, especially in his complicated relationship with girlfriend Katie (Lynsey Fonseca).
Nicolas Cage's appearances as Big Daddy, a Batman-like superhero, are few and far between but highly effective, including one amazing action sequence that really sets the benchmark for future comic book films.
But the film would be nothing if the villains were not up to scratch and Mark Strong as the highly strung D'Amico in charge of a band of dithering idiots is perfect - an unpredictable ball of rage, with no scruples. His son, Chris
(Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is also an unknown quantity as the rich kid who jumps on the Kick-Ass bandwagon to become Red Mist, a superhero with a far superior costume but questionable motives.
This is an undeniably thrilling, entertaining action film - everything you could want out of cinema.
Vaughn's direction has really come of age after going so close with his previous efforts, Layer Cake and Stardust.
This is his Reservoir Dogs - it is what will define him - and if there is a better film this year for sheer spectacle, I will eat my cape.