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Kick-Ass

A Comic Adventure

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Kick-Ass, based on the comic book written by Mark Millar, is an ultra-violent, profane mash-up that’s part superhero parody, part teen coming-of-age, part cautionary tale, and part Hong Kong-action film.

Kick-Ass is centered on an unexceptional teenager who decides to become a spandex-wearing, crime-fighting superhero, and the scene- and film-stealing Hit Girl, a 12-year old trained by her vigilante father to become the most lethal katana-wielding, foul-mouthed preteen girl in or out of mainstream film.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an ordinary NYC high schooler and comic book geek, becomes obsessed with becoming a superhero, but he’s missing the all-important tragic back story. He’s not a jock, and he’s not a mathlete (his words). He stumbles every time he tries to talk to the out-of-his-league Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), relegating him to masturbatory fantasies involving his teacher, Mrs. Zane (Deborah Twiss), or Internet porn.

When he’s not obsessively thinking about sex or masturbating, Dave hangs out at the local comic book store/café, Atomic Comics, with his best friends, Marty (Clark Duke) and Troy (Evan Peters).

Despite his friends’ warnings, Dave purchases a scuba outfit, a matching mask, and a pair of nunchucks from an online store. Unprepared, Dave ventures out into New York City to fight crime. His first crime-fighting attempt goes devastatingly, hilariously wrong, but that doesn’t stop him from trying again once he’s sufficiently recovered from his injuries.

In his next encounter, he successfully saves a man from some thugs. Rather than call 9-1-1, another teenager captures the fight on his phone and within hours, calling himself Kick-Ass, Dave becomes an instant internet/media celebrity.

Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage), a former hero cop, home schools his 12-year old daughter, Mindy (Chloe Moretz), in how to become an efficient killing machine. It’s a twisted version of father-daughter love. In their armor-plated, costumed alter egos as Big Daddy and Hit Girl, respectively, Damon and Mindy take on Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), the city’s most powerful gangster. Frank tries to keep his geeky, comic book-reading son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), out of the gangster life, but Chris wants in to the family business.

You don’t have to be conversant in comic books to enjoy Kick-Ass’ many guilty pleasures, but it definitely helps. The balance of comic book references (and comic book publishers) in Kick-Ass tips heavily toward Marvel Comics, Mark Millar’s current employer. DC Comics gets a secondary nod primarily for Batman and Superman references. Dark Horse Comics doesn’t get a verbal shout-out, but two posters for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic book series prominently adorn Atomic Comics’ walls.

Kick-Ass is the superhero as sadomasochist. He takes substantially more punishment than he gives out to the thugs, henchmen, and otherwise unambiguously evil men he encounters on his patrols through New York City’s seedy underbelly.

Kick-Ass may be the title character and, presumably, the central character, but it’s Hit Girl everyone will be talking about as they exit movie theaters. She’s a pint-sized killing machine, adept with swords, knives, guns, and martial arts. She doesn’t smoke or do drugs, but she curses like a sailor and kills with a sociopathic disregard for human life. She’s even better at killing than her father.