Honestly, you let one pre-teen girl say “cunt” in a film and the Daily Mail has a field day. A cursory Google search would’ve turned up the fact that Kick-Ass isn’t so much a case of Jane Goldman trying to outdo husband Jonathan Ross in the outrage stakes as, oh yes, co-adapting a comic book by Mark Millar.
So if you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s outrageous that a 15-certificate film isn’t all bouncing bunnies and pretty flowers, either ring the BBFC and tell them how to do their job, or just fuck off. Because if we’re going to start sanitising films in case children watch trailers they’re not old enough to view, there’s a pretty big backlog. But hey, somebody throw ‘em a bone and tell them there’s swearing in Fish Tank.
Onto Kick-Ass then, one of the best superhero films to come out in ages. Vaughn directs, having co-written the script with Goldman (as with Stardust), adapted from the comic books by Millar. The premise is simple (the best ones always are): a slightly geeky high school kid decides to try and become a superhero. Step one: get the outfit. So far, so Batman, but Kick-Ass, aka Dave Lizewski (Johnson), doesn’t have Batman’s resources, cash or panache, which is why his first outing dressed in his savvy green wetsuit results in a trip to hospital. With stab wounds. Undeterred, Dave continues his DIY superhero endeavours, becomes a YouTube star, and discovers he’s not the only one. There are real superheroes operating in his town. Well, not real ones in the having-actual-superpowers sense of the word. Rather, these are experienced vigilantes who’ve taken those DIY skills to Olympic levels. Big Daddy (Cage) and daughter Hit Girl (Moretz) are the real deal, with a tragic back story, a house full of weapons and a desire for vengeance, and really, really good knife-throwing skills.
However much it may pain the Daily Mail, Moretz – whose star billing in Let Me In makes the prospect of a remake of Let the Right One In seem marginally less heinous – is hilarious. Her show-stealing turn as Hit Girl would wipe the floor with Kill Bill’s assassins, and her relationship with Cage’s Big Daddy is both hilarious and twisted: the first time we see the pair, he’s teaching her to take a bullet in the chest. And if you’re snickering at Big Daddy’s name, rest assured: this pair are as gloriously tongue-in-cheek as it gets, as well as kicking proper ass. Not only that, but Big Daddy dresses in a Batman suit – and his superhero voice is a side-splitting impression of ... well, you'll have to see the film to find out.
As if high school and hormones weren’t enough for Dave/Kick-Ass to contend with, every superhero needs an arch-enemy. Here, it’s local gangster/drugs baron Frank D’Amico (Strong). You know the type: sells drugs, buys off the police, kills people who disagree with him, is supremely pissed off when he starts hearing about some vigilante superhero who’s apparently bumping off his men. And of course every superhero story needs a love interest. Meet Katie (Fonseca). She’s gorgeous, popular and philanthropic. First, she thinks Dave is – well, she doesn’t notice him. And then she thinks he’s gay. Oops.
So Kick-Ass doesn’t have the most original plot in the world, but that’s not where its virtue lies. The point is it’s funny, fast-paced, energetic and action-packed. Part superhero adventure, part high-school drama, it will have you alternately cringing, cheering and clutching the edge of your seat; when it screened to press in the presence of Jane Goldman, the audience burst into applause several times and laughter quite a few more. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s violent, and it’s most definitely hard and clever. Watch it.