Hype can really be a counter-productive thing. A year before Kick Ass was released, Matthew Vaughn, the skilful British director behind Layer Cake and (the criminally underrated) Stardust, premiered some footage to an ecstatic response from fanboys. He brought a couple of scenes to geek-mecca, Comic Con in San Deigo, and the response from the audience was through the roof. Vaughn and everyone else assumed they had a massive hit on their hands - ultimately it would touch $100 million at the global box-office, but never come close to the type of dough it deserved to make.
Taking the relatively high-concept of a naive kid attempting to be a superhero, Kick Ass is ostensibly absurd in its set-up. People have felt like becoming vigilantes before, but this kid gets a lucky break, and can't feel pain after his initial (and violent) bash at crime-fighting goes horribly wrong. This instantly makes his rise to public notice more believable, and when his daytime alias Dave Lizewski gets in way over his head, we meet the films real stars - Hit Girl and Big Daddy. The scene that follows the introduction is one of pure, unadulterated joy; a tween girl, also disguised in an ostentatious manner, absolutely destroys a room full of crack heads, drug dealers and general undesirables. Vaughn's staging of this sequence is nothing short of brilliant; from the fight choreography to playful, but manic soundtrack. But that was just the beginning. There are several more such sequences that showcase a director with genuine panache when it comes to action.
Casting wise it's hard to find a foot put wrong. Aaron Johnson may be an equally precocious/pretentious sort in person, but he nails the accent and the wide-eyed bemusement at Dave's self-made plight. Nicolas Cage has a blast channelling Adam West as bargain basement Batman, Big Daddy, but it's Chloe Mortez who runs away with the movie - after killing a few henchmen first. The expletives spewing from her mouth are shocking, but she makes it look almost Denis Farina natural. As warped as it may be to say, she seems born to play this role. Come the films surprisingly emotional conclusion, you are literally air-pumping for this kid to slay as many people as possible, and as messily as the censors will allow. And good god does she oblige.
It all means nothing if the tone is wrong. But it's gleefully unhinged, funny and not just from the obligatory comic relief (Clarke Duke in another notable sardonic turn). Kick Ass is a film that lives completely up to the hype, and then some. The most purely entertaining film of 2010, without question.