If you're someone who thinks it might be a lark to watch an 11-year-old corner a defenceless woman and stab her twice through the chest, this movie might be for you. There's also a scene where she puts a guy in a trash compactor and we watch for a couple minutes as he's squished to death. The guy wasn't a character before this scene (and I don't remember what relevance he has to the movie), so we're not watching the payoff to a joke, we're just watching...a guy getting squished by a trash compactor. The brutality of the scene is immediately undercut with the 11-year-old employing some nasty profanity, an easy joke that'll get an immediate reaction, doing away with the conflict I imagine (hope?) a lot of the audience will be feeling after the scene that preceded it.
The premise is: real people trying to be super-heroes (not a bad idea - I liked it in "The Dark Knight"). Dave is a comic book geek modelled, I assume, on most of the movie's target audience. He actually bears a closer resemblance to a Michael Cera hero, but, I'll get to that later. Anyway, he likes comic books, he decides to start "fighting crime" (which is always just around the corner in these movies) so he orders a suit and goes at it. He's not very good, and his friends make fun of him for the idea.
Meanwhile, an ex-cop (Nicolas Cage - very good) is turning his young daughter (the 11-year-old) into a cold-blooded killer, for our benefit. They're playing out a revenge scheme against the movie's chief villain, a mob boss played by Mark Strong. The plot in this movie sometimes feels like math: setup + action = payoff. Actually, that's exactly what it feels like. It's supposed satire is constantly undercut by its rigid obedience to its own formula. Since we can already guess, roughly, how everything will play out, I don't know why "Kick-Ass" spends so much time explaining itself.
When you hear the premise - real people trying to be superheroes - it sounds good, but watching this movie makes you think there are really only a few ways to handle it. There's "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man" way, which is, more or less, taking it seriously. Or you could go for a satirical/darkly comic tone, which this movie tries for. If you were to do that, the best way to handle the violence would be to make it convincing, wouldn't it? Since, as the movie opens, it seems to make itself very clear that it doesn't take place in some phony superhero world? Instead, people get shot, they fall dead and CGI blood squirts out. You've seen one guy squirt CGI blood, you've seen 'em all - and it happens over and over again. The violence in this movie packs no punch, it's thoughtless and, supposedly, fun!, which makes it all the more disheartening when it's directed at the defenceless woman.
So it wasn't a very pleasant experience for me. Shift it an inch one way and you could've had a nice dark comedy (something by the Coens). An inch the other way you could've had a clever action movie (Crank & Crank 2). "Kick-Ass" is like a cautious kid, skirting the deep end without having the nerve to stick his toes in the water. It's not ballsy enough to take the father/daughter relationship to the logical, risky conclusion that it demands. It's not smart enough to question the motives of its boring protagonist - he's, basically, good (and he gets the girl). It's not original enough to offer us any "evil" that's not the cartoon kind we've already been tired of seeing in thousands of others movies. It's sense of humour is on the level of a disturbed child who likes to use swear words - which is one of its favourite jokes.
I said the movie's about real people trying to be superheroes. Not quite. It's about the "real people" you see in Hollywood movies, becoming superheroes. The "real people" played by Michael Cera or Shia LaBoef or Miley Cyrus. The ones who live in a glossy, safe world where they get what they want in the end. In this case, it's to have sex and kill a bunch of people. That could make for a great joke, except that, like those glossy Hollywood movies, it doesn't have the confidence to get you to actually think about it.
4/10 (Three points Nicolas Cage, one point Clark Duke. Otherwise, zilch.)