“With no power comes no responsibility” seems to encapsulate pretty well the irreverence of this sometimes-gleefully entertaining adaptation of Mark Millar’s graphic novel deconstruction of the superhero genre. Aaron Johnson is likeably naive as Dave, a shy high school geek who creates an alter-ego of a would-be crime-fighter Kick Ass, kitted out in a garish green and yellow spandex bodysuit and much too optimistic about his chances of taking on New York’s criminal fraternity. He also didn’t count on encountering Big Daddy (an extraordinarily morose Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl, a father-daughter vigilante duo armed to the teeth and seeking revenge on major crime lord Frank D’Amico, nor very modern problem of becoming an overnight Youtube celebrity.
Matthew Vaughan keeps everything within the realms of the cartoon-like, with bad, bad villains meeting their comeuppance and good guys striving to get the girl, although the occasionally Miike Takashi-like levels of ultra-violence and the inappropriately foul utterances of the pre-pubescent Hit Girl suggest this films precedents are more in exploitation cinema rather than Marvel adaptations. The old difficulty of adapting from a graphic novel source resurfaces: in trying to recreate the source’s feeling of a fully-formed world, the first half has to set up three different story strands, and switching between these leaves the narrative initially a little stop-start. However, they converge come the eventual denouement, resulting in a more coherent and satisfying watch than Zack Snyder’s muddled Watchmen (2009). A bigger-budget sequel inevitably beckons, but it will lose this film’s easy lo-fi charm.