Teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) tires of bribing bullies, lusting after babes who ignore him, and jerking off over National Geographic, so he buys a diving suit online and becomes a superhero. He gets his ass kicked, which only makes him tougher, but he still lacks the skills to take on serious scumbags, so Dave, alias Kick-Ass, joins forces with Damon Macready, alias Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), an ex-cop and ex-con hell-bent on exacting revenge on a local crime lord for ruining his life, and Mindy Macready, alias Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz), Damon’s adorable 11-year-old daughter. We first meet this curious pair when Big Daddy is firing a round into his darling child's chest (she's wearing a vest) in some abandoned lot. Both are highly trained, armed to the teeth, and eager to slaughter.
The thing about Kick-Ass, adapted from Mark Millar’s comic, is that it presents itself as irreverent, quirky, and iconoclastic, the story of an ordinary goofy youth who hurls himself absurdly and recklessly into harm’s way. But the promise of not-another-superhero movie is thwarted by an over-stuffed plot that’s finally exactly like every other superhero movie, complete with extra-gory spectacle, fantastic technology, multiple deus ex machinas, and that final bit where the surviving villain vows to return, offering abundant franchise investments. Kick-Ass is supremely conservative in both senses, falling in line with genre clichés and oozing ultra-right wing vigilante revenge fantasy.
If Kick-Ass were more adolescent comedy and less bloated actioner it might have distinguished itself. Dave’s relationship with a girl who only becomes his friend because she thinks he’s gay could have been developed into something fun and insightful. The movie succeeds more with the smaller items than the grandiose ones, with imaginative little details like the duct-taped busted window at the school entrance, the dorky dinosaur stickers on Dave’s full-length mirror, or the poster announcing a band called Frantic Yogurt. However, the use of Toronto as a stand-in for New York reaches unintentionally hilarious heights of implausibility, with glimpses of Tim Horton’s and Country Style and umpteen car shots where our hero simply drives up and down Yonge Street past Dundas Square and the big HMV over and over. I’m surprised they managed to keep the CN Tower out of the establishing shots.