Super Zeros

Misfits attempt to become caped crusaders in Kick-Ass

Opens Friday areawide ***1/2

Given that Superman debuted in 1938, you'd think by now someone would have been impressionable enough to attempt to emulate the comic hero in real life. What would happen if they did? Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to find out by donning a green wetsuit and christening himself Kick-Ass. Unknown to Dave, he's not the only one playing dress-up. Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), are playing for keeps too. They've got an arsenal that would make Rambo jealous, and they intend to use it to bring down crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). Also getting in on the costume party is D'Amico's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who goes by the name Red Mist.

Kick-Ass doesn't do so well the first time he tries to fight crime, ending up in a hospital with metal plates in his bones and severe nerve damage that renders him incapable of feeling pain. While most would see this as a sign to get a new hobby, Dave sees it as a benefit. He may not be much of a fighter, but at least now he can take a beating like a champ.

At times, Kick-Ass feels almost like a supporting player in his own movie, but that's fine because there's such a strong ensemble cast. Moretz damn near steals the movie, and Cage has found another role as perfectly suited to his fearless acting style as last year's The Bad Lieutenant. This is a gleefully violent and offensive movie, filled with gore, profanity and stuff that's just plain wrong. Despite its premise, none of this takes place in a world any more "real" than the ones inhabited by Spider-Man or Batman.

Yet co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn makes us care about these characters, switching from gross-out splat-stick to genuine pathos without faltering. Most importantly, Vaughn knows how to do an action scene right. Unlike most modern action flicks, the work of the stunt and effects people is presented onscreen in a coherent manner. You're not likely to walk out with much to think about, but it's a lot of fun. And really, what do you expect from a movie called Kick-Ass?

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