Kick-Ass is the movie our parents warned us about -- the movie you don't want your children to see. Based on a comic-book series by the same title, it's a shrewd mixture of slickly made funny-book violence, unapologetic sweetness and earsplitting profanity.
The sweetness comes first, as teenage protagonist Dave makes the decision to be a superhero -- even though, as he himself puts it, "my only superpower was being invisible to girls."
Kick-Ass, his alter ego, soon becomes an Internet phenomenon who ends up fighting all kinds of crime, with hooligans and good guys mixing it up in an ultraviolent Kill Bill kind of way.
Joining in our hero's vigilante streak is a father-daughter team known as Big Daddy and Hit Girl (played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz). Big Daddy loves his daughter, but for reasons of his own he has turned her into a pint-size profanity-spewing killing machine in a purple wig and pleated skirt. Her language is so astonishingly crude that it actually distracts from all the killing she does, which is mind-boggling as well. Whether violence or rough talk is your issue, you'll agree: This is one movie that's earned its "R."
All the same, if you're any kind of action-film fan it's difficult to deny the live-wire pulp energy of Matthew Vaughn's extravaganza. It's as if the arguments about these hyperviolent action films -- Why are they popular? What have they done to our culture? -- have all opened for business in one convenient location. It may or may not be the end of civilization as we know it, but Kick-Ass certainly is Exhibit A of the here and now.