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kick_ass_2_balls_to_the_wall-wideIf Quentin Tarantino made a kid’s coming-of-age movie it might look something like “Kick-Ass”. It has most of his trademarks—clever dialogue, good soundtrack and some high octane violence—but there’s a twist. The bloodiest, most cut throat purveyor of ultra violence in the film is an eleven year old girl.

Based on a wild indie comic of the same name by Mark Millar “Kick-Ass” tells a couple of intertwining stories. First up is Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a fanboy who creates a superhero alter ego called Kick-Ass as a way to boost his self esteem. In life he says his only superpower is being invisible to girls, but when he dons the suit he becomes… only marginally more super. His exploits, however, grab the attention of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), a slightly psychotic father and daughter team of masked (and in Hit Girl’s case, wigged) avengers who admire Ass’s style and moxy. For the caped crusaders in “Kiss-Ass”  all roads lead to drug lord Frank D’Amico (a suitably evil Mark Strong) a ruthless tough guy who is unafraid to go all medieval—his men even use a giant microwave as a torture device—on his enemies.

The action scenes are plentiful and frenetic and once you get past the question, “Why would Chloë Moretz’s parents allow her to do this?” they’re really fun. It’s a little unsettling to see a young girl wielding a switchblade, gunning down dozens of bad guys and going hand-to-hand with a full grown man, but for superhero starved audiences—“Iron Man” won’t be out until next month!—Hit Girl could become a guilty pleasure. It’s not right, and the character will likely be controversial, but it is cool. Not since Natalie Portman in “Léon” has the screen seen such a sweet faced assassin.

But Chloë Moretz’s performance isn’t all high flying action. She makes the best of the darkly comic script, playing both sides of the Mindy / Hit Girl character. Out of costume she has a sweet playful side that pretty much evaporates when she puts on the wig and the weapons.

She plays well off Cage, who once again scores with a very loopy performance, but it is her ability to bring some exuberant fun to her scenes that is “Kick-Ass’s” strongest suit.

“Kick-Ass” is an unusual coming of age story in all respects except one, and that is the film’s weakness. The love story between Dave and Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) is typical teen fare and is soon forgotten when the action kicks in.

Apart from the mushy teen stuff, however, “Kick-Ass” is one movie that lives up to its title.

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