‘Kick-Ass’ Superhero Blasts With Bazooka; Graffiti Art: Movies

Aaron Johnson
Actor Aaron Johnson, center, in the movie "Kick Ass." The film opens on April 16. Photographer: Dan Smith/Lionsgate Publicity via Bloomberg

“Kick-Ass” suffers from the cinematic equivalent of multiple personality disorder.

It starts out as a “Superbad” wannabe, switches gears into “Batman” mode, then turns into “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Sometimes all three genres are mixed in a single scene, a head-spinning combination that seems equally influenced by Quentin Tarantino and Judd Apatow.

Matthew Vaughn’s movie about a nerdy New York teenager who, when dressed in a green-and-yellow wetsuit, becomes the superhero Kick-Ass is witty, bizarre and ultimately, too violent for me to stomach.

If you enjoy watching people tasered, stabbed, garroted and blown to bits by a bazooka, then maybe it’s for you. I know it’s a fantasy derived from a comic book written by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr., but I found the extreme brutality so jarring that it undercut, rather than enhanced, the humor.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a shy high-school student who spends an inordinate amount of time masturbating and dreaming of becoming a superhero. When he dons his “Kick-Ass” outfit and stops a vicious assault in front of a convenience store, the heroic rescue is caught on a mobile-phone camera and he becomes an Internet sensation.

Hit Girl

He later joins forces with Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a father-daughter crime-fighting duo who, like Kick-Ass, are mere mortals forced to rely on guile and weaponry to combat evil. Together they battle local mobster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his posse of thugs, whose techniques include frying a suspected turncoat in a giant microwave and crunching a driver in a compactor while he’s still behind the wheel.

Yet the biggest bloodbaths come at the hands of Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), a purple-haired, foul-mouthed prepubescent taught by her psycho ex-cop father (Nicolas Cage) how to kick, slice and shoot her opponents into oblivion. She’s the deadliest movie child since Damien in “The Omen.”

There’s one other would-be superhero, Red Mist, who’s actually D’Amico’s toadying son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin in “Superbad”) outfitted with a mask, cape and orange-streaked hair. The only refuge from the mayhem is provided by Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a beautiful classmate of Dave’s who befriends him because she thinks he’s gay. She’s an island of sanity in a sea of sadism.

“Kick-Ass,” from Lions Gate, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2

‘Gift Shop’

Banksy is a celebrated British graffiti artist whose works have adorned walls from New Orleans to the West Bank. He carefully guards his true identity and likes to blur the line between fantasy and reality.

So it’s hard to tell whether his “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which purports to be a documentary about an eccentric Frenchman who tried to make a film about street artists, is real, a prank or a little bit of both.

According to “Exit,” Banksy turned the tables on Thierry Guetta after the clothing-store owner failed to transform his voluminous footage into a documentary. Banksy then took control of the tapes and made his own movie focusing on Guetta, who became a graffiti artist himself (nicknamed Mr. Brainwash) after giving up his amateur filmmaking career.

It’s all confusing and amusing, especially since Banksy blacks out his face and distorts his voice to disguise his identity. Whether it’s real or an elaborate hoax, Banksy knows how to put on a good show.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop,” from Producers Distribution Agency, is playing in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Rating: ***

‘Final Destination’

“The City of Your Final Destination” is director James Ivory’s first movie since his longtime partner Ismail Merchant died in 2005. Though Merchant was a producer who usually stuck to the business side, his presence is obviously missed.

Based on a novel by Peter Cameron, “City” is about a graduate student (Omar Metwally) who wants to write an authorized biography of an obscure Uruguayan novelist. He travels to Uruguay to get permission from the late author’s family, but is met with resistance from his widow (Laura Linney), who shares a rundown country estate with her gay brother-in-law (Anthony Hopkins) and her husband’s mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

The movie is heavy on atmosphere and light on plot. The characters mostly sit around, eat, drink and pontificate. To avoid drowsiness, you might want to order an extra-large soda.

“The City of Your Final Destination,” from Screen Media Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *1/2

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)