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Stars: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Lyndsy Fonseca, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Michael Rispoli, Elizabeth McGovern, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng, Randall Batinkoff, Tamer Hassan, Craig Ferguson, Sophie Wu

Director: Matthew Vaughn

The idea of a caped crusader with no superpowers has been presented before, but not with such freshness, vibrancy and appeal to younger audiences - although, even with its comic-book format, this does get a tad too violent towards the end. In the meantime, limbs get chopped off, bodies run through and more ass kicked than you can shake a stick at.

Cillian Murphy-lookalike Johnson, fresh from his success in Nowhere Boy, dons an immaculate American accent as nerdy, mop-haired Dave, who dreams of fondling girls, especially Katie (Fonseca). But the most excitement in his life to date has been his mother dropping dead at the breakfast table.

Determined to bring some, well, life into his life, he orders a superhero outfit and roams the streets - disastrously at first - as Kick-Ass. When he comes to the rescue of a lowlife being beaten up by three other lowlifes, his heroics are captured on video and, before he knows it, he's the toast of the 'net.

He gets close to Katie by pretending to be gay, but walks into trouble when he's on the scene as four gangsters get massacred by real superheroes led by Big Daddy (Cage) and his ferociously foul-mouthed (and deadly) 11-year-old daughter (Moretz). Dave gets the credit for the job, putting him squarely in the gunsights of top bad guy D'Amico (Strong), sporting a variety of red and russet shirts and beset by his wannabe-gangster son (diminutive Mintz-Plasse).

Director Vaughn delivers the goods in the expertly edited action mayhem, with Cage at at his quirky best, and Johnson surely a star of the near future. The only real blot in the film's copybook, apart from Strong, another Brit, who could be better as the villain, is its blood, which looks like nothing more than red paint throughout. Perhaps, though, that's intentional.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
116 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 27 Mar 2010