Despite violence, film packs an adventurous, fun punch

Director Matthew Vaughn wants to let you know that being a superhero is bad for your health, and although he puts those words in the mouth of the bad guy, it still becomes the take–away message from his new film, “Kick-Ass.”

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The movie stars the British newcomer Aaron Johnson as nerdy Dave Lizewski, who wonders over the opening credits why no poor schmuck has ever tried to be a superhero.

Dave’s fantasies compel him to don a green and yellow scuba suit and go out into New York City to fight some bad guys.

One hospital trip and an impromptu YouTube video later, Dave’s alter ego, Kick–Ass, is a national sensation.

Dave is in way over his head, but it takes a second near–death experience and the introduction of the movie’s real stars, Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), for him to realize it.

These two engage in most of the violence, and there’s plenty of it to go around.

“Kick–Ass” pays homage to Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese in its gleeful bloodshed and depiction of inner-city crime rings. Mixed in with this cartoon–ish violence is a truly dark sense of humor.

As the movie’s plot intensifies, so does the comedy. If you’re expecting an action version of “Superbad,” you’re in for quite a surprise.

There are a few scenes that depart from dark satire and become strikingly unpleasant. A pseudo–terrorist Internet video shows gangsters kicking the living hell out of two of the un-heroes.

No matter how badass I think Hit Girl is, there is still something nasty about watching a grown man beat a little girl within an inch of her life.

Her feeble, childish cries as the crime boss (Mark Strong) prepares to kill her are frankly uncomfortable.

Is this in good taste?

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Some people, Rogert Ebert included, certainly don’t think so.

The role of Hit Girl has been causing quite a bit of controversy, and many critics have railed against the idea of a pre–teen engaging in gory violence.

Not to mention, the film’s advertising is particularly misleading, insinuating in some circumstances that this movie is another “Spy Kids.” It is not.

Hit Girl’s saving grace is the young actress who plays her.

As interpreted by the fantastic Moretz (who was 11 when she filmed the role), the devastating psyche driving Hit Girl is revealed to an extent that perhaps the character herself doesn’t even recognize.

She spits out vicious four-letter words and racks up a hefty body count, but she isn’t just some robotic killing machine. Robbed of her childhood and encouraged by her delusional father, Hit Girl is in desperate need of child services.

Go see “Kick–Ass,” at the very least so that I can have someone to talk to about it. It’s an inspired, emotional rollercoaster of a movie that you absolutely cannot miss.

The intense exhilaration of it stays with you hours after it ends.

That makes seeing someone’s head microwaved worth it.