Kick-Ass is one of the best movies of the year, and a breath of fresh air to the superhero film. Uncompromising and improving upon its graphic novel source material, director Matthew Vaughn takes the so-real-it-hurts-a-lot tale of real-life superheros without powers and transposes it to the screen with gusto.

Although the titular character dominates the screen, it is Chloe Moretz' performance as Hit Girl that steals every scene and is destined to be an iconic figure. Within the Joseph Campbell universe of heroes, she is the trickster, the ID of the audience, gleefully and innocently dispensing ruthless justice with the glee and occasional comical cuss of a precocious 11-year-old.

In one scene, Hit Girl saves Kick-Ass (from his own foolish endeavor) in a bravura display of wire-fu, spectacular gun-play, with a peppy Japanese rock soundtrack in the background. The scene is punctuated with her father (a totally game and awesome Nicholas Cage) saving her life with a well-timed sniper bullet. Were it not for that head shot, Hit Girl's smile, banter, and self-assuredness would have been splattered on the wall. And that is the careful balance that Vaughn works from beat-to-beat in the movie: funny-to-action-packed-to-intense-to-uncomfortably-dire. For a second you are laughing with Hit Girl and the next embarrassed that you forgot (as she did) that this is real and she is 11 and could die. It's a wild emotional roller coaster that unerringly works.

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