"I had no special powers, except that I was invisible to girls." Ah, in between all the beatings and bad language, gags and guns, the memories come flooding back when watching 'Kick-Ass'.

The homemade superhero outfit that someone spent weeks making for you as a child - and you wore exactly once.

The humiliation of getting turned away from a cinema queue when the spoof about your age fell apart the minute you opened your mouth.

The shape-throwing and cool line rehearsals in front of the mirror at home.

The reluctance of you or anyone else to embrace your inner nerd.

The realisation that there's always someone tougher, smarter and better looking.

Matthew Vaughn's perfectly cast superhero spoof/celebration gives you plenty of bittersweet with the popcorn - you'll even spare a thought for the kid who got turned away outside.

High school student Dave Lizewski (Johnson) is intelligent, funny and likeable. He's also too hung up on comics, useless with women and has a sign above his head that flashes 'Mug Me!' whenever he shuffles down the street. Something's got to give, and after one too many humiliations Dave decides it's time for a makeover. No hair-cut, gym membership or self-help book here, though: Dave buys a green wetsuit, rebrands himself as Kick-Ass, sets up a MySpace page and goes out to fight crime and help the needy. He ends up with multiple stab wounds and broken bones.

Watch an interview with 'Kick-Ass' stars Aaron Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

But the weeks in intensive care only strengthen Dave's resolve (the metal plates help, too) and he leaves hospital even more determined to foil the baddies, lose his virginity and up his levels of self-respect. He finds fame with his exploits, crosses paths with a heavily-armed father and daughter vigilante duo (Cage and Moretz) who do the same thing so much better and then realises he's bitten off far more than he can chew when he gets dragged into their war with the Mafia boss (Strong) father of an even more geeky classmate (Mintz-Plasse). Oh, and Dave's dream girl (Fonseca) takes a shine to him because she thinks he's gay.

Watch an interview with 'Kick Ass' star Chloe Moretz.

You don't get much cheering in cinemas these days but Vaughn's mash-up of teen, superhero, mob and action movies will inspire someone to let out a rebel yell as the deluded Dave goes from one scrape to another. Working again with his 'Stardust' co-writer Jane Goldman, Vaughn has come up with a film that, like his 'Layer Cake', manages to be very funny and very dark - often within the same scene - and during the rib tickling and skull crunching he makes some good points about male identity, society's blind eye and the consequences of violence.

There's been a fair bit of hullabaloo about the curse and body count in 'Kick-Ass'; it's not a night out for the squeamish and even those who aren't easily offended may take issue with Moretz's character and what she does and says. Part of 'Kick-Ass'' charm is also its biggest failing: it doesn't do subtlety. And as the big showdown approaches the film loses something as violence gets the better of wit and Vaughn becomes over-dependent on killing people. We could've done with more heart and less blood.

These failings, however, are something that Vaughn, Goldman and the gang can put right in a sequel because, whatever about the box office, the characters left standing here are strong enough to deserve one. In the meantime, let's just hope no-one tries to copy any of this nonsense.

Harry Guerin

Poster winners: Alan Clarke, Dublin; Katie Eivers, Cork; James Whelan, Dublin. Posters sent 28/4. Thanks to everyone who entered.