You don’t have to wait long to see why some parents and advocacy groups are speaking out against “Kick-Ass.” About fifteen minutes into the movie, an 11-year old girl is shot in the chest by her own father—willingly. She’s wearing a bullet-proof vest, of course, so that makes it all okay.
Or does it?
This brutal comic-book fairy tale, first written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr., is brought to a startlingly gruesome reality by director Matthew Vaughn (“Stardust”). His penchant for gritty violence, put on display in his Guy Ritchie-esque “Layer Cake” is further explored in “Kick-Ass.” Only this time it is children who deliver the brunt of it. The result is often uproariously funny—and a little unsettling.
Dave Lizewski is like most teenage boys in that he wants to be a superhero. One night, after donning a green scuba suit and naming himself Kick-Ass, he discovers why no one in reality tries to do it. His severe beatings and subsequent vehicular accident yield him numerous broken nerve-endings, shattered bones and metallic replacements throughout his entire body. The damage only encourages him to seek out even more trouble. Aaron Johnson has the right amount of naiveté to embody Kick-Ass, who is, at first, nothing more than an adolescent male looking to bring justice to his town—one favor at a time. The adrenaline rush pushes him on again and again, though he eventually gets in over his head.
That would be when we meet Hit Girl and her trigger-happy father Big Daddy, portrayed by the outstanding Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicholas Cage. Moretz is a wonder as the foul-mouthed killing machine that her father trains her to be. She dispatches of bad guys with a murderous rage that rivals most adult superheroes as she chops, shoots and impales with reckless abandon. She probably racks up the highest body count in the film and definitely delivers its best lines.
And therein lies the possible problem—is it wrong to witness the slaughter of numerous people by an 11-year-old girl? A child who is raised by her father to be a ruthless murderer? She’s repeatedly beaten and shot, and curses like a sailor, and through it all her gruesome exploits are played for laughs. It’s a movie, you’ll say, and you’ll be right. But the creep factor exists, nonetheless.
A glaring problem within “Kick-Ass” is its insistence to buck the norm when it comes to superhero films—just to come around and revert to most superhero clichés. Kick-Ass, who admittedly possesses no powers, gets his face and body pummeled repeatedly yet manages to stay conscious and fight off fully-grown men who outnumber him three-to-one. If there’s any doubt he’s being beaten, we’re reassured by the ear-splitting noise that fists make when they punch his face—a sound akin to a slab of meat beating against bricks, amplified by a million decibels.
And Hit Girl, whose character is wholly unique, does the not-so-unique trick of impossibly ducking and dodging the bullets of 10 fully armed men who are right in front of her. It’s a savagely violent action-comedy that laughs at other action and comic-book films while managing to make the same mistakes most of them fall prey to.
When it doesn’t succumb to those clichés, the film is quite good. The soundtrack, which borrows from numerous Danny Boyle films such as “Sunshine” and “28 Days Later” is excellent and endlessly addictive. It’s played to perfection in several flawlessly executed action scenes, including an early bit where Hit Girl saves Kick-Ass, and another in which Big Daddy burns a lumber building to the ground.
One just wishes the whole film was as creative.
“Kick-Ass” is rated R for gratuitous violence and language. Now playing everywhere.