4 stars, Rated R
Kick-Ass is a rousing, bloody, funny, sadistic and genuinely disturbing action/adventure film based on Mark Miller and John Romita's celebrated comic that I never heard of before. The movie is very entertaining and equally troubling. At the screening I attended, the audience (which sounded like they were quite familiar with the comic) oohed, aahed, laughed a lot and broke into applause several times. I listened as people exited the theater and heard some raving about how much they loved the film and others discussing their intense discomfort with the depiction of an 11-year-old girl swearing like a longshoreman and being in the thick of a series of ultra-violent scenes. A number of the viewers were in both camps, expressing their enjoyment of the movie and repulsion with the violence and language, primarily as it related to the child.
Count me in the last group. I'll address that in a moment, but first I want to address those parents that sometimes bring their children to R-rated movies. Don't do it this time. This is not a cute superhero movie. This is Quentin Tarantino-level adult fare. You want the kids to hear a little girl say, "OK, you cunts, let's see what you can do now?" You want the kids to watch the child graphically attacking her foes, getting beaten by grown men and killing many of her opponents? Come on, Mom and Dad, do everyone a favor and hire a sitter.
The premise: What if real people started putting on costumes and fighting crime, just like Batman? Average teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) does just that, nearly gets killed and inadvertently stops some bad guys. Cell phone footage of his actions becomes a YouTube sensation and soon others follow his lead. Lyndsy Fonseca plays Dave's friend/would-be girlfriend. Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz portray the creepy/compelling father-daughter team of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad's McLovin') appears as Red Mist, the son of the leader of a local crime syndicate.
Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) directs and presents an organized, trackable movie packed with well-staged action scenes, funny one-liners and amusing references to other superhero movies, with nicely selected music and fine acting, including a weirdly sympathetic turn by Nicolas Cage. I liked the film, except ...
Generally, I have no problem with swearing and violence in movies, as long as it doesn't grow tiresome. The problem here is the way young Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl is used. I listened to her say "cunt" as if she used the word routinely and I thought about how ugly and hostile the word sounds (the "K" sound is part of the problem). Then I thought of Moretz rehearsing her lines, probably with her folks, who most likely were on the set watching their talented child deliver her performance. I realize that most kids will learn to swear on their own, but the notion of teaching a child to spit out such a hateful-sounding word gives me the creeps. She uses other major swear words as well. That, combined with the acts of violence, especially her battle with a full-grown man, left me feeling dirty for participating in the Kick-Ass experience. But I stayed, and I had a good time. And I cringed. And I applauded. And I winced. Get the picture?
If you elect to see Kick-Ass, be aware that your reaction may be similar to mine. Get ready to laugh, cheer and squirm, dude. Just don't get holier-than-thou, because you have been warned.