Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Yes, I’m late. I’m very late. I’ve been sitting on this review for over a week now, trying to decide if my opinion of it is going to change. It hasn’t, so I’m getting on with it.
Let’s get this part over with first. Kick Ass is violent. It is very violent. It is steeped in blood without crossing the line into gory. And most of the bloodshed is caused by an 11-year-old girl. Yup, a girl just a few months older than my sweet, beautiful Elfkin is literally tearing men, 3 times her age and 4 times her body weight, to bits.
That’s disturbing. And seeing brutal violence visited on that little body, very similar to my own child’s, is disturbing all the more. As a parent, it’s almost too much to bear.
And if this was a reality based film*, I could never watch it again.
But this isn’t a reality based film. It is very much a fantasy. Everything about it screams fantasy, from its colour palette (all bright colours), to the relationships, to the premise and the circumstances. Everything is designed to tell you that if you take this as anything more than a live-action cartoon, there is something wrong.
If you are able to put on the emotional brakes and step into the fantasy realm with this movie, you should be able to live with the level of violence in Kick Ass.
All that being said, I enjoyed Kick Ass. It’s not your typical comic book movie, it’s not even your typical send up of a comic book movie. It sits very firmly on the line between parody and homage. And I think that straddling of intentions is what is fueling a lot of disappointment that people are feeling towards the film. People want it to be one thing or the other and they aren’t happy with the tension between the two.
Where that tension plays out is in the main character, Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson), typical male comic book geek, invisible to girls, disrespected by his friends and betrayed by his hormones. He feels invisible. Sick and tired of being pushed to the sidelines of his life, he buys a green scuba suit and begins his life as the vigilante Kick Ass, protector of the innocent, finder of cats. But here’s the kicker, once he decides to move onto the field if you will, that’s when his character in the film is pushed to the sidelines by the twin whirlwinds of crime fighting known as Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage).
Hit Girl and Big Daddy are the real ‘super heroes’ of the piece. A father and daughter team, wronged by mafioso Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), are seeking bloody revenge for tearing their family apart and will stop at nothing to get it. Their relationship is an interesting one. Damon MacCready is not your typical dad. I mean the guy takes his daughter out and shoots her in the chest so that she learns to trust her bullet proof vest and not to fear gun shots, but in a way, that’s what parents do. We teach our kids, we equip them to handle situations and give them the confidence to know that they can handle just about anything. And if they can’t, we, their loving parents are there to back them up. In a perverse way, within their extreme circumstances, that’s what Damon is doing with Mindy. He keeps referring to her as ‘Child’ as if he’s reminding himself that that’s what she is, even though he never treats her as anything other than an adult.
Contrast that with Frank D’Amico’s son Chris’ (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) lifestyle. While at the surface it seems pretty normal, this is the relationship that is the most messed up. Chris is incredibly sheltered, followed everywhere by burly security guards that prevent him from even the most normal interactions of any teen. Sure he goes to the movies with his father, but he’s never included in his fathers life, nor is he given the responsibilities or the trust that will help him move into the realm of the adult. Unlike Mindy, Chris will never be anything but a child in his father’s eyes.
I was hoping to see some tension between the kids vying for their father’s approval, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
So, where does all this leave poor Dave? Well, still sitting on the sidelines unfortunately. He’s moved from wishful thinking about helping the hopeless to essentially being a poseur. He suddenly has the notoriety that he’s always wanted and he definitely has the girl. As an added bonus, he’s friends with real superheroes who will take him under their wing and teach him what he needs to know. If this were the typical teen comic book movie, it would end here, but it isn’t. Dave has everything he ever wanted, but he *isn’t* everything he wants to be. He hasn’t stepped up to the level of the superhero, where risk and sacrifice for the greater good becomes their raison d’etre, not the thrill and adrenaline rush of catching the badguys. And he can’t do that without an example. That’s where Hit Girl and Big Daddy come in and take him by the hand.
Nicolas Cage and Chloë Moretz give the standout performances in Kick Ass. Cage is at his best when he brings out the crazy, and he’s in fine form here. His Adam West voice, when he’s playing Big Daddy, had me in stitches. It’s hard to see someone as deadly when they talk like that and the juxtaposition is just hilarious. It’s almost worth the price of admission.
What is definitely worth my admission money is Chloë Moretz’ portrayal of Hit Girl. There’s been a lot said about the appropriateness of having an 11 year old playing such a violent role. I’m not going to comment about it here beyond saying that from the interviews I’ve read featuring Chloë and her mother, I can say that they are both well grounded and have good heads on their shoulders. There has also been a lot of talk about Hit Girl being the new poster child for women’s empowerment. By being a strong, forceful character, Hit Girl is a step forward in the depiction of…. blah, blah, blah. Personally, I don’t think that’s the case. I think Hit Girl is everything we’ve all wanted to be as children when faced by something beyond our comprehension. How many of us as youngsters haven’t yearned to be strong and able to beat bad guys and keep them from hurting the people we love when faced with a situation that our small hands were powerless to change. She’s the protector, the miracle cure, the fantastical invention that’s going to make it all alright for our young selves.
She is definitely the heart and flinty soul of the movie.
The film may be named after him, but this is not Kick Ass’ film. It’s a great set up for the character and his future adventures, but this time around it focused, rightly I think, on the people who most influence his new life and started him down his path. It will be fun to see the three kids, Kick Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist grow into their new roles. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
So suck on that Wil Wheaton! 😉
* I can’t watch A History of Violence again. It doesn’t matter how much I love Viggo Mortensen or David Cronenberg, the opening scene disturbed me to the point that I almost turned off the movie then and there. My husband is the one who told me to watch the movie through, but I will never watch it again. It’s funny though, this time around, he’s the one who’s more disturbed by the violence in Kick Ass than I am.