Kick-Ass

by | Aug 3rd, 2010 | 7:31AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movies

Kick-Ass flaunts ultra-graphic violence (often committed by an 11-year-old); swearing (again, the kid); dark, bloody Tarantino-lite humor; and fascist adolescent power fantasies. Most upsettingly, it renders all that bad stuff so much fun. Of course I loved every four-color, exploitive minute of it.

[The following is a REPRINT of the redblog review of Kick-Ass on its theatrical release this spring. Kick-Ass is now on DVD and available from redbox.]

First a warning. This is a brightly colored, fast-paced film about teen and tween crime fighters. But it is NOT for teens or tweens (or for many adults). As it clearly demonstrates in the first five minutes, it’s a very hard R for extreme violence, filthy language, and dirty thoughts. And it just gets worse from there. Do not let your children watch Kick-Ass no matter how much they beg to see it, or because they’ve seen other superhero movies. End of public-service announcement.

Kick-Ass is the tale of New York teen Dave Lizewski (young Brit actor Aaron Johnson), the typical Stan Lee loser who one day–between inappropriate thoughts about his English teacher, being ignored by the pretty girl at school, and getting mugged by the local toughs–asks himself the question every comic-book geek eventually ponders: Why hasn’t anyone ever tried to be a for-real superhero? Why not me?

[Read my interview with Aaron Johnson here.]

But rather than tying a bath towel around his neck and jumping off the roof like so many of us once did, Dave orders a garish scuba suit and ninja batons and takes to the streets to fight crime. And promptly gets stomped, stabbed, and run over. But as any parent knows, teenagers don’t learn quickly—he’s soon back in costume with slightly better results, and all over the Interwebs as “Kick-Ass.”

Dave isn’t the only one using a costume to work out some issues. However, the father-daughter team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) have more training and fire-power under their capes—and bigger crime fish to fry than street thugs. They’re after mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong with yet another well-played arch villain) who’s teenage son has his own superhero fantasies. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse nicely twists his own McLovin nerd aggression into something a little more messed up.)

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility… and a High Body Count

Unlike the naïve Kick-Ass, Big Daddy and Hit Girl are more than willing to kill the bad guys who get in their way. And kill them. And kill them again. If their outrageous first scene—Dad shoots daughter in the chest to teach her to take a bullet in the vest—deeply upsets you instead of making you laugh-cringe at its shocking ridiculousness, then bail out early. Kick-Ass isn’t going to get any better for you.

Kick-Ass is directed with relentless-but-sure-footed energy by British film maker Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust). He and his co-writer, Goth personality Jane Goldman, began working on the film version of Kick-Ass while Scottish comic-book writer Mark Millar and American artist John Romita, Jr. were still creating and shaping the original graphic novel.

Millar is a maestro of cynical comic-book mayhem—his sharp, subversive (if intellectually shallow) work is a potent mix with Vaughn’s hyper-kinetic, over-the-top verve and (much darker) John-Hughes teen-angst humor. (As Dave’s pals, Clark Duke and Evan Peters bring the Smart-Ass.)

Meanwhile, Nic Cage is doing his thing, goofing it up with a Village-People ‘stache and a hilarious Adam West impersonation. (Cage’s portrayal of loving father comes off more than a little like Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones.) But the film wouldn’t work if young Dave didn’t hold the center for us—Johnson gives the wannabe a solid-dork charisma that’s surprisingly engaging.

Tied with Johnson for Kick-Ass’s top casting find is Chloë Grace Moretz. She aggressively navigates Hit Girl through the excess, creating a pint-sized, ass-kicking heroine and pop-culture icon for the ages while—and this is key to the performance and the film—reminding us there’s still an 11-year-old girl underneath the mask and the mayhem.

Exploitation, Empowerment, or Just Entertainment?

Hit Girl was created to provoke, to push buttons and boundaries, to subvert both the image of the cute little school girl and of the very idea of superheroes taking kid sidekicks into battle. The problem isn’t so much that an 11-year-old girl is slicing and dicing foes like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill—the problem is it’s so dang much fun watching her do it.

Hit Girl is Kick-Ass’s secret weapon and easily the most entertaining, exhilarating part of the film. And that is, understandably, raising questions about how far is too far. (That she’s been conditioned by her own father to enjoy killing bad guys may be disturbing, but ask yourself if you’d feel as uneasy if it were an 11-year-old boy going all ginsu.)

Kick-Ass professes to show the “real-world” results of playing superhero dress up, but it’s all highly stylized carny thrills. It pretends to satirize comic book escapism, but serves up a giant platter of candy-colored, blood-soaked fantasy that plays best with viewers who once lost themselves in such daydreams. It’s like taking your kid to a strip club to teach him not to objectify women. Or to Wonkaland to learn about the dangers of diabetes.

I like action films, but over the years I’ve had less use for action scenes—for example, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Sherlock Holmes all work for me because of the actors and their characters, not their stunts. I may marvel at the special effects or nod approvingly at wild set-ups, but I rarely feel plugged into the action anymore. I felt plugged into Kick-Ass’s action. Plugged in, swept up, carried along, and spit out the other end howling with glee, not giving a damn ‘bout my bad reputation, and singing glory, glory hallelujah.

Is that a bad thing? Has Kick-Ass has gone too far? Is Hit Girl is a symbol of empowerment or exploitation? Those are valid questions I’ll be happy to discuss. As soon as I stop grinning.

Kick-Ass is on DVD and available for rental from redbox.


47 Responses to “Kick-Ass

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    MDB
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    As a female college student I thought this movie was brilliantly executed. I thought it was meant to make viewers question our culture that does laud superheroes and the violent vigilantism that pervades books and movies. Whereas a movie like Spiderman tries to show Spiderman is a hero, this movie shows the stark reality of violence: it’s gruesome, hurtful, disgusting, and exceedingly inglorious. The movie did an excellent job showing that there really is no difference between the “heroes” and the “villains”- both are brutal and commit heinous crimes. It even showed that Red Mist and Kick Ass could have been friends if circumstances were different. If anything, this movie is a lesson not to glorify violence from anyone, as all violence is wretched and dehumanizing. It makes us question the whole comic book genre- why is it right for Spiderman and Batman to do what they do? And most importantly, why do we celebrate it?

    That said, Kick Ass is still a joy to watch. Yes, I enjoyed Hit Girl- but from a woman’s perspective, Hit Girl is the first female I’ve ever seen in a movie with no weaknesses, is completely independent, and follows her own goals at the end and not some male’s. I would much rather have my future children watch Kick Ass than any number of movies where the women rely on others and are incapable of accomplishing anything. Having such a young girl cast is also brilliant because it makes us realize the harms of hatred and violence even more. Her appearance as a school girl is a symbol of her perverted childhood, and the costs of a life devoted to violence.

    My future children will never watch such “kid friendly” movies like Cinderella or other sexist Disney trash. I say when they’re old enough to handle the imagery, bring on Kick Ass. At least this movie doesn’t pretend that violence is praiseworthy, and men and women are treated equally.

  1. looking out
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Wow! I have yet to watch the movie, I thought I would read some reviews first. So, this is just a point a view strongly encouraged for the parental issue. Parents out of respect protect your children’s mind. Truth is the “real world” will be exposed. Teach them a principle based life, right is right do it. Not an emotional based life, if I want to I will. It causes for a harder adult life.

  2. Suzette
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I feel this movie could have been done without the repeated offensive language coming from a “kid”. I liked the movie but of course did not know it was not a kid movie. I cannot believe the parents of the kids in this movie allowed them to use such foul language. I am disappointment like I said as this movie could’ve been done without it!!!!

  3. Two-Bit Specialist
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    MDB – I worry about your kids if you would rather let them watch this movie than Cinderella. At least that one is a classic. This movie is not trying to teach any lessons. All that college garbage has brainwashed you. Cinderella sexist? Please.

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Shieldmaiden
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Cinderella NOT sexist? You’ve got to be kidding! What’s right or even realistic about teaching little girls to just wait for “their princes” to come save them from their problems? There are no f’ing princes, people. You’ve got to take care of yourself and equating passivity with desirable femininity isn’t doing anyone any favors.

    I’m glad Disney heroines have been getting stronger. At least there’s that.

    MDB- Loved your analysis. A lot of people just don’t “get” that this is satire! It’s SUPPOSED to make people uncomfortable and get them thinking!

    That being said, this movie uncomfortably hit home with me. I was a potty-mouthed, trashtalking (and occasionally ass kicking) 11 year old girl, myself. I didn’t have mob bosses to fight, though. Just neighborhood kid bullies, and the molesting stepfather.

  4. Tagloro
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    While I personally believe that taking children to see a film such as Kick-Ass(which is AWESOME) as I believe that it leads to the child eventually developing a mindset that leads to very poor choices later on in life; you have to remember that it’s the parents choice on how to raise their child, within the limits of the established law. For the most part I have found that people who do allow their children to watch such graphic material do it not for some logical thought out reason, but rather to make a personal statement, to show how outrageous they are, or to otherwise gather attention to themselves. You will see them brag about it, or make a public display of their behavior. Yet more people engage in ‘poor’ parenting to strike back at those people they felt tried to tell them how to live their life, because invariably part of people’s messages on how to live a good life is how to parent.

    Long, probably confusing and perhaps structured in an illogical manner; the thoughts of a 17 year old boy

  5. Austin bagley
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    hey im a seventeen year old guy and i would just like to say ya this movie has a lot of violence and swearing but it is KICK-ASS. i cant relate to the feelings that kick-ass had about why hasn’t anyone fought crime on their own. you see batman protecting the innocent and he doesn’t have super powers just like us. to me this movie was amazing and i recommend it to anyone young or old. kick-ass shows you should stand up for others even when its a tough situation. it shows that even one ordinary teenage boy can do something. to all you who think that its not good or has too much swearing or adult themes. ima tell you this DON’T FING WATCH IT AND STOP TALKING SHIT ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET DON’T YOU WOMEN HAVE LIVES YOU DON’T SEE ANY GROWN MEN ON THE INTERNET TALKING CRAP ABOUT A GOOD MOVIE. THIS MOVIE WASN’T MADE FOR STUPID UP TIGHT HOUSE WIFE’S. SO GET THE HELL OUTTA HER. oh and and just so all you know STOP letting ur fing kids watch Disney channel. do u know how much fing adult comedy is in that and all Disney channel songs are about SEX. seriously i will flip to that wen watching TV and it is ridiculous. stop trying to protect ur kids by blocking out stuff like this movie show them wat the real world is like out there. its not pony prince4ss bulls**t with princes and fairy god mothers.its full of sexist people,racism,hatred,drugs,gangs,rape,murder,porn,alcohol,perverts. tell them to buckle up or the world will eat you up and spit you out whole.

  6. Austin bagley
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Kragnorak you are a genius i agree completely with you i believe in a higher power and i have read the bible multiple times and i must say it is worse then kick-ass in the sense of violence,rape,etc. children these days learn must of Wat they do today from television and the bible. parents if you don’t want your kids subjected to this stuff just put them in a padded room for the rest of their lives.oh and you should go there too. it would make living on planet earth more fun for all of us who arent gay and are uptight. YOU deserve an ass kicking from KICK-ASS!!!!

  7. skaizun
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    “Kick-Ass” is rated ‘R’, which means it’s not for kids.

    Or is it?

    The point of the movie is that normal kids can take on bullies and beat them, albeit with extreme prejudice! I was far more distracted and annoyed by the excessive foul language than I was for the violence and mostly off-screen sexual innuendo. However, nothing in this movie is any different than what today’s kids see and hear in school, on the news, or on primetime cop shows and the like (heck, some of the epithets, violence, and anger, demonstrated in cooking pseudo-contests (not unlike faux-wrestling), are more “scary” than anything that takes place in “Kick-Ass”.

    Another niggling point is the liberties the movie takes with familiar comic book characters. Granted, it’s nice to be able to “anchor” to the audiences’ fondest memories of Superman, Batman, and Spiderman, but, the movie, seemingly shamelessly, uses so much material from them, including the opening sequence (a la “Superman”), background music (carefully orchestrated to be just different enough to avoid any potential lawsuits), costumes (the movie’s “Big Daddy” character is a spitting image of Michael Keaton’s “Batman”), and even some script lines, that it becomes a distraction onto itself, at least to those who recognize it (i.e., anyone over 30, to whom, based solely on the ‘R’ rating, is clearly the target of this movie; my guess is that teens and college students would consider it too childish for them).

    Having said all that, the movie always moves, even when the characters aren’t, as when the central teenagers are sitting in the class or lunch room. Like “Napolean Dynamite”, we find the main character, “Dave (“Kick-Ass”) Lizewski” appealing and sympathetic. Even the villain, “Frank D’Amico”, has a certain charisma about him. And I know a lot of dads who would love to know that their daughter can defend herself, as 10 year old “Hit Girl” does.

    I wouldn’t add it to my collection, but it’s definitely worth a one or two-time sitting! “Kick-Ass” . . . well . . . kicks ass!

  8. Leo
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    this movie is one of the best ive seen in a while!!!

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Ray Watson
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Enjoyed it. Loved the little girl.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    MovieReviewCafe.com
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

    This movie Kicked Ass!!!

  9. Mark
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Loved the movie. Loved the graphic novels better. I was a little disappointed at how it got the Hollywood treatment – Dave isn’t supposed to get the girl… but it probably would’ve been rated NC-17 had they ported it more directly from the comics. :P If you’re upset about Hit-Girl’s lines, action, etc… stop whining. Seriously. Imagine how much more upset you’d be had the movie matched the comic book. Then you’d be watchin her take a quick snort of coke before going into a fight. This movie was TAME comparatively. AND her character would not be in any way believable without the attitude.

  10. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I want to be clear, in case my review is not — I really LOVE this movie, and LOVE the character and portrayal of Hit Girl. No whining at all here on my part.

  11. A Friend
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I’m trying to figure out while I greatly enjoyed this film, it still bothered me. It also bothers me that I enjoyed it greatly. At first I thought perhaps it was due to the graphic violence but then realized the movie “SAW” did not disturb me as much…
    How interesting how this late in life I realize I do not know myself completly…

  12. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    A Friend, I’m RIGHT there with you. In my HEAD I have some concerns about Kick-Ass — not just the character of Hit-Girl (anyway you slice it, pun intended, she WAS brainwashed by her father to be a vicious, gleeful killing machine), but also how the entire film pokes at some of the icky, nasty elements of superhero worship (the fascism, the adolescent power fantasies, etc) while still INDULGING all of them and making them SO appealing.

    HOWEVER, that SAID… in my gut and my fevered little reptile brain I absolutely LOVE every kick, slice, cut, blast, and swear word of Kick-Ass–it’s a whole lot of fun on a really primal level. And all that pure entertainment value may make it all the more “dangerous” in a Roman Colosseum sense… And yet, still I love it, it’s still high on my fave films of the year so far list… So yeah, if nothing else, Kick-Ass really makes you stop and think and examine some of the more paradoxical, duplicitous elements of our natures…

  13. Fadaoff
    Posted on August 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Its a good flick. I thought it was fun and a very happy movie to set and see. its good to see a real life person try and do what a lot of us have thought or wished could happen or just have the balls to do…And to see what would really happen is way safer than going out and finding out yourself.. fun to watch … ( MY BOSS HATES IT ) SO I WOULD HAVE TO SAY ( IT FU@!ING ROCKED!!!!!!

    • Currently 3/5 Stars
    Beans Morocco
    Posted on August 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    A giddy mash-up of film genres and characters that can leave you laughing, wincing and scratching your head saying to yourself…”WTF?”
    Definitely not a kids’ movie. Hit Girl made the movie!

  14. Neeta
    Posted on August 19, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I’m REALLY, REALLY DISGUSTED WITH THE EXCUSES PEOPLE MAKE. I’m a young person and although everyone has a right to express themselves and people are saying well, kids need to be exposed to reality. Listen, the news is reality enough, the exposure in their day to day life is enough. You don’t need to exploit it in a gruesome fashion. Now if, some idiot of a kid goes and immates the action of this film, and kills someone, and in turn gets killed, is it ok? People who agree that its ok for minors to see this film is missing a few screws. I grew up in a voilent nieghborhood and their is nothing I mean nothing glorious seeing people being killed. People who haven’t experienced these things first hand, are the only ones who find this type of voilence as entertaining. And as regards to those bringing the bible into it, stating oh that has voilence, it does, but its not glorified, it specifically tells of the outcome of those who willing harmed people. And niether does it glorify young people with filthy and lewd conversation. Peoples morale is so twisted this is the exact problem with our society. God forbid the day, people in america have to experience real slaughtering… guarantee you will not be finding it so entertaining then. Let kids and teens enjoy being a little niave, there is enough problems that come with adulthood, so why complicate your childhood for petesake.

  15. Lin
    Posted on January 16, 2011 at 12:58 am

    surprisingly violent!. but this movie is really entertaining. cant wait for part two. love it!

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    John Wright
    Posted on June 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Really enjoyed Kick-Ass and have watched it a few times. Definitely agree it is rated R for a reason and young kids shouldn’t watch it. In some respects it reminded me of the movie Hard Candy. Each movie was sometimes shocking but I was riveted to the screen. Both movies showed young actresses dole out some heavy punishment to deserving creeps. I’ve recommended both movies to friends with a “Maybe” caveat since the harsh scenes are not for everyone. Kick-Ass has some laugh out loud moments along with the amazing action scenes.