Is this girl power? Really? I expected to enjoy Kick-Ass. I had heard, correctly, that the title character (Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass) was forgettable enough, but Chloe Moretz performance as Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl was worth the price of admission.
The young Ms. Moretz is very good. Her early scene with her father (Nicolas Cage), in which daddy shoots his daughter at close range with a 9mm so she can learn how to take a bullet in her kevlar vest, hint at something darkly funny and maybe a little original. Unfortunately, hints at something fresh or worthwhile are about as good as it gets. By the time the last of many bad guy bodies is dispatched - by a bazooka no less - I think Kick-Ass has veered very near to the realm of kiddie porn.
Take Chloe Moretz, put her in bondage gear and drop her into the midst of repeated scenes of highly explicit sexuality and audiences would be justifiably offended. But with violence, we're all-too-comfortable. So much so that it's considered good fun if the child is clad in leather, put in a wig, made to spout lines as salty "Hey you cunts" and then proceeds to go on highly choreographed killing sprees. God knows lots of guys in the audience at my screening were honking as uproariously as the DeNiro character in the movie theater scene in Cape Fear as the body count rapidly increased.
There's nothing wrong with a good shoot-em-up, but there's should be some point, however slight, to the bloodshed. Take Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels. It really doesn't have anything to say about violence or anything else for that matter. But as is typical of Kar-Wai , it's almost deliriously rich in mood and image. And it's sexy! And there's lots of shooting! And, well, it stars adult human beings.
Similarly, some well-placed profanity can be mighty refreshing, even from the mouths of babes. Role Models was appealingly real in its moments of unapologetically foul-mouthed dialogue, both on the part of the grown-ups and at least one of the kids. When I heard that the young female character in Kick-Ass got to throw some expletives around, I thought, "good enough." I see kids behaving badly every day; might as well let them do it with some style. I had quips of my own at the ready, things along the lines of "she appears to have been reared not so much on Baby Mozart as Baby Mamet." But this film did not leave me in a joking mood.
Generally, moral qualms aside, the most offensive thing a joke can do is not be funny. I would be inclined to forgive Kick-Ass some of it's dubious choices if it had been more entertaining. I think there's a clever movie there somewhere. Maybe. Director/co-writer/producer Matthew Vaughan knows his way around a violent scene. He demonstrated that well enough in 2004's far better Layer Cake. Here, he brings a certain amount of clarity to all the frenetic mayhem. Unfortunately, he's like a guy trick driving a $400 used car; perform all the fancy spins and buzz around manically on two wheels all you want - you're still driving a lemon, my friend.
Aside from Chloe Moretz's impressive performance, making something human out of a pretty dubious cartoon character, the only real highlights are provided when Nic Cage speaks as Damon Macready's alter ego, Big Daddy. The vigilante delivers his lines not so much in a William Shatner impersonation, but in a hilarious, halting impersonation of William Shatner impersonations.
Beyond the fun of seeing Cage making a welcome return visit to the offbeat, I kept sitting in the theater waiting for Kick-Ass to find a tone, or for it's mix of tones (your tender family moments, your ultra violence, your weak attempts at satire) to coelesce. It doesn't happen.
It looks quite grim for Kick-Ass and the Big Daddy, when the film's heavy, drug kingpin Frank D'Amico, manages to capture them - never mind the huge hole in the plot that involves Frank's minions leaving the spunky Hit-Girl behind when they haul the good guys off; gee, I wonder if Hit-Girl will show up later? - and stages an execution broadcast live over the Internet. Yes, Hit-Girl does show up in the very nick of time, night vision goggles and lots of rounds at the ready. She drops the villains methodically, the camera giving us her video-game-like perspective on the killings. One of Dave's high school buddies, watching the carnage unfold, says, "I think I'm in love." Dave's other friend, as if the feeble conscience of the film, says, "Dude, she's like 11." And while that is brushed off by a jokey, "I'll wait for her," I think it bears repeating: Dude, she's, like, 11.
For an adult (in the best, non-sleazy sesnse of the word) version of Kick-Ass, check out Olivier Assayas' 2002 Demonlover. It's not only a superior action film with an ass-kicking heroine, it's a vastly more intelligent story that examines just who's pulling the strings of it's violence, be it of the video or exploding flesh and crunching bone variety, just for whom the violence and images are being perpetrated. However, Demonlover's star Connie Nielsen was, admittedly, rather ancient at the time. I mean, she was, like, 37. Dude.
Connie Nielsen in Demonlover.