(No longer in theaters)
Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Matthew Vaughn, Brad Pitt, Tarquin Pack, Kris Thykier
Apr 16, 2010
From the sixties to the eighties, mainstream moviegoers were righteously appalled by grindhouse revenge flicks and their attendant splatter, leaving us young punks to whoop it up at such haute gutbucket fare as Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub series (with its samurai hero lopping off limbs while pushing a baby in a cart). Such heady times … Now a generation weaned on Quentin Tarantino has made geyserific gore both hip and common (in both senses). And here comes Kick-Ass, to clean up at your neighborhood multiplex and lower the killing age.
Based on a comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., the movie opens a bit like the 1999 comedy Mystery Men, with its nerdy protagonist (Aaron Johnson) who dreams of becoming a superhero and celebrity. But when the touchingly inept teen in his green-and-yellow wetsuit gets a knife plunged into his gut (in close-up), reality kicks in with a vengeance. Vengeance kicks in with a vengeance. Beyond its high-hemorrhage quotient and recurrent F- and C-words, Kick-Ass brings something more transgressive to the party. The most gleeful (and dexterous) executioner is a pixieish blonde 11-year-old (Chloë Grace Moretz) who calls herself “Hit-Girl.” Her ex-cop dad (Nicolas Cage), once framed by a mobster, has schooled her in the art of lowlife-cleansing. There’s a disconnect when you watch: Should a girl this age—the actress herself, say—be allowed even to see this thing? Is what’s onscreen a form of child abuse? Do we splutter in outrage or relax and dig the Grand Guignol spectacle?
In schizoid fashion, I both spluttered and enjoyed myself. Moretz has aplomb, and when Cage underplays the monomania, he reminds you what a droll comic actor he can be. Director-panderer Matthew Vaughn fetishizes the little girl and her virtuosic scissor-knife work, the hyperbolic weaponry, the can-you-top-this carnage. There’s even a teen-sex angle: Johnson’s nerd superhero pretends to be gay so he can have “nonthreatening” sleepovers with a luscious classmate. Kick-Ass is a compendium of all sleazy things, and it sings like a siren to our inner Tarantinos.