April 26, 2010
Let’s begin with the controversy,shall we? The new Lionsgate tentpolerelease “Kick-Ass” contains several sequences wherein a gun-slinging 11-year-old girl wearing a Robin mask and a purple raver wig handily murders a roomful of armed thugs. Hit Girl, the character played with unsettling aplomb by child actress Chloe Grace Moretz, has ignited a firestorm of media outcry from parents’ groups and even Roger Ebert.
The character presents a paradox that’s somehow easier for most people to accept on the pages of the graphic novel series written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr: Hit Girl remains adorable even while slaughtering mob goons who beg her for mercy and eviscerating guards with a butterfly knife while stalking through a pitch-black room. Her father, mentor and partner in crime-fighting, who dons a suspiciously Batman-esque armor suit and calls himself Big Daddy, seems to genuinely love his daughter even when he res a gun into the bullet-proof vest she’s wearing to give her an idea of what it feels like to be shot. Nicholas Cage, fattened from zealous scenery-chewing, nails the tricky role of Big Daddy by playing up the character’s A frugal student’s guide to downtown C-Springs dining eery wholesomeness and unblinking sincerity.
If these contradictions seem too unwieldy for your viewing pleasure, I would advise that you skip “Kick- Ass.”
The film takes an unseemly relish in the irreverence of Hit Girl’s character, the foul-mouthed killing machine in pigtails, and will likely unnerve audiences who haven’t developed the palettes of fanboys and girls raised on a steady diet of action movies and superhero comics. For someone like myself, having well exceeded my caloric intake of both genres, “Kick-Ass” marks a welcome revision of a category whose conventions need only be tweaked in-finitesimally to reengage its often jilted viewers.
Director Matthew Vaughn, a filmmaker who specializes in likable-enough genre exercises like “Layer Cake” and “Stardust,” enjoyed the biggest opening weekend of his career with “Kick-Ass,” which fell slightly behind the runaway hit “How to Train Your Dragon” to reach the number two spot a er competing steadily through the weekend.
“Kick-Ass” is far from a perfect movie: a subplot involving a copycat costumed crime fighter named Red Mist proves essential to the story but brings the narrative to a halt while highlighting the performative limitations of that guy who played McLovin. In many ways, “Kick-Ass” is not revisionist enough, feeling at times like a retread through vigilante tropes through a slightly more cynical lens. At its best, however, “Kick-Ass” evokes a sense of real danger and ratcheting suspense that few comic book adaptations fail to express.
Starring Nicholas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Johnson