In many ways, Kick-Ass is a difficult movie to review. On one level it is highly entertaining. On another level it is deeply unethical. For that reason, I will not be providing a star rating because it is too difficult.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a loner at school and loves his comic books. He begins to wonder why noone has ever thought to try to be a superhero even though they don’t have any special powers. So he sets out to do just that, dressing in a wetsuit and calling himself Kick-Ass. He has previously been involved in an accident following which his nerve endings have been damaged (so he doesn’t feel pain) and the metal replacements for his broken bones mean he is strong.
After surviving a couple of violent encounters, he makes the news and inspires a wave of other would-be “superheroes”. But things get complicated when a Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) decide to take revenge on a local mobster whose son eventually becomes Kick-Ass’s arch-nemesis.
As a piece of entertainment, Kick-Ass is a thoroughly enjoyable movie for the modern age. Tons of action, slapstick comedy, one-liners. But it is extremely violent with lots of coarse language. And it is here that the questionable ethics of this movie raises its head.
The scene stealer, Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, is an 11 year old girl who engages in extremely explicit violence and high level coarse language who, at times, is highly “sexualised”. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times has described it this way:
A movie camera makes a record of whatever is placed in front of it, and in this case, it shows deadly carnage dished out by an 11-year-old girl, after which an adult man brutally hammers her to within an inch of her life. Blood everywhere. Now tell me all about the context.
… and that’s just scratching the service of the violence, most of it coldly delivered with no consideration of the reality of death.
Kick-Ass is based on a very violent comic book and much of the violence is, no doubt, meant to be comic book in style. The problem is that the violence is very realistic. And the movie makes no attempt to consider the morality or consequences of the violence. What parent would be happy for their 11 year olds to take Hit Girl as a role model? I don’t mind seeing violence on the screen when it is a relevant part of the story. But this sort of violence by an 11 year old made me squirm.
So… while I can appreciate the entertainment aspects of Kick-Ass, the fact that it is so dominated by blatant, excessive violence by teens and an 11 year old (plus the high level swearing coming from the same child) unfortunately puts this movie into the morally reprehensible category. The problem is, of course, is that this movie is going to be very popular and, when it is released on video, no doubt will be seen by teens and kids too enamoured by it to think about its moral implications.
Go see something else!
’It brings together several popular strains of contemporary moviemaking and combines them into one big, shameless, audacious, compulsively watchable, irresistibly likable piece of pure entertainment.’ – Mick La Salle/San Francisco Chronicle
’Kick-Ass - based on a graphic novel - thinks it's so brave and bold. But it's more like the title character, a dweeb who just thinks he's tough.’ – Joe Neumaier/New York Daily News
strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use - some involving children