Part ultra-violent tale, part superhero satire, Kick-Ass fails to live up to its title thanks to its morally wavering approach to on-screen violence.
If anything, Kick Ass proves that superheroes really are a sadistic bunch. Scratch below the spandex and gadgets, and one will often find a damaged individual teetering on the edge of insanity, who loves nothing more than to play dress up and beat up bad guys with often more violence then the bad guys could ever muster.
The popular consensus is that these caped crusaders are symbols of good, dishing out justice to the wicked while defending the weak. Such is the belief of young Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an everyday New York teen whose fun filled existence of comic books and jerking off is given some direction, after he decides to go the spandex route and become a superhero under the moniker of Kick-Ass.
To call his first forays into crime fighting disastrous would be an understatement. Delusional and suicidal are probably more accurate descriptions: these punches bruise, and these knives are not made of plastic, director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) accenting every crunch of broken bone, pounding of flesh, and crimson red splatter of blood. And boy, is there blood.
But in the league of superheros, Kick Ass is merely a novice when compared to the likes of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, so good with his stam-mer-ing pisstake of 1960s Batman) and his side kick, apprentice, and 11 year old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz, pulling off a convincing Clint Eastwood snarl while cursing up a storm).
The films momentum, and indeed plot, comes from their quest for revenge against crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong, solid as always).
But through their scenes also comes with it a sticking point: the exploitative nature of film violence as entertainment, and the use of a child as the main protagonist in these scenes.
Vaughn seems to be channelling the spirit of Mark Millar’s comic book in its depiction of “Sickening violence: just the way you like it!” (quote lifted from the cover of issue #2). And, at times it does help push the message that being a superhero is just not good for your health.
But too often Vaughn oversteps his mark when his stylised use of violence is played out as entertainment, with young Moretz as the main attraction.
No doubt many will give it up as the young Hit Girl massacres crims left and right with either knife or gun, while dropping the C word to further enhance her bad assness/cringe factor.
Yet it all seems just a tad depressing when only 40 years ago, 12 yr old Linda Blair repulsed viewers with her performance as a cursing and violent troubled young soul in The Exorcist, and yet today such behaviour is not only acceptable but encouraged. How things have changed in child entertainment.
One for fans of both the comic and its sickening violence.