April 16, 2010

"Kick-Ass" Controversy Half Baked

The film Kick-Ass hits theatres today and I would highly recommend checking it out.  I found it to be a fun, violent, post-modern take on the super hero movie - essentially the movie that Watchmen wanted to be before it collapsed under it's own self-important weight.  This has less to say about the genre, and the notion of being a hero, but in it's simplicity it finds clarity and does a much better job of telling its story.   And that story, make no mistake, is very, very dark.  The fact that it appears to be dressed up as a kid-friendly comic book movie is a large part of its charm; but that's also kind of troubling for some.  Essentially Kick-Ass is the cinematic version of Mike's Hard Lemonade.  It's clearly for adults, but the marketing and packaging seem to be obviously aimed at a younger crowd.   The biggest issue many have with the film centers around one of the central characters, Hit Girl.   Hit Girl is an 11-year old girl who masquerades as a super hero, trained by her father since birth to be a deadly assassin.  Despite being just 11 years old, Hit Girl has little trouble decimating a room filled with armed thugs; and she does so while remaining icy cool.  And when I say decimated, I mean skulls blown open, bodies riddled with bullet holes and eviscerated by her deadly blade.  This is decidedly adult fare wrapped up in a package that makes it almost look like the latest installment of Spy Kids. Roger Ebert, a critic I really respect and find myself agreeing with more than most was saddened by the dark tone of the movie and the unrelenting violence dished out by a pre-pubescent child.

Ebert seems quick to dismiss the satire in the movie and the post-modern take on the genre; but at least he acknowledges that he's likely missed the point.   I would tend to agree with him that he's not quite getting the film and the character.  To get caught up in the real-world ramifications of an 11-year old girl butchering a man - or a room filled with men - is totally missing the point of the movie.  If this were  The Dark Knight, a superhero movie clearly set "in the real world" I could see his point, but Kick-Ass doesn't pretend to be that movie.  The first moment you see Hit Girl karate-kicking a 200 pound man across the room, it's pretty clear that suspension of disbelief will be required for this flick.  

Last week I had the chance to interview Chloe Moretz, the actress who plays Hit Girl, and she spoke about playing such a decidedly adult role. (It's not just the violence, her first scene as Hit Girl, she calls her soon-to-be-victims "cunts" which instantly establishes the tone for this film.  You realize that anything could happen in this movie and this child will likely be like no other child you've seen on the big screen.)  Chloe said her mother - who vets all of her scripts before presenting them to her - read the screenplay and told her (quite accurately) that there was no other kid role like this and that it would be an excellent challenge for her. Chloe's response to the criticism around her performance was to simply point out that this is obviously comic book nerd fantasy - an 11-year old girl couldn't really lay waste to a room filled with heavily armed adult males - so she didn't really see the point in all of the outrage.  I think it's very easy to make a snap judgement here, and respond to the obvious hot buttons - the violence and the language - but that dismisses the excellent work Moretz does in this movie in order to make an 11-year old girl beating the shit out of a ton of gangsters believable and credible. Her work in this movie is really quite impressive and she should get full credit for that instead of having her efforts overlooked in order to talk about the more sensational aspects of the performance.   Go see Kick-Ass, it's definitely worth checking out and Chloe Moretz - potty mouth and all - is a young talent to keep an eye on.  (Her next role is as a vampire in the remake of the excellent Swedish horror film Let The Right One In.)

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