Rated R/117 min.
When I was in junior high, I conned my mother into taking me to see Robocop 2. She wasn’t particularly happy with the character of Hob, a foul-mouthed teen criminal who murdered adults with glee throughout the film. Though she didn’t attend the screening with me, I’m pretty sure Mom wouldn’t like Kick-Ass, either. All of the main characters are variations of Hob: pint-sized, potty-mouthed killers who we’re supposed to laugh at because, after all, it’s based on a comic book, so it’s all in good fun, right? After a while, I stopped laughing and found this well crafted but morally bankrupt film to be just plain offensive.
Aaron Johnson stars as a wimpy teen fed up with urban crime who orders a superhero suit online and becomes the masked, out-of-his-league crime fighter “Kick-Ass.” He later meets genuine masked vigilantes Big Daddy (a hilarious Nicolas Cage) and his sidekick and pre-teen daughter Hit Girl. This is where the movie started to make me uneasy. The introduction of these two characters is a shocking and darkly comic sequence where Cage is teaching his daughter the finer points of vigilantism—by firing a gun at her. We’re meant to laugh, because the child is wearing a bulletproof vest and she cheerfully gets up for another round in the chest. But the bit is squirm-inducing—in a bad way—and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Director Matthew Vaughn has made a film that’s aimed straight at young, Caucasian underachievers who own stacks of comics, love onscreen carnage and adore anything with “geek cred.” Despite the hard-R rating (for everything you could possibly imagine), many underage kids will flock to this; their parents should at the very least be warned.
At the beginning of the third act, the formally tongue-in-check story loses its sense of humor, erupts into an orgy of violence and, for me, the fun stopped. What began as a smart parody of comic book origin tales becomes the sort of mindlessly violent, by-the-numbers comic book fantasy the filmmakers were supposedly making fun of.
Brad Pitt is one of the producers, and I’m surprised that he and the filmmakers didn’t find anything morally abhorrent about the screenplay. The satire isn’t strong or sustained enough to support the dubious content. After a promising start, we get an entourage of—if you really think about it—slick, well-shot sequences of child abuse. Barry Wurst, II, MauiTime