Thursday, August 05, 2010

608 - Kick-Ass review

A sample scene from “Kick-Ass:” A twelve-year-old girl and her father, dressed as poor imitations of superheroes, have a gangster chained to his steering wheel, his car in a giant vehicle compactor. As he pleads for mercy, the girl, with Dad’s approval, starts the compactor, crushing the man to death and spitting him out with his car, now a giant cube. The girl’s analogy? “What a douche.”

“Kick-Ass” is a revolting comic book actioneer that’s so immoral and disgusting that I’d be surprised that even the lowlier elements of Hollywood would crank it out, much less some for which I hold a modicum of respect. I’m coming in late to the debate about whether or not Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), the film’s pint-sized heroine with an attitude towards human life to match the Joker’s, constitutes an egregious breach of the common morality all members of this society presumably learn.

Handled well, the material could be very effective, and in fact, the source material, a comic series by Mark Millar, actually does a better job of this. But there’s no satire or parody of social commentary with Hit Girl, just wanton slaughter with a preteen visage.

Really, what’s to enjoy about this? Am I just not cynical enough to spot the appeal? Is the thought of a twelve-year-old girl with the combat skills of Rambo funny? Or insightful? Or subversive? Forget how insane it is when Hit Girl dispatches a dozen armed men at a time; doesn’t the face of a child pulling the trigger give people pause? The weight of the violence in this film derives from the repulsion factor, not in even a glancing consideration of morality or consequences. Even the “Rambo” films were actually infused with moral considerations about the cost of violence. Here, Hit Girl ends the film with a big grin on her face, satisfied at her triple-digit kill count. Even the titular hero, a teen with a comparatively normal upbringing, seems unfazed by the gruesomeness, as if all in a day's work for a dimwitted high school doofus.

For a moment I’ll compare this trash to “The Wild Bunch,” another ultra-violent film I’ve been thinking of lately. There’s an even higher body count than “Kick-Ass,” and the action is highly stylized. But when its heroes (all grown men, I lamentably have to add) engage in gun battles in which dozens are chewed apart by bullets, there’s unmistakably a sense of sorrow, an understanding of the moral and societal decay that brings such violence into our lives. Sam Peckinpah made stylized violence into a thing of beauty, a lamentation of man’s brutality transmuted into a thunderous adrenaline rush.

“Kick-Ass” doesn’t have a moral bone in its body, nor a logical one, for that matter. The script, worked on by director Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Millar himself, frames this monstrous evil with a fractured, hole-ridden, only semi-coherent story, driven by characters that range from vile to even worse pejorative adjectives. “Kick-Ass” is merely a butcher’s knife, indiscriminate in its ugliness, as brain-dead as its stupid, insipid characters.

0.5 out of 5

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