Some 45-year-old film critics tilt their reviews toward juvenile readers as if they have something in common with the 12-year-old brain that Hollywood considers its primary audience. With Kick-Ass, fan-boy culture reaches an apogee of sloppy diminishing returns intended to clearly draw a dividing line between adult poseurs and the under-17 crowd who can only get into the R-rated picture with the accompaniment of said pandering grownup.
Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) oversees a dumb-ass story co-written by comic-book writer Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr. about Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a New York fan-boy who gets the bright idea to reinvent himself as a real-life masked avenger, ostensibly to win the heart of schoolmate Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca).
Dave proves a failure during his first outing as his green-suited alter ego Kick-Ass. The beating he takes means that his body must be surgically reinforced with metal plates. But even Dave’s physical transformation does little to improve his tactical skills, which demand assistance from a Batman wannabe called Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his Robin-knock-off daughter Mindy—a.k.a. Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Everything from its cartoon bad guys to its sudden shocks of profanity and gory violence, spells disaster. Here’s a Rated R movie that is beneath anyone over 18. Paradoxical garbage.
There’s a moment during Kick-Ass’s voice-over narration when he name-checks the film Sin City to the audience as a way of telling you what to expect in an upcoming scene. It’s a telling mistake the writer makes that gives the whole game away. Anyone who’s seen Robert Rodriguez’s and Frank Miller’s unparalleled Sin City (2005) knows that Kick-Ass has positively nothing in common with that astronomically superior film. To imagine that it does is an act of delusional folly.
In an age where kids carry on texting romances with people they rarely or never even greet in person, Kick-Ass seems, at face value, like a movie about a kid who dares to step away from his computer screen in favor of interacting with the world around him. Kick-Ass’s pissed-off and bloodied expression on the poster evinces a world-weary teen who’s not going to take it anymore. He doesn’t give a damn about what it takes to battle the Republicans, Wall Street dogs and technology peddlers who threaten his place as a free-thinker in a society where nobody can exist in public without being on a cell phone. But it’s a lie. Because if it were that kind of movie—a movie like, say, Quadrophenia that really does represent a vital teen character desperately attempting to break out of his social traps—then the screenwriter might have to go to some trouble.
Kick-Ass is based on a series of comic books by Millar (Wanted) who fancies his stories as “punk-tinged.” With so many “fan-boy-punks,” “steam-punks” and “Internet-punks” buzzing around, it’s easy to forget the ethics associated with the original musical movement by people who regarded the term as a cheesy way of commercially compartmentalizing their determined efforts at delivering some amount of truth to the world. Like the fan-boy mentality that bullies with threatening e-mails, tweets, blog posts and cell phone transmissions, Kick-Ass is a movie with no guts. The bad guys are a bunch of Keystone Cops goofing around with semi-automatic weapons. But most wrongheaded is its insulting use of 12-year-old Moretz as a gun-wielding superhero who savors the word “cock” when referring to the unexplained phallic signal the mayor aims at the sky to summon her and her crime-fighter dad.
As a bellwether of America’s societal collapse, Kick-Ass tells us that the corporate raiders who have sucked the country dry are stronger than ever. The Hollywood assembly-line film industry is only too happy to stick “3-D” on movies to milk an extra five bucks from audiences who believe the hype. In the case of Kick-Ass, it only served to remind me what a great R-rated movie Sin City is. If you do insist on taking your kids to see Kick-Ass, know that is a “Hard R.”