When it comes to films, the least of my concerns is content. The stuff that’s in a movie has very little to do with its theme -- what a story wants to tell the world -- and that’s where a filmmaker is most likely to win or lose me. Does “Kick Ass
” have an 11 year-old costumed heroine named Hit Girl who lays violent waste to bad guys but only after calling them “c*nts” and “motherf*ckers?” Indeed it does. But a heroine she is and one of the finest pre-teen role models Hollywood’s come up with in a long, long time. So powerfully written and realized is this pint-sized, two-fisted ball of righteous vengeance that one of her more heroic feats is saving “Kick-Ass” all on her own even though she’s only a supporting player.
The central story is a fairly weak one that revolves around Dave (Aaron Johnson), one of those typically awkward Hollywood movie teens with a crush on a girl way above his league and part of a trio of nerdy friends enamored with comic books and victimized by bullies. Dave can’t understand why no one’s ever decided to man up and become a superhero. After all, there’s no law against it and all you need is a costume and the guts, right?
Well, kind of. Tired of being bullied and eager to boost his own self-esteem, after costuming himself in a rubber wetsuit, Dave becomes Kick Ass, a masked avenger seeking to right wrongs on the mean streets of New York. His problem of course is that beneath all that rubber he’s still Dave, a wimp with no formal superhero training. Disaster looms but from afar someone’s watching; a real superhero with real training: Big Daddy (a marvelous Nicolas Cage), a caped crusader who dresses like Batman, talks like Adam West, and knows the kid’s a fool but admires his grit.
When we initially meet Big Daddy, he’s Damon, a soft-spoken, milquetoast of a man firing a bullet into the chest of his eleven year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz). The bullet-proof vest she wears might save her life but doesn’t lessen the impact, and she flies off screen, gets up, dusts herself off, and asks for more. Damon and Mindy might have a sweet, loving, father-daughter relationship but Big Daddy and Hit Girl are on a deadly serious mission to lay a reckoning on the city’s most powerful gangster and drug dealer, Frank D’Amico. And it’s when the story focuses here and not on the overly-familiar story involving Dave, that “Kick-Ass” comes alive. But when both stories do finally come together you have yourself some pure movie nirvana.
In an age when Hollywood peddles nihilism as a major food group, I’m sympathetic to those who were knee-jerk disgusted upon hearing about the words put into a young actresses mouth. My first reaction was to write the film off as yet another example of our Tinseltown cretins once again pushing the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope. The whole idea bored me. Two things, however, convinced me to duck into an early Saturday matinee and give it a chance.
The first is director Matthew Vaughn, the helmer behind “Stardust,” one of the most under-rated, romantic, sincere and un-ironic, non-religious fantasy films to come out in a long time. Like Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) and Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” "Insomnia”), Vaughn is worth watching – part of a new breed of talented commercial filmmakers who understands great storytelling requires weaving classic (but complicated) themes of heroism, redemption, and self-sacrifice into their work. The second was Roger Ebert’s pan of the film based solely on his moral outrage towards the Hit Girl character. Like many leftists, Ebert frequently confuses his ideology with morality. Something was up.
And something was.
Everywhere on MTV, the Disney Channel and elsewhere you’ll find young sanctimonious, sexualized young girls given the mission of teaching their fellow tweens that narcissism is some kind of value. The stunning self-involvement and respect for nothing constantly on parade in our entertainment culture is a kind of toxic heroin mainlined into our youth as a way of keeping them forever with their hands out; victims eternally convinced the world owes them something just because it’s good for their self-esteem. Their value to the left is incalculable. These attractive human vacancies are reliable spouters of left-wing talking points, picking up right where the selfish boomers left off.
Given the choice between exposing a young, impressionable mind to this kind of corrosive ideology and the themes swirling around Hit Girl should be a no brainer for parents with children over the age of 15.
Our purple-wigged heroine might have a crude way of expressing her complete contempt and full-throated disgust for bad guys, but she’s dignified, heroic, selfless, completely self-reliant, and lives by a simple code that says evil loses. No angst, no handwringing, and no moral equivalency. Appeasers debate tactics. Heroes understand the vast moral gulf between those who target the innocent and those who target those who target the innocent. And unlike the tweens on Disney and MTV, Hit Girl's not eroticized.
“Kick Ass” also happens to be a uniquely exhilarating experience, every minute of it used to expertly set up an unforgettable third act climax that might have used Ennio Morricone’s “Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu" from Sergio Leone’s “For A Few Dollars More” better than “For A Few Dollars More.”
Part “Watchmen,” part “Dark Knight,” “Kick-Ass” represents iconoclastic filmmaking at its best and not because of the shocking language spouted by a pre-teen, but because this pre-teen stands for something – the kind of something that tears at the Hollywood lefts' tired pillars of nihilism and apathy, and in the process offends all the right people.