I wasn’t that interested in seeing this movie till I saw the “red band” Hit Girl trailer which ticked, I’m not ashamed to say, pretty much all my boxes. I’d seen Chloe Moretz in a couple of small roles like the Amityville remake, Wicked Little Things (neither of which I can honestly recall her in) and most recently 500 Days of Summer, but she hadn’t really struck me yet as being among those who are worth watching anything exclusively for. Here, however, with bright purple hair, swearing like (actually, worse than) a sailor, with knives and guns, we have a new icon in the history of controversial young girls in movies… possibly the most memorable since Natalie Portman did a few similar things in The Professional 16 years ago. I start with this just so you know where ultimately my 5-heart rating for this movie is coming from. I adore Hit Girl. She has the best movie entrance since Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and it only gets better from there on out.
Kick-Ass, however, is far from being all about Hit Girl, and I was surprised to find all of its other elements just as appealing, appalling, surprising and enthralling as the one thing I could be sure of not being a letdown. Enthusiastic praise began to appear on Twitter etc in the past couple of weeks with many declaring it as “best superhero movie ever” etc and my response was pretty much “I doubt it.” It looked too silly for that no matter which way I looked at it, even despite the very encouraging Hit Girl stuff. On the other side were discussions like that on the BBC’s Review Show where stuffy art people tried to find an anti-violence message in the movie and found one only marred by the very way the movie revels in its own violence. Even I, who prefer my movies to have substance, knew that this was a movie more than anything designed to purely entertain, and I was happy to accept it as such (provided there was plenty of Hit Girl – which there is).
So it surprised me how involved I got with the whole thing as the story progressed. The point of this movie, if you’re unaware of the set-up, is that more than any superhero movie to date it is relentlessly grounded in our reality. The movie opens with a would-be hero standing atop a skyscraper viewed by a very “is it a bird? is it a plane?” type crowd, diving off majestically… and smashing head first into a car on the street below. The eponymous hero Kick-Ass’ first encounter with bad guys results in his being horribly (and I mean horribly) wounded and hospitalized. Even Hit Girl doesn’t escape the movie without sustaining injuries that painfully jolt you into remembering that beneath it all she’s “just” an 11 year old girl. The answer the film proposes to its question “why doesn’t anybody ever make themselves a superhero suit and fight crime?” seems almost certainly to be exactly that offered by a side character early on, “because it’s crazy!” … but you still leave the movie wanting to be either Kick-Ass himself, Red Mist, Hit Girl or Big Daddy (go on guess which one I wannabe), because the morality of such a move is so perfectly, not to mention entertainingly, delivered.
I won’t be calling it the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen or anything, because I don’t know how to make that call on a genre that becomes more diverse, exemplified hugely by Kick-Ass, with every new entry. What it is is a thoroughly satisfying whole that is far far greater than the sum of its sometimes disjointed parts. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it had my eyes glued to the screen and made me want to look away. Like I said I was really only there for Hit Girl but without her that 5-heart rating would likely only lose one point. It’s a great movie which probably has something for everyone. It’s certainly a great start to my movie year.