Kick-Ass stands as not only one of the most controversial films of 2010, but rather one of the most controversial films of the last decade. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, it split critics straight down the middle with half hailing it as a future classic and half deriding it as a morally bankrupt, exploitation film of the worst kind. Regardless of the opinions of critics, Kick-Ass proved to be a commercial smash hit, taking $96m off of a budget of $28m. It is based on a comic book series of the same name, c0-written by Mark Millar, a man most famous for his work on legendary comic books Judge Dredd, Ultimate X-Men and Superman.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a geeky teenage boy who questions why no real people ever become superheroes. With this in mind, he orders a SCUBA diving suit off the internet and christens himself Kick-Ass. After becoming an internet sensation after protecting someone from a beating, he is approached by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), two other masked vigilantes whose goal it is to take down crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), the man who in the past, framed Big Daddy and had him sent him to jail.
Drawing inspiration from a plethora of comic book films before it, Kick-Ass is an homage, a satire and an original work all at the same time. The idea of an ordinary person becoming a superhero has been covered before in films like Mystery Men, while the actual revenge plot bears more than a passing resemblance to Spider-Man 2. What it does have, that these two lacked, is a lack of censorship. Characters swear, are bloodily violent and all seem to live in a moral vaccuum apart from the rest of society. They all have their own reasons for being so flawed, but the true point of controversy lies solely with the character of Hit-Girl.
Lambasted for it’s sexualisation of violence and children, Kick-Ass‘ most controversial figure, is also its most compelling. Hit-Girl, played as an adult by 11-year-old Moretz, is a foul-mouthed, incredibly violent, sociopathic killer. Trained from a young age in the art of killing by Cage’s sublime and hilarious Big Daddy, Hit-Girl is a revelation. Director Vaughn takes this controversial and potentially dislikeable maniac and makes her the perfect foil for Johnson’s sometimes limp, but ultimately kind-natured Lizewski. Together the two young stars help keep the plot of Kick-Ass from becoming too stale.
From the moment that Lizewski pulls on the mask, to final, exhilarating fight scene, Kick-Ass doesn’t really give the audience time to criticise or poke holes. It moves at such a break-neck speed that it’s very difficult to poke holes until you’ve thought about it afterwards. The actual experience of watching Kick-Ass is akin to eating a chocolate bar. It’s a guilty pleasure that sticks with you, leaving you craving more of it’s sugary sweet hyper-violence and witty one-liners.
There are clearly critics to Kick-Ass and its approach to story-telling, and one can’t help but wonder that if Hit-Girl had been an 18-year-old that most of the vitriol against the film might just disappear. But that’s clearly not what writer Millar or director Vaughn want. They want people to discuss Kick-Ass and the fact that it divided critics and audiences helped create a perfect PR storm. Kick-Ass was the ‘cool’ film of year that would’ve been talked about in hushed tones among groups of teenage boys.
Kick-Ass stands as one of the best films of 2010 and a fantastic addition to the comic book genre. A bold, maverick, lunatic approach to some well-trodden material makes it stand head-and-shoulders above many of its peers.