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‘Kick-Ass’ goes where no movie has gone before

In this unlikely crowd-pleaser, a savage 11-year-old kills and maims with brutal relish


 

Kick Ass, Hit Girl, Matthew VaughnLike any bona fide superhero, a comic-book movie that hopes to make a dent on pop culture needs a dual identity. On the one hand, it has to cloak itself in bright and shiny cliché; on the other, it has to stun us with something we’ve never seen before. That requires a tricky mix of safe formula and nervy invention, and Hollywood tends to have trouble with the latter. That’s why Kick-Ass, which opens this week with blockbuster hype, is not a Hollywood movie. Every major studio turned down the script. It was too violent, too profane, and no one knew what to make of its most sensational character—a savage 11-year-old caped superhero named Hit Girl who swears like a sailor and kills a whole lot of people with brutal relish. One studio executive told the filmmakers to turn Hit Girl into a 20-year-old, or lose her entirely.

Scottish producer-writer-director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) wouldn’t compromise. Financing Kick-Ass independently, he shot it in Toronto and the U.K. on a relatively modest budget of US$30 million, then sold the finished movie to Lionsgate for a reported US$45 million—after a bidding war among the same studios that had rejected the script. You can see why it caused a fuss. To coin an obvious blurb, Kick-Ass kicks ass.

Based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar (Wanted), it’s about a teen comic-book nerd (Aaron Johnson) who tries his luck as a real-life superhero named Kick-Ass, armed with only a truncheon and a mail-order scuba suit. As his bumbling exploits win YouTube notoriety, and the girl of his dreams, he meets a pair of hard-core crime fighters—Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a demented ex-cop in a Batman get-up, and Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), the daughter he has honed into a lethal weapon. She’s learned to play with guns and knives the way most girls play with dolls.

Candy-wrapped in the tropes of romantic comedy, this naughty, blood-filled concoction is surprisingly sweet. In the end, it’s an unlikely crowd-pleaser, a feel-good Molotov cocktail of comic provocation. But it does invite controversy. Kick-Ass, which carries a restricted rating, goes where no movie has gone before. We’ve seen kids cast in R-rated fare: Linda Blair in The Exorcist, Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby, Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. But this is the first time we’ve seen an 11-year-old blithely using the c-word. As Hit Girl, little Chloë Moretz yells to a room full of adults, “Okay, you c–ts, let’s see what you can do now!” It’s shocking, but no more so than the gleeful brutality with which this little killer shreds her foes, in a visceral ballet of bullets, butterfly blades, kitchen knives and martial artistry.

Two years after shooting the film, Moretz, who’s now 13, sits in a Toronto hotel room discussing the role that has made Hit Girl Hollywood’s new It Girl. Dissecting the remains of a ketchup-slathered clubhouse sandwich, she’s smartly dressed in glossy black tights and a silk polka-dot ensemble, though still looks more like a child than a teenager. When she opens her mouth, however, she displays a poise beyond her years.

Asked if she expects her use of foul language in the film to be controversial, she explains, with an air of slightly bored patience, “It’s a role—it’s not meant to be taken as real life. I was raised to think cursing makes you look unintelligent. As Chloë, I can honestly say I’ve never uttered a syllable of a curse word, not even behind closed doors.” Hit Girl, she adds, “was brainwashed from a young age to become this vigilante superhero. But she’s innocent and all for girl empowerment. That’s how I connect to the character.”

The youngest of five children, and the only girl, Moretz has been acting from the age of four. Her mother is a nurse, her father a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. She followed her eldest brother into the profession­; Trevor, 23, is her acting coach. For Kick-Ass, Moretz says she “trained with ballerinas, gymnasts, martial artists, ex-Marines—and at the Toronto Circus School.” So does she worry about missing out on a normal childhood? “C’mon, look at me!” she says in disbelief. “I’m like a three-year-old! When I’m with my friends we have popcorn fights.”

Her friends, however, can’t see her movie. “I strongly advise no one under the legal age of 18 to see it,” Moretz says solemnly. But she’s seen it. She even texted a friend from the industry screening to say how excited she was. A security guard came over and threatened to confiscate her phone. “I’m so sorry,” she said, then pointed to the masked killer onscreen. “That’s me!”


 

‘Kick-Ass’ goes where no movie has gone before

  1. Again, teaching our children that violence solves problems, we'll never learn!

    • blah, blah, blah. Self-righteous clap trap.

  2. It's nice to see a filmaker who didn't compromise his vision follow through and get rewarded. This movie will likely gross 200+ million, despite beign rated R.

    Further proof that those financially backing movies are out of touch with what makes a good film… it's ironic this time they are also out of touch with their bread and butter… simply making money.

    • Exactly. You want to fix the movie industry's financial problems? Make better movies.

  3. beign?

  4. Typical title with no class.
    Use a basic expletive. Attract idiots.
    No thanks.
    Another poor summer movie designed to tease and tantalise the unintelligent.

    • Did you even read the review? The reviewer just said the film is the opposite of how you describe it: intelligent fun, and made outside the Hollywood system….

      I think I'll trust the person who has actually seen the movie rather than someone who just wants to spew their opinion anyway they can.

    • Then go watch the Stratford festival. More room in the theatre for the rest of us who choose how we want to be entertained.

  5. What I find oppressive about Hollywood is the way they need everything to be PG, so that everyone except whiny infants can go to see a movie. So when, in "Galaxy Quest", Sigourney Weaver clearly drops the f-bomb, it's dubbed over with "screw"– when not only was the f-bomb more appropriate, there's now a distracting disconnect between the audio and visual. I look forward to this movie not because of the violence (remember, people who are violent are violent with or without movies and video games – bullies didn't just spring into existence in the late '70s, after all) but because of the refreshing artistic integrity that's behind it. I hope it doesn't disappoint me (going to see it this w/end). :)

  6. HIt girl rocks! Chloe Moretz is going to atttain superstar status within the next month due to her acting as Hit Girl. She is remarkable.

    For those who trash this flick without seeing it;Go Suck Lemons!

    • The movie was awesome, I give her that Hit girl acting skill are amazing. However I do not aprove to having a little girl killing that was the only part of the movie I was bother with.

  7. I saw the first show today and I have to tell ya: It was AWESOME!!!!!!

    Don't miss out on a truly one-time event!!!!

  8. The killer schoolgirl is pretty much a cliche in Asian cinema and anime. Most are cartoony outings like 'Machine Girl' but then there are Kinji Fukasaku's 'Battle Royale' which is a must-see for any movie enthusiasts. You want to see more tiny girl assassins? Rent the anime series "Gunslinger Girl," where there is a whole squad of them. You might even like the setup and story.

  9. This is test comment

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