Since its release, Kick-Ass has been branded as a ‘taboo-breaking’ comedy, and many of its fans have congratulated it for going where other movies have dared not gone. I know I am in a minority when I say that Kick-Ass is one of the worst movies of its genre, but I found it a truly repulsive experience – an extended advert for vicious violence, illegal weaponry and child abuse.
Firstly, it’s incredibly boring. Clocking in at 1 hour 57 minutes, Kick-Ass doesn’t attempt to murder its audience in the same lengthy way Avatar did, but it has a jolly good try. With about five different endings stitched together, it doesn’t know what it wants its final message to be. And there are a lot of messages in this movie – most of them cynical and abhorrent.
With its advertising clearly focused on a teenage audience, this pernicious beast of a film plays with the premise ‘what if ordinary people tried to be superheroes’. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an ordinary teenage boy. Ordinary in the sense that he doesn’t have superpowers. At school he is invisible to girls, and at home he reads comic books and masturbates frequently. For some reason the film seems quite interested in Dave’s masturbatory habits, as if the time we see him jerking off will somehow fill the empty hole where most other writers give their characters depth and background. The only background we get on Dave is that his mum died suddenly at the kitchen table. The image of a mother dying in front of her son is presented as a funny moment at the start of the movie. It isn’t funny, but gives us a glimpse of what misjudged humour there is to follow.
Dave decides to become the world’s first ‘real’ superhero – a real person, fighting real crime with no special powers whatsoever. Oh, and he calls himself Kick-Ass. So, of course, he gets beaten up by the first villains he encounters. These are two low-life muggers who kick and punch him while laughing at his awful green suit. This comically violent scene suddenly veers off in far more serious direction when they produce a knife and attack him with it, stabbing him in the stomach. This turns the scene into a very uneasy mixture of comedy and shocking violence – slapstick meets knife crime in a few ill-judged minutes. When he is mended by a team of doctors, who build metal plates into his broken bones, his pain threshold becomes very strong due to messed-up nerve endings. Embarrassed by his green suit, Dave convinces the paramedics to say he was found naked and hides his outfit from his father and friends. For some unexplained reason, the fact he was allegedly found naked is enough for his school mates to decide he is gay. This allows Dave to make friends with the girl he loves, who up to this point has never registered his existence. She wants a gay-best-friend, so Dave isn’t too quick to dispel the rumours about his sexuality. In fact, he takes the chance and runs with it, becoming infinitely more popular than before with the opposite sex. Although an unlikely film to discourage homophobia in schools, one of the only virtues Kick-Ass has is that it presents homosexuality within a school positively rather than negatively. Aside from this well-handled subplot, the rest of the film attempts to appeal to the very worst type of people – those who find knives cool, using them even cooler and are amused by an 11-year old saying the C word.
Kick-Ass delights in making the most shocking things fun, sexually provocative and very accessible. With a 15 certificate, younger viewers will be able to enjoy the ghastly violence and sickening glorification of weapons (including some lethal gadgets that many will never have heard of but will undoubtedly be Googling when they get home). There is a scene at the end of the film where the aforementioned little girl gets her head repeatedly kicked and punched by the movie’s big villain (played with gusto by Mark Strong). This was the moment I realised the movie was a truly disgusting piece of work, and the more I thought about writer Jane Goldman and writer/director Matthew Vaughn discussing how many times they can get away with the 11-year old getting ferociously punched, the more my hate for it increased.
On the basis of this review, I’m sure someone will once again liken my moral compass to the Daily Mail, a paper I strongly detest. In the words of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, I believe the Mail is a “sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip”. But this newspaper happens to employ one of the country’s best writers on cinema, Christopher Tookey, who also hated this film. But he is not alone. Matthew Bond of the Mail on Sunday gave it a one-star verdict, and Pulitzer Prize winning American critic Roger Ebert also found it ‘morally reprehensible’. For some reason, the critics from the liberal-Left (the area of politics I usually occupy) heaped praise on the film when it was released. Goodness knows why, but I think it may have something to do with a ‘being cool, down-with-the-kidz’ complex they have going on.
The day the majority regard this as a guiltless pleasure will be a very sad day for cinema, but good for the bank balances of Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn and producer Brad Pitt. A line attributed to philosopher Edmund Burke (although it is debatable whether or not he actually said it, or in what form) is, I think, the most appropriate way to sum up my reason for hating Kick-Ass with such furious intensity: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn, is available on Blu-ray disc and DVD from Universal Pictures UK, Certificate 15.