Posted by: *carrie* | April 17, 2010

Watch This: Kick Ass

I went to see Kick Ass tonight, a film I’ve been anticipating more and more as more and more reviews starting piling up. Here’s the thing about Kick Ass: It’s really all about Hit Girl. I fully expect to see both a sequel (featuring the rise of Red Mist) and a spin off focused on Hit Girl.

Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz)

The premise of the film is that an ordinary teenage boy decides to make himself into a superhero. He pretty much sucks at being a superhero. He is suddenly joined by a superhero duo: Big Daddy (an inspired performance from Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (played by Chloe Moretz, who absolutely steals the show).

I wanted to absolutely love this film. I almost did. In fact, I love parts of it, and I really, really liked it overall.

The film is dark and satirical, and deliberately over the top. There’s a lot of carnage. Much of which is delivered by our heroine.

So this is the part where I start to get all spoiler-y. Consider yourself warned.

We start by being introduced to Dave, the slightly-below-average teenage boy (Aaron Johnson III) who narrates throughout the film. He takes up about 25 minutes illustrating how normal he is, and also how many bad things are happening. Eventually we discover that Big Daddy is an ex-cop who was framed, went to prison, his wife committed suicide while pregnant (but somehow Hit Girl survived), and is plotting his revenge. This revenge is against the local drug lord who framed him. The drug lord’s son goes to school with Dave, aka Kick Ass.

So, the things that made me extremely happy with this film. We got not just a strong female character, but a strong girl character. Trust me – everyone who sees this movie will have a new hero, and she is an 11 year old who goes by the name Hit Girl. Because she’s so young, her strength isn’t rooted in her sexuality. It’s in her enthusiasm for new weapons and skill at using them, it’s in her knowledge of weapons, technology, and tactics. It’s in the fact that she takes power and is completely unapologetic about it.

There were some problematic things about this film. The language used, such as “pussy” to insult the men, was annoying. Realistic, but annoying, because it shouldn’t be an insult. (The insult “dick” is used a few times, also, and the language is on the colorful side throughout, so it wasn’t ever out of character).

We also had the weird Disney thing, where everyone’s mom is dead. Kick Ass’ mom has died briefly before the start of the narration. Hit Girl’s mom killed herself. Red Mist’s mom isn’t dead, but she isn’t exactly present. I don’t know why it’s necessary to have dead moms – as if you would never do such crazy stuff if only your mom was there to do…. I don’t know….whatever it is they apparently do to make you not become a superhero?

This leaves Hit Girl with a single dad. He’s taught her everything, and treats her like an equal, and not just like a little princess. Which should be mentioned up in my “things I love” section. We’re also led to believe by the end of the film that it’s a terrible thing he has given this freedom and knowledge and power to his daughter. We’re also led to believe that maybe a single dad can’t handle a kid, since he’s so focused on revenge and has a room adorned with heavy artillery. He’s also severely punished for all of this by the end of the film.

Fast-forwarding to the end of the film, Hit Girl finds herself in a life & death battle with the big drug lord. She’s killed countless of his men. She’s ruining his business. And he’s pissed. So much so, that we see him kick and punch Hit Girl in the face, and he really is about to get the best of her. As he’s about to shoot her, he says “I wish I could have had a son like you”. This implies that his son isn’t strong and “manly” enough, that his son’s talents (such as tactical smarts) aren’t valued as much as the more manly trait of being able to kick someone’s ass.

And then, magically, Kick Ass shows up to save the day. Never mind that he has never done anything other than get his ass kicked, he is suddenly the big hero. We actually get the typical visual of the man physically carrying the woman (girl) he’s just rescued. Apparently the filmmakers needed to reassure the men that they, in fact, are manly enough to save and protect an 11 year old girl. The scene felt wrong because it was so out of character from the rest of the film for Hit Girl to not be winning, and for Kick Ass to be doing something right.

There was some  odd treatment of gender in the film that I haven’t digested enough. A rumor circulates the Dave (Kick Ass) is gay. Suddenly the hot girl that he has a crush on wants to become his BFF. This opens the door for some odd humor centered around being gay, and gay is definitely othered. Dave uses this as an “in” to befriend the girl. I’m not sure if this was just good ol’ heteronormative writing or if it was meant as satire.

Overall, I really did enjoy the film. And, hey, it was co-written by a woman (bonus!), Jane Goldman. The film can be read not just as a gender narrative, but also as a commentary on how ridiculous the level of violence we see displayed in entertainment is (among probably 20 other things it could be read as). There’s a good bit of intelligent, self-aware humor. The pacing wasn’t perfect and during any scenes where there was no Hit Girl, I found myself thinking “when does Hit Girl return?” I’m already looking forward to the inevitable Hit Girl spin off.

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Responses

  1. I don’t think the ending took anything away from Hit Girl. The thing is that Hit Girl never had anything to prove from the very beginning. She has the skills already, while Kick-Ass had still to prove himself.

    He’s given that opportunity towards the end when the REAL hero (and yes, that’s right Hit Girl is the REAL hero while he’s just a pretender) needs his help.

    The only reason he is carrying her is because he’s the one with the jet pack on his back. It’s partly continuity, but also would you really expect a 9 year old girl to be carrying an 18 year old boy? (Yes, it would be kinda cool to see, but Hit Girl is supposed to be an expert fighter. She isn’t supposed to have super-strength.)

    • I think what bothered me the most was the image, simply because it’s so overdone: (male)HERO carrying (female)VICTIM.

      You’re right in saying it wasn’t out of line for the story or circumstance, and side-kick characters do need moments to be useful

  2. […] what’s with the sexist end of the film? This review nails it: And then, magically, Kick Ass shows up to save the day. Never mind that he has never done […]


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