Kick-Ass: Laugh or Cry?

Moving half-way across the world can do strange things to many different parts of your personality. Not least your movie going. Three and a bit months after making the move to Cape Town, we’re starting to settle in our house, and able to turn our attention to important stuff, like films. So the first film we pay to see on the African continent is Kick-Ass. Of all the questions and thoughts about movies I’ve been concerned I may be missing while unpacking and hoping for a phone-line to be installed, I can’t say I ever found myself wondering what a super-hero film made by Tarantino would look-like. I can, though, rest assured that I now know.

I’m sure many of us will find the controversies that have dogged this film’s release well documented elsewhere. They broadly revolve around just what it’s right to expect a 12-year old child performer to do and say in the name of her chosen profession. As one part of an ultra-violent crime-fighting duo, Chloe Moretz is certainly called upon to say and do some shocking things. The first thing to say is that she acts her on-screen father, Nic Cage, off the screen. Not difficult, you might argue – he’s been on autopilot since Leaving Las Vegas – but she has frightening assurance that makes her perfect for the part. Also brilliant: Aaron Johnson, star of Superbad and the like, in brilliant form and playing his reputation cleverly as a want-to-be super-hero whose only power is ‘being invisible to girls’. That’s a joke that comes in the opening section of the film – for my money, the best part. At the very least, though, you can say that this is a film which has the courage of it’s blood-soaked convictions. Throughout, the combination of Tarantino-style dialogue & action, high-school romance and super-hero story is pulled off with a confidence and aplomb that sweeps you up almost irresistibly.

So to the violence. It’s been argued that this shows the true consequences of violence – well yes, that’s true. Up to a point. There is real pain here – but really only for those on the receiving end from the bad-guys. The goodies wreak havoc on the evil with bloody alacrity, but there’s no pain – just righteous laughter. Good people hurt, bad don’t. So what the violence becomes is a slightly ham-fisted form of moral capitalization – THESE ARE THE ONES YOU’RE NOT MEANT TO CHEER FOR…..YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE THEY  DON’T ACTUALLY FEEL STUFF.

Really, that’s just a bit lazy. The moral panic the film has triggered has as usual missed the point. The cartoon nature of much of it doesn’t glorify or make light of the clearly outlandish subject matter. It’s clearly an alternative reality. What’s more disturbing is the way we’re encouraged to revel in ‘deserved suffering’…..which isn’t really sore, just spectacular. It’s bread and circuses for a tabloid morality. Which just makes the amount I enjoyed it worry me all the more. I laughed, I covered my eyes once or twice, and wanted justice exercised. I’d love to think director Matthew Vaughn‘s intention was to pose me those questions. I’m not sure though; I think he was enjoying himself too much to know. We’ll have a better idea in five films’ time, when we’ve learnt his voice and style. For now, though, I can’t remember the last time I was this worried by how much I enjoyed one film.

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One thought on “Kick-Ass: Laugh or Cry?

  1. Pingback: Robin Hood: Accents and Origins « The Blog of David Meldrum

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