Kick Ass is a film that draws a line in the dirt and invites you to place yourself on one side or another. Or, rather, it hands you the stick and asks you to draw your own line. The super hero action genre is ripe for satire as Superman, Spiderman and Batman are leftovers from the 50’s that have had to move from their post WWII, Reds under the Bed, pro America trope to trying to come to terms with modern times. Many movies have travelled this territory by satirising the ridiculous background stories, powers and cringeworthyness of modern super heroics such as the recent Watchmen. And perhaps unintentionally in the form of the Spiderman movies, which are so beyond pathetic that the only thing I can remember is a wet T-shirt.
In Kick Ass we have all the elements of a standard “super hero” journey. The voice over, the sad life in school, the lust after the school’s best looking chick, the bullies and the obsessive compulsive masturbation fantasies. Yep, all present. Geeks must truly have inherited the earth, and must be earning millions, for films to try so hard to show them in such a positive light. Then the first person dies and it is the only person in the film who doesn’t die violently. It is Kick Ass’s mother, who drops dead in the opening montage. Nothing is made of this and she sort of fades from view. Nothing changes for the “hero”.
My Spidey-sense started tingling at this point.
I watched an amazing film once by Japanese director auteur “Beat” Kitano, called Boiling Point, in which the main character was a loser. After being struck out at baseball, he heads to a toilet shack and sits down. From that point his life changes and leads rollercoaster-like into confrontation with local Yakuza, ensuing violence and things being blown up. It was only after one character went into battle wielding a pineapple that my senses told me that something was amiss. Sure enough, the film appears to end with a fade to black… and then suddenly shows the looser still sitting in the toilet, he flushes and runs out to meet with his comrades.
The whole film had been a fantasy.
Kick Ass is like that. I kept thinking that after the credits would be a moment where he would wake up and it would all be a dream. Or more like a nightmare.
Trying to take a stand against crime, but for some reason wearing a costume – not that he has a secret identity to protect – the hero immediately feels for the lack of martial arts lessons and gets stabbed and run over on his first attempt. This leaves him with the ability to withstand more pain and on his second attempt, saving a guy from a gang kicking, he manages to outlast his three opponents to win the conflict.
Less admirable is the horde of people just watching. Why did no one call the cops? Or help? No, they just record it and put it on YouTube. Suddenly, his super hero identity has fans, lots of fans. This brings him to the notice of lots of people. Meanwhile the local crime lord is tracking down who has stolen his drugs, which he is doing by cutting people’s fingers off and putting other people in industrial microwaves to explode. The real culprits are the other super heroes in the movie, psycho vigilantes Big Daddy and Hit Girl.
They are truly an amazing father and daughter team of psychopaths. Big Daddy is this century’s winner of the Most Inappropriate Father Award who is on a punisher-like killathon working through the ranks of the crime boss’s henchmen and he has taken his 11 year old daughter along for the ride. By using comics to manipulate her mind and teaching her how to kill he has turned her into Hit Girl.
And Hit Girl is cool.
One definition of coolness is this, “The making of something that is difficult look easy”. That is why wearing sunglasses makes you look cool; walking in the sun requires that you squint. Squinting is effort. Wearing sunglasses you make walking in the sun look easy, therefore they are cool. Hit Girl makes killing look easy. She effortlessly slices up a drug-den of aggressive and violent “bad people” and inavertedly rescues Kick Ass from another serious ass kicking. In another scene she displays some of the best CQB gun play I have ever seen in film. She employs gen-3 night vision, the Mozambique drill, strobe lights, CQC knife/gun holds, tac-reloads and even ‘search and asses’! That this is being performed by a little girl, too young to fancy, made my spider sense go into overdrive.
I finally snapped when Kick Ass not only got the girl he had been lying too for weeks, in the most unlikely way, but he fucks her in the parking lot of the comic book store. I had that moment where you pull out of the film and wake up.
And suddenly it was all clear.
This film, with all its knowing winks to other super hero franchises, it’s horrific depictions of murder (such as a horrible moment where Dexter Fletcher is squashed in a car crusher by Hit Girl – and you see it all), its casual depiction of goodies & baddies by virtue of their masks, the Tarantino-inspired music and everyone but the main characters having nothing to do, is a satire. But not of what you think.
In one scene, the background characters see, as we do, the torture of Kick Ass and Big Daddy on screen. They are rescued on camera by a furiously shooting Hit Girl who then – having not broken sweat – casually shoots out the camera. They then comment to each other in a reflection of the thoughts going through the audience, and what do they say?
“I think I am in love with her.”
“Dude she is like 11 or something.”
Not a single word about Kick Ass and Big Daddy being brutally tortured, beaten to near death and Big Daddy being set on fire. They don’t care about that. Just like we don’t when we are watching. We already know what is going to happen, Kick Ass must survive, Big Daddy must die, but we don’t care at all. All we care about is how fucking cool Hit Girl is.
Yep, this film is a dark satire; It is a satire of us.
We film-watching idiots who sit through this stuff because it is cool, the comic reading fantasists living only on the internet. The porn watching, hentai viewing, YouTube nation that loves ultra-violence. The grosser Kick Ass was, the more the audience giggled and sighed like we were in a “feely” from A Brave New World.
The film is actually asking us, “Is this really what you will put up with?” Do we really want to apologise for an 11 year old shown slicing people up with a cute grin because it is a “cool” movie? Are we really going to accept whatever is thrown into our eyes and ears and make arguments that it is OK because we are completely desensitised to it all? Have we not played games with similar moments? Watched worse things on the net? Do we “care” about anything?
No, because this film kicks ass.
90% of the audience missed the point, missed that joke was on them, that they are the losers sitting around watching super hero movies rather than living a “real life”. Today I glanced through the comic in the bookshop and in the original version of Kick Ass, Big Daddy is eventually shown to be a liar and not an ex-cop with a grudge. A real nutter fantasist ruining his daughter by making her into Hit Girl. Also, Kick Ass doesn’t get the girl. And why? Because he is pathetic and had nothing to offer her.
That would have been a more satisfying ending than Hollywood’s version that hides the real target of the film’s satire. So, yes, Kick Ass handed me a stick and I have drawn my line. It was not where I was expecting to draw it on walking out of the film, but it is where I want it.
Kick Ass – do not want.