Posted on August 3, 2010 at 8:00 am

“Kick-Ass” revels in its transgressive, nasty brutishness, and its audience will, too.
Of course, it’s one thing to have a 11-year-old girl in a comic book use very strong language and kill lots of people and it is another thing in a live-action movie, when the character is played by an actual 12-year-old. So let me say up front that I object to the rules allowing a child actor to perform this kind of role. If there are words an adult could be arrested for saying to a child, a child should not be permitted to say them on screen. Director Matthew Vaughn says that it is hypocritical for people to complain about the language used by a young girl, but not the violence. Well, first, I am complaining about the violence; I do not think children should be permitted to film graphic violent scenes whether they are the perpetrator or the victim (this movie has both). And second, the violence is fake but the language is real, so it is fair to take that seriously. So, for the record, to the extent I endorse this film, I want to be clear that I object to the involvement of a then-12-year-old in making it. kick-ass-hit-girl-uk-poster.jpg
The problem is that it is getting harder and harder to find anything that is shocking or disturbing and having a child use bad language — in this case some crude sexual terms that are arguably misogynistic — and shoot bad guys in the face is one of the few remaining ways to provoke that delicious boundary-defying sensation. And — reservations aside — it works. Seeing Hit Girl, well, kick ass to the kicked-up-a-notch cartoon theme from the “Banana Splits” and then to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” is a tonic. And there is something undeniably heady about seeing a vulnerable young girl mow down the bad guys — like “Home Alone” on crack.
“Kick-Ass” is a knowing tweak on the comic book genre. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a comics-loving high school student who dreams of being a superhero, but, as he says, “My only super-power was being invisible to girls.” Undaunted, he orders a diving suit, turns it into a uniform, and re-creates himself as Kick-Ass, defender of justice. And then he gets beat up, stabbed, and sent to the hospital. No radioactive spider-bites or gamma rays, but he does come out of the hospital with two helpful results from his injuries — nerve damage that lessens his ability to feel pain and some metal plates in his bones that make his x-ray look — at least to him — like Wolverine’s.
Meanwhile, a former cop (Nicolas Cage) is raising his young daughter to be a killing machine, a pint-sized Kill Bill he calls Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). His superhero persona is Big Daddy and his uniform is reminiscent of both Batman and Night Hawk. What they don’t have in superpowers they have in training, equipment, very, very heavy artillery, and single-minded focus.
Director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, “Layer Cake”) has a great eye and knows how to stage stylish, striking action scenes. Moretz (500 Days of Summer and Diary of a Wimpy Kid) has a great deadpan delivery and a natural chemistry with Cage, whose witty, skewed take is slyly funny.
The superhero genre has always been about transformation — the mild-mannered loser who contains within him (if only everyone knew!) a secret source of power. Here, the power is not x-ray vision or the ability to fly; just an extra dose of the hallmarks of adolescence: an affect of ennui about everything but smashing through limits and a sense of irony about everything but sex.

Parents should know that this film is intended to be shocking. It has very graphic and intense, though stylized, violence, characters in peril, injured and killed, constant very strong and crude language, vulgar and explicit sexual references and situations, and drug use. Note that a large part of this movie’s transgressive thrill comes from the depiction of a young girl using outrageously bad language and being involved in brutal violence, killing many adults and being hit and injured.
If you like this, try: the Kill Bill movies, Shoot ‘Em Up, and the Kick-Ass comic book

Related Tags:


Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Crime Fantasy

33 Replies to “Kick-Ass”

  1. I’d just like to say that your review is refreshingly open and honest about just what Kick-Ass is and isn’t as a movie.
    I wish more reviewers were as honest with themselves and their audiences as you.

  2. As a big comic book and film fan, I have to say that I admire, respect, and – yes – AGREE with your opening comments about children displaying R-rated behavior in movies. It’s one of the reasons I can’t enjoy some of the films that get praised up and down (Little Miss Sunshine, for example)…. How can you enjoy some of this if you really care about children? There’s a lot to be said for innocence.
    Too bad we’ve forgotten.

  3. so you think the “rules” shouldnt allow a child to play this kind of role? sheesh whats next? back to the days where married couples had to be shown sleeping in separate twin beds?
    this movie was refreshing, funny, violent, and at times disturbing…all qualities of a good movie…
    note: I am very thankful you are NOT responsible for writing the rules around who can do what in cinema…the world would much more boring and middle aged

  4. Thanks for the comment, Andyk. But I have to disagree with your analogy — the law treats children and adults differently for a reason. We have a number of laws in place reflecting the inability of children to protect themselves. With regard to show business alone, there are a number of restrictions on the hours they can work and the activities they can be asked to do. Some of these rules were strengthened after two children were killed with Vic Morrow in a movie stunt that went wrong. So, I am just saying that those kinds of rules should apply in this situation. I’m sure you’d agree that there are some things kids should not be allowed to do, even though we may disagree on whether using this kind of language on screen is one of them.
    I have to disagree, too, with your idea that it is worth sacrificing the best interests of a child for the amusement of the audience. If having a child use the c-word and shoot guys in the face is necessary to titillate movie-goers to keep them from being “boring and middle-aged,” maybe they need to get a life, you know, the real kind that isn’t so boring you need that kind of stimulation.
    If you read the review, you’ll see I enjoyed the movie. I’m a Comic-Con-attending fangirl and I have given good reviews to films like “Kill Bill” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” I just think that, as I said in the review, it’s one thing to have a girl in a comic book behave that way and another thing to have an actual child — whose parents are obviously willing to sacrifice her interests for their own ambitions — subjected to this treatment for the ephemeral amusement of people like you.

  5. “his movie was refreshing, funny, violent, and at times disturbing…all qualities of a good movie…”
    This really depresses me, more than pretty much anything I’ve read about this movie all day. It depresses me that people think that violence and transgression are necessary to make a “good” movie.

  6. I have to disagree with your view that roles like this should not be played by children. The movie industry has laws to protect child actors and studios hire a child protection policy officer to insure that these laws are not violated. As for language, it’s just words. She is old enough to understand when and where it is improper to use this language, and acting is not the real world. I can assure you she had heard every curse word used in the movie before filming started. Besides, in Great Britain the word cunt is often used as a term of endearment.

  7. Nell,
    I, too, enjoyed this movie and have been an almost lifelong comic collector. I also admit that, while I am not opposed to teaching my daughter how to defend herself, I would never tolerate a lack of decorum on her part. I read a quote by Ms. Moretz stating that she would be grounded until she was 20 if she ever said any of those lines of dialogue at home and that she referred to the movie as “the film” when in public. This shows a certain level of maturity in the ability to separate the actress from the role, and I would have to credit her parents for that, not think of them as potentially money-grubbing.
    I must applaud you, Nell, for your objective reviews of movies, even those that contain adult content or what is considered by most as “objectionable”.
    I always check your site before seeing a film, whether it’s just my wife and I or whether we’re taking our daughter. Keep up the good work.

  8. Thanks, Adam. I believe it was just those laws you refer to which were violated here, in spirit if not in letter, and what I am asking for is that those laws be made clearer to prevent this kind of situation from occurring again. Words have meanings, and just as “bloody” is not a swear word in the US, other words that may be permissible elsewhere still are considered inappropriate here. She used more than one word that I do not think was appropriate.

  9. Thanks, Mr. English, for the kind words and the thoughtful comment. I do not feel that this young girl, only 12 at the time of filming, was old enough to make an informed decision about what she was doing and it was the responsibility of her parents to be more protective. But I am glad you understand that I can object to how the actress was treated and still appreciate what the film has to offer. All best to you and your family.

  10. I think Hit Girl is rightfully the most controversial element of this movie. Just from the previews I had an immediate dual reaction, on the one hand cruel/excessive violence just isn’t my thing, on the other hand I was excited to see a competent strong (albeit a ruthless) young female character.
    I think the problem with rules to limit children engaging in theatrical violence is the question of where do you draw the line? It’s so subjective. What about Haley Jo-Osmand(sp)? The Sixth Sense wasn’t violent or crude, but it was definitely scary and had “adult themes.” So do we say children can’t do anything in a movie that would count toward an R rating? The other issue is that the actress playing Hit Girl actually sought this part out after seeing an Aneglina Jolie Movie, I saw her Comic-Con interview and this was clearly her choice, she wasn’t just interested, but excited about the prospect of playing a character like hit-girl who did the things hit-girl did.
    Has she suffered some psychological trauma? Is she now “tainted by adult themes?” When your definition of protecting children includes keeping them simple and unaware I think you are going to wind up hurting them. Some children mature quicker and aren’t as effected by these things. Moreover, childhood innocence at that level becomes sort of draconian. Now if she was actually injured, or was required to actually kill someone (I think it is waay less traumatic to film a facsimile then watch a facsimile, there’s probably nothing shocking about hacking away at someone with a plastic-retractable-sword in front of a green screen), that would be a major issue.
    In this case, I think it hurts parents more to have their ideas of their children as sweet-cheeked and innocent be disillusioned than it hurts the kids to disillusion them.
    Fortunately for Chloe her parents knew her well enough to know she could handle green-screen violence and harsh language in an acting role, and trusted her enough to let her go after where she wanted to push herself as an actress.

  11. Nell, first and foremost, I do agree with you that making a 12 year old commit violence and use profanity isn’t something someone should condone or encourage. Having said that, I had a feeling that the c-word was the reason you made the claim that some words used in the movie were “crude sexual terms that are arguably misogynistic”. I’m not sure how this word is ‘misogynistic’ just by its use, just as the f-word is not always describing intercourse.
    The c-word itself is a slang for female genitalia, which can help explain why it is that word and that word alone that is causing so much controversy. Nevermind the fact that the same 12 year old used the other c-word which is a slang for male genitalia. In our culture, in our society, any words or references to female genitals are FAR more taboo than any words that refer to male genitals. In fact, the c-word (female) is regarded as the most taboo word in the English language – more taboo than the f-word. Maybe because female genitals are the most taboo body parts of all?
    Just take a look at other parental websites out there like Common Sense Media’s site. On their site, they have a language section for each movie they review. What you’ll notice is they will make a list of words used in a movie, and any slang word that references male genitals will be spelled out completely (like the d-word) while any word that references female genitals is always hyphenated like “p—y”, even when the word is not used to describe female genitals but a weak male, such as in the Transformers 2 movie. They can spell out words that describe male genitals, but spelling out words that describe female genitals is a big no-no. Why is that?
    Even on that show “Grey’s Anatomy”, the word “vagina” is banned completely, while the word “penis” isn’t. The show is where the now popular term “vajayjay” was coined because they needed a way to say “vagina” without actually saying “vagina” due to complaints from viewers (women) and complaints from Standards and Practices. This is true even though the word “penis” had been used nearly twice as often as “vagina” on that show, and even though the show is about doctors, a hospital, and a medical staff. The biological word, not slang, for a part of the female anatomy is banned, while the biological word for the male anatomy isn’t.
    Nell, again, I agree with what you are saying about not using a 12 year old for swearing and violence. What I stated above is in no way me encouraging the use of 12 year olds the way one was used in this film. The point I was making is the hypocrisy of movie critics in how it was a specific word that they complain about, rather than saying 12 year olds shouldn’t be swearing period. You didn’t seem to mind that there were tons of swear words used by teens, including several uses of slang words for male genitals, in the movie “SuperBad” when you gave that movie a good grade. Why is the use of any word that describes female genitals, including the biological names, always generating complaints?
    Our society’s fear of female genitalia continues…

  12. Dave, I appreciate your comment but you are wrong on a number of points. She uses crude terms for both male and female anatomy in this movie and I object to both equally. She uses the female term — but not the male term — as an insult, which is why I consider it misogynistic. So with regard to my comments, your point about a double standard has no validity whatsoever.

  13. Thanks for you views, Not a Mom. I agree it is a matter of drawing the line and we may just have different ideas of where that line should be. You can speak in general terms about the real world and not trying to keep children from growing up but ultimately it will be on a case-by-case basis and on this particular set of facts I believe, as I said, that we — her parents, the studio, the law — have failed in our responsibility to this child.

  14. Nell, I doubt that if she said the c-word to describe female genitals, as opposed to using it as an insult, that somehow you and other critics would be ok with the use of the word, or at least more ok with it being used this way rather than an insult. In fact, in one of your other responses above, you made mention that the 12 year old said the c-word which is what you objected to, without mentioning it was used as an insult. (“If having a child use the c-word and shoot guys in the face is necessary to titillate movie-goers……”).
    She also uses the f-word as well which can be used to titillate movie-goers, but you didn’t mention that. That’s the point I was making. I can understand what you are saying, but it just seems like using the c-word is automatically misogynistic, yet if someone were to call someone else the d-word or a c–ksucker, that would be ok – as evidenced by the fact that these 2 insults are constantly being used in movies without generating any complaints at all, yet the c-word (female) generates tons of complaints. Also, the word “bitch” is often used as a way to insult women, yet no complaints of misogyny. I guess since that word is general and is a word that describes a female dog, it generates no complaints, but the c-word that is used as an insult is misogynistic since it is also a slang for female genitals. I would think that both would be considered misogynistic when used as insults, right?
    While I didn’t mention anything of a “double standard” per se, you did say that the movie has “crude sexual terms that are arguably misogynistic.” How can the word be sexual if you are saying the word is misogynistic since it was used as an insult?
    I’m really more astonished by the fact that a particular word that is used as an insult generates more complaints than other words, and “coincidentally”, the word is a reference to female genitals, yet the other insults which receive no complaints aren’t. This is why I stated our society still has a fear of female genitalia which I believe is a true statement.
    I thank you for your time and allowing me to voice my viewpoint.

  15. Dave, your reliance on speculation merely demonstrates your inability to find an inconsistency with what I said as opposed to what you think I am thinking. The fact that I used an example of my objections in an earlier reply rather than listing every one does not mean that I do not apply the same standard and for those who have seen the movie at least the context of its use was implied in my reference.
    As before, I find your insistence on what you consider a double standard to be off base. I am leaving your comment as is but again ask that you recognize that we have long since come to the end of the line on this debate and move on to other topics.

  16. I just saw the movie. I actually liked it and I think it is defenitely for an adult audience. I was more shocked by the violence perpetrated by the child than I was by her use of vulgar language. I think kids these days probably do speak like that. Having said that, I really hope they did not have her actually utter those lines, but edited them in somehow.

  17. Saw this today and loved every minute of it (and so did my 59 year old mother-surprise!). All this negative criticism is ridiculous. It’s a movie! Make believe! Nobody actually got hurt! Except in a very few places where it’s played straight (the internet unmasking scene for instance), the violence is so over the top it’s absurd. You can’t take it seriously. To take the film seriously and be offended by it is to completely miss the point. The film is nothing more or less than the ultimate adolescent fantasy cranked up to eleven. This is why (I predict) the film is going to be a massive hit and become a pop culture phenomenon. Mark Millar is writing a sequel comic book, so with any luck a sequel film won’t be far behind.

  18. Thanks, migly — I liked the movie, too, as you can see from my review. The young girl did in reality say those lines, so, as you can also see in my review, I object to her being aloud to do so. I do not think children should use that language or act in scenes involving that kind of violence.

  19. Thanks, Vince, and since I am close to your mother’s age, I am not surprised that she liked it — I did, too. I have given good reviews to a number of films with over-the-top violence (and some with straight-on, brutal but more realistic violence, too).
    I was a bit surprised that the movie under-performed expectations this weekend. It appears that it will do well but not be a massive box office success, perhaps because, as one newspaper wrote, its core audience is too young and will have to wait to see it on DVD and cable.

  20. This movie is probably one of the most disturbing movies I have seen. An 11-year old killing people? You can’t get a way with the idea “Oh its just a movie” “It’s all made up” because the joy and pleasure youre getting out of this is NOT made up. How can anyone find this interesting? Thats just gross. Its sad how movie making has gone to extremes like these to get peoples attention. The sad truth is that movies are becoming more violent, sexual and full of profanity. Whats next? People finding child pornigraphy funny all with the excuse that “It’s just a movie” Whats wroing with these people? These is nothing wrong with the movie there is something seriously wrong with the people obtaining pleasure and joy of watching such things. I am outraged. This movie was filles with nothing but cheap laughs, vulgar language and sexuality that only make perverse people laugh.

  21. cc people don’t laugh at is because its full of cussing, or because an 11 year old girl cuts up a bunch of people, we laugh at the funny themes and running gags, like 2 guys making out with their girlfriends while their equally geeky friend sits alone reading a kick-ass comic. and in all honesty, the movie is more an action flick, not a comedy. and the only attention grabber they need is the opening line, “i always wondered why no one ever did it before me. you would think that one eccentric loner would have stitched himself a costume.” that line along with all the comic inspired movies of late is all they need to draw a crowd. well, the fan-boys and girls dont need any help, we’ll be there in costume first row even if there was no advertising for it.we find the story, and message interesting, not the girl getting a meat cleaver to the face, not the junkie getting maced and or tased in the face. no we watch it for the truth it holds, the truths of how if a guy wearing tights and a ski mask stopped some muggers, the cops would ask whats wrong with him, not the 3 muggers that jumped the desk jockey, not the dozens of people who just stood by and watched, just the certifiably loner in the jumpsuit, that just saved some strangers life.

  22. I’m sorry, I seem to be lost. I thought Beliefnet was a place that celebrated religion and morality and virtue. Giving movies like this favorable reviews must mean that my Belief about what Beliefnet is all about is very, very mistaken.

  23. Greetings, Ardra, and welcome. Beliefnet is a community made up of a wide range of people with a wide range of beliefs, but we all agree that “Our mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.” I think if you read what I write on this blog you will see that my review of this film is consistent with a commitment to celebrate religion, morality, and virtue. The film is in its own way a very traditional good vs. evil morality tale, with its hero rebelling against lethargy, fear, and doubt to act on behalf of justice and protect the weak. I evaluate all films within the context of their intended audience and aspirations. With the reservations noted in the review, I believe that this film has value for its intended audience. But I respect your view and would be glad to have your comments at any time.

  24. It fills me with such joy and gives me such hope for humanity when someone can object to a film’s content, yet appreciate its quality and give it a fair rating. Something I sadly cannot say about the review of one of the few remaining critics I respect, Roger Ebert.
    Look, I’m a 17-year-old Deist, and one loves comic books and has misanthropic tendencies at that, so I doubt I can speak for everyone, but I think we all need to decide for ourselves not only what is acceptable in our entertainment, but, yes, what we let our children do. As has been stated many times in the comments, the young and VERY talented Miss Moretz has said multiple times in interviews that she wanted to take on the role, that she was exicted for it. And it can also be seen from these same interviews that she understands the difference between fantasy and reality (this is something I feel far too many parents neglect to teach thier children). If she were more like, forgive me for this nerdy comparsion, Calivn from Calvin & Hobbes, then, yeah, her parents probably shouldn’t have (and wouldn’t have) let her play the role. But it’s pretty clear that’s not the case, and henceforth, I, myself cannot object to thier descision, her descision, and Matthew Vaughn’s descision.
    Am I saying this is proof that this should be allowed in all cases? No. It all depends on the individual. If the child is willing to take on the role, understands that the role is a work of fiction and also the physical tasks that may or may not come with the role, then by all means, let them have at it. However, if any one of these is not true (which they all appear to be true in Miss Moretz’s case), then I understand trepidation beforehand and, should the situation go unchecked, objection after the fact.
    But, again, Teenage Deist who Loves Comic Books and Has Misanthropic Tendencies. Your mileage may vary.

  25. Thanks, ZimMan2! I appreciate your comment very much. I, too, am a comic-book-loving Deist. (I’ll be at Comic-Con this week, so come back and read about my adventures.)
    I understand you might not agree with me about this, but I do not believe an 11-year-old’s is necessarily in a position to decide what is in her best interest. She may feel very differently about this decision when she is a little older.
    I agree that she is very talented. She’s terrific in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” too. She is starring in the remake of a terrific vampire movie next. Watch the original, “Let the Right One In,” and let me know what you think about how she will do.

Comments are closed.

THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik