Richard Roeper Blog

“Kick-Ass” — WTF did she just say?!?

From today’s Chicago Sun-Times:


Last Thursday night I was at a screening of “Kick-Ass,” a movie generating a considerable amount of controversy, with Roger Ebert calling it “morally reprehensible” and Leonard Maltin jokingly telling the Trib the movie signals “the destruction of civilization as we know it.”

Filmed in a frenetic style, “Kick-Ass” features an 11-year-old called “Hit Girl” who slices and dices and kicks and shoots the bad guys to pieces, all the while using language that would make Quentin Tarantino blush. (Or perhaps gush.)

I’ve seen more than a thousand movies in the last decade. Until “Kick-Ass,” I had not seen an 11-year-old use the c-word.

Late in the movie, there’s a scene in which Hit Girl and the title character are driving the car owned by Red Mist, who’s played by the kid who was McLovin’ in “Superbad,” and yes, I realize half of these names sound more like energy drinks or colognes than movie characters.

Anyway. The character of “Kick-Ass” has been bloodied, so he’s recovering in the passenger seat while Hit Girl is driving and they’re plotting their next move.

And that’s when the woman behind me at the screening said, “She’s driving! She’s way too young to be driving.”

So you didn’t say a word while Hit Girl was saying “m———–,” you didn’t utter a peep while Hit Girl was stabbing and crippling and killing one thug after another — but now that she’s driving you’re worried?

The headline on Mark Caro’s story in the Tribune read, “Is ‘Kick-Ass’ star a lil’ menace to society?”

“There was a kind of firewall between kids and violence, and that firewall is completely gone now,” film critic and author Neal Gabler tells Caro. “Kids sit around and kill people on video games.”

The Trib’s Michael Phillips “started hating this movie around the midpoint,” not so much for the language employed by Hit Girl as for “how stupidly relentless the gore is, from beginning to end.”

Gory, yes — but I found “Hit Girl” to be consistently entertaining, from the “real-world” set-up in which a high school kid with no superpowers whatsoever decides to try to become a superhero to the introduction of the Hit Girl character in a wickedly funny scene with her father (played by Nicolas Cage), through all the slam-bang action sequences.

Yes, “Kick-Ass” is relentlessly violent, but it’s framed and shot as a cinematic graphic novel, true to the style of the comic books that were created in tandem with the movie. (In fact, the back story of Hit Girl and her father is revealed as a character reads a comic book.) It feels hyperrealistic.

Many of the kills are executed, so to speak, in cartoonishly over-the-top fashion. The sequences in which Hit Girl whirls about, offing one mobster after another, are in quotes; they’re as stylized as the scene in “Kill Bill” where Uma Thurman’s Bride wipes out dozens of henchmen.

(Overall, “Kick-Ass” was actually received well by the critics, with a 78 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Box office was fairly soft: about $19.75 mil.)

Was I jolted by the sight of an 11-year-old girl using that language? Yes. Do I think most 11-year-old girls have heard those words, but know better than to actually say them? Yes again.

Chloe Grace Moretz, the actress who plays Hit Girl, is now 13. I met her in the WLS-AM studios last Friday as she was on a promotional tour for the movie. She seems like a nice kid. More self-possessed and confident than a lot of people twice her age — but that could be said of a lot of 13-year-olds these days.

“I would never in a million years say those words, because I was raised to believe cussing makes you sound like an unintelligent individual and I don’t want to sound like that,” said Moretz.

Note to self.

If the real issue here is the age of Hit Girl — well, this certainly isn’t the first time a child has been in a controversial, R-rated movie. Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” Jodie Foster as a hooker in “Taxi Driver,” young Natalie Portman learning the ways of the hit man in “The Professional,” Dakota Fanning as a rape victim in “Hounddog.” All of those films were set in much more realistic worlds than “Kick-Ass.” (And in the fantasy genre, remember Kirsten Dunst as a child bloodsucker in the R-rated “Interview with a Vampire”?)

As for how these movies affect the child actors: Jodie Foster starred in “Taxi Driver.” Lindsay Lohan starred in “The Parent Trap.” Natalie Portman starred in “The Professional.” Danny Bonaduce was in “The Patridge Family.” I rest my case.

Of course there are dozens of factors that contribute to a child actor’s maturation process, but the type of material one performs as an adolescent doesn’t seem to hold much influence.

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