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Richard Roeper Blog

“Kick-Ass” — WTF did she just say?!?

From today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

kick-ass-chloe-moretz-as-hit-girl-18-12-09-kc

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.


14 Responses to ““Kick-Ass” — WTF did she just say?!?”

  1. Brian Says:

    So, would letter grade do you give the movie? I enjoyed it and gave it a B.

  2. B Says:

    Give us a video review of Kick Ass! Who cares about a Funeral comedy or a Demi Moore movie. Come on.

  3. Matt Says:

    Richard –

    I thoroughly enjoy your reviews and am almost always on the same page as you. Why no review of this on your website? I was surprised to see a review for Death at a Funeral vs something unique as Kick-Ass.

  4. richard Says:

    Guys:

    I’d give “Kick-Ass” an A-.

    As for why I recorded reviews of “Death at a Funeral” and “The Joneses” instead of “Kick-Ass” — it’s all about scheduling. Because of other commitments, I wasn’t able to see “Kick-Ass” until the Thursday night before its release. After I see a movie, I have to set up a recording time, record the review and then get it to the fine folks at Starz so they can edit it. Even when I was on “Ebert & Roeper,” we’d tape on Wednesdays and the staff would work for hours to edit the show to drop in just the right clips and get the correct camera angles, etc.

    The time frame just wasn’t right for an on-camera review of “Kick-Ass”–but given the controversy over Hit Girl and the fact that I liked the movie so much, I decided to write a column about it for the Sun-Times, which is reprinted here.

    Best,

    RR

  5. B Says:

    Ebert just gave it one star and you A-.
    Would have been so nice, to see you and Ebert, discuss this movie. Like back in the good old At the movies days.
    Phillips and AO Scotts review was boring as hell.

  6. Michael Says:

    “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 Partridge Family.” I rest my case.”

    So funny!

    Opie/Ron Howard trumps that spread though. :-)

  7. Eric Says:

    Richard, I’m so glad to hear you kept this movie in proper perspective and thoroughly enjoyed it. After watching Michael and Tony’s completely dismissive review (and reading a similar one from another reviewer in the Times – as well as from Roger Moore, though I rarely find his observations on target) I was beginning to think that this movie that I had been looking forward to was not worth seeing. I have always found your insight and observations to be extremely reliable. Thanks for being the voice of reason in this debate!

  8. IrmaCMD Says:

    And you didn’t mention Brooke Shields and Pretty Baby. But honestly I think what’s shameful about this movie and her being 11 is that the bar has been lowered yet again. It started with The Incredibles, a violent film against children (even cartoon ones) and went lower with Dark Knight, a definite rated R movie marketed to 5 year olds. I know, I know…they see this crap on TV, in video games and on You Tube…

  9. Emmett Grady Says:

    I commented on Dud at a Funeral about the fact that you didn’t give this movie a review when you gave Neil LaBlute continuing descent into bad movies a video review. Are you going to give it a full review? I know you said it was an A-, being one of my favorite critics like Michael Phillips(who hated it) and Peter Travers(who gave it 3 stars but will probably change his review at the end of the year), I just want to hear more of what you thought about it.

  10. Kenny Cross Says:

    I not a fan of the movie as much as I am a HUGE fan of Hit-Girl. Every scene she is in, she steals. The energy goes up 100%. Her kinetic energy so to speak gives this movie life. McLovin’ is McBoring and the guy who plays Kick-Ass should be called Suck-Ass! The one girl Kick-Ass is drooling over thinks that he is gay so they become friends and he worries about telling her he is straight. Really? I mean REALLY??? The scene that introduces us to Hit-Girl and Big Daddy is awesome. Big Daddy shoots Hit-Girl while she is wearing a bulletproof vest – classic – and then they go for ice cream afterward.

    This would have been one of my favorite comic book movies ever if it was just about Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. Oh well.

    As for the cussing by Hit-Girl, come on. Adults often forget that they were 10 years old and had mouths that would make hardened criminals blush. It’s the same tired nonsense that you heard about South Park with the cartoon 3rd graders, now 4th graders cussing up a storm and that ‘Real kids don’t talk like that.” – Excuse me but maybe people have forgotten how they used to talk when they were kids. Maybe because I grew up in the 70′s, was seeing rated R movies when I was 7, and maybe because our parents trusted us to discern reality from fiction that it wasn’t such a big deal back then. Now an 11 year old girl says the C word in a movie and adults who had foul mouths at that age want to stand on their pedestals and point how horrible the world is becoming.

    Anywho I’d see this movie again because of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. Classic.

  11. Elois Kogan Says:

    Kickass was aweseome.I love Hitgirls fight scenes.

  12. inkjet ink cartridges Says:

    For the first time, Lindsay’s rehab looks promising. Maybe she finally gets it.

  13. ivan Says:

    Those were great points you made. It is a little socking at first and it’s far from a great movie but the controversy around it was unfair.

  14. ivan Says:

    the stuff about jodie foster in taxi driver, linda blair in the exorcist and such was spot on
    this is meant to be taken with humour, and anyone who enjoys a good tarantino movie will probabbly enjoy it even though it lacks that dialogue he’s so famous for.
    that little girl was good. i believe shes gonna be in that new scorsese movie.
    i hear it’s in 3d. I have faith that Scorsese will use this as more than just a gimmick and not let it take away from the experience of the movie, but we’ll see. He’s using 3d cameras instead of post production i think. either way it’ll probabbly be playing without 3d as well. im looking forward to it. if that girl is as good in that movie as she was in this one we’re in for a treat. it’ll also be nice to get a Scorsese movie I can take my little sister to :D

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