New action flick kicks up controversy

In the controversial new action film "Kick-Ass," a nerdy teen dons a mail-order wetsuit and sets out to fight crime in New York City. The only problem is that he has no superpowers whatsoever … unless you count being invisible to girls, a skill that is easily acquired by hanging out in a comic book store.

Thinking that all it takes is resolve and a cool costume, graphic comic fanboy Dave Lizewski hits the mean streets. Before he can do much good, though, he’s assaulted and the resulting video makes him something of an Internet celebrity attracting both thugs and vigilantes. Two of the latter, Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and daughter Mindy, are themselves basement superheroes ("Big Daddy" and "Hit Girl") only much better trained, armed and purposed.

Once a highly regarded cop, Damon was framed by the city’s underworld boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). While in prison, Damon’s wife died giving birth to Mindy. Now the duo has sworn vengeance, but if Lizewski (aka "Kick-Ass") will help or hinder that effort, is not obvious because D'Amico’s son Chris has a super-secret himself.

Whether or not the film lived up to its title, critics and fans can’t seem to agree. It topped the box-office chart, but Roger Ebert called it, "morally reprehensible." It is, but not for the reasons Ebert lamented.

Yes, it’s profane. Yes, it’s gratuitously violent. Yes, young purple-haired Chloe Grace Moretz is all shock and no awwwww. Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver." Brooke Shields in "Pretty Baby." Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." Nothing new there.


What’s really troubling, we realize, is that today’s heroes fight all alone. When Lizewski is being beaten by three people for trying to save a victim early in the film, for instance, he begs a passerby to call 911. The passerby instead runs into a diner and returns with his cell phone-wielding friends who video the carnage. "Awesome," they say, never lifting a finger to help. That’s morally reprehensible.

Lots of nervous laughs and odd choices: Elvis and Gatling guns ("Trilogy" works though Andrea Bocelli’s "Con Te Partirò" would have been a more operatic way to spray lead); Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was brilliant as the RPG dork in "Role Models," goes to the dark side as "Red Mist;" Nicolas Cage employs Adam West’s cadence; and, of course, angelic little 12-year-old Moretz channels Lenny Bruce.

Overall original and entertaining, but not for everyone, especially the squeamish. Think: "Spiderman" meets "Reservoir Dogs."

3 Honks

MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use — some involving children.

What To Read Next
Get Local