d. Matthew Vaughn / 2010 / USA-UK / 117 min
Viewed at: Screen 7 @ Vue West End (London, UK)
Catch up, catch up, catch up. Once again, by way of showing just how far behind I am on these here updates, I saw this film in a preview screening weeks before it was actually released, and that was literally months ago. Ho hum!
I’m sure you all know the story by now: a rather non-super(anti)hero sets out to fight crime in his own determined, if inept, way, gets some industrial strength innards after a particularly brutal beating, and ends up getting mixed up with some real life comic book mobsters. An enjoyable ride overall, sure, but it did have me uttering that classic line beloved of action-movie vets (and Danny Glover): ‘Man, I’m gettin’ too old fo’ this shiiit!’
In fact, I’m becoming somewhat concerned about my increasing sensitivity towards hyper-extreme violence (and, more specifically, the notion of immoral violence as an unapologetic form of entertainment). I’ve never been able to stomach the whole torture porn thing, and regular readers might remember that I took rather severe exception to Harry Brown (which was, incidentally, co-produced by Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn). Needless to say, I’m a little worried that one day I’ll wake up to discover that I only ever put down my copy of the Daily Mail in order to write a terse letter of complaint to the BBFC.
And Kick-Ass so clearly wanted to kick against all the usual tropes of Hollywood fantasy and fiction (and even made a couple explicit references to this fact), but it simply ended up falling back on those same tropes by differentiating itself in a manner that only Hollywood knows, more swearing and more hyper-stylised violence.
Sure, it was adapted from a comic book and a rather stylised one at that, but for all its hyper-violence and false sense of unaffected über-coolness, this film did have a few interesting things to say about our everyday passivity towards violence and the mortal fear of getting caught up in someone else’s problems, as well as our increasing obsession with fly-by-night cyber-fads.
It also provided some fairly adept intertextual interplay that dared to not underestimate its audience, throwing in a series of references without a care whether audiences would ‘get’ them, surely something to be admired in this age of an increasingly dumbed-down Hollywood. (Let’s just hope the same will be said for Scott Pilgrim when it hits screens later this year.)
Perhaps the most interesting comment Kick-Ass makes on our modern attitude towards violence – albeit an unintentional one, I would guess – comes towards the end of the film, when the whole city stops to watch violent torture streamed live on the internet, and re-broadcast on the TV news. Rendered impassive by this extreme violence, the curiosity of the citizenry provides a rather interesting rejoinder to the videos of torture that have emerged from both sides of the ‘War on Terror’.
This passivity, and the cynical nature of both audiences and the media, is further reflected in the anchorman’s statement that they still don’t know if the footage is ‘real’ or ‘just a publicity stunt’. It also raises similar questions to the climactic Parisian cinema scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: Is it feasible to judge your audience’s sensitivity to violence within the context of your own extremely violent film? And if it is all just a ‘joke’, as many have claimed, at whose expense?