As I wrote about last May, the movie Kick Ass is a near-masterpiece and is the best movie – by far – since The Matrix.
“This movie has broken every rule,” the director said. “The way it was made, the way it was written, the way it was financed, the way it was directed. We didn’t do anything by the book. Maybe that’s why it feels so fresh,” said Vaughn, who financed the reported $30-million film himself. <source>
“Fresh.” Oh yes, how very true indeed. It is “fresh” for many reasons, not least of which is the presence of not one, but two bona fide crime-fighting heroes. “Bona fide” means “made in good faith without fraud or deceit,” and the two heroes are the real deal, as measured by body count and moral clarity. But the fact that one of the heroes is an 11-year old girl – whose crime-fighting nom-de-guerre is Hit Girl – is what pushes the “freshness” over the top. Her ability to deliver death blows to mobsters while weighing barely 60 pounds and sporting a nod and a wink is a revelation in the midst of the impotence emanating from every corner of society, both real and imagined in other so-called hero movies.
What’s that you say? Batman and Spiderman are also crime fighting heroes? Ridiculous. They can’t allow themselves to kill any of the villains no matter how pure the evil; they short circuit at critical moments and hold back, deceiving us and their fraudulent selves (you know, like Obama in the White House). They pretend to bring justice, but they never do. Here is a more comprehensive discussion of the Dark Knight’s power failure, and here is another by Douglas Ernst, who is an authority on comic books and their relationship to culture.
In great contrast, Hit Girl, and Kick Ass, breaks us free from the soul-crushing moral confusion of modern American culture, where the sadistic and cruel among us seem always to elicit more sympathy from society than do their victims.
But as I foreshadowed, Kick Ass is a near-masterpiece, not a masterpiece, because the director lost his nerve in the final fight scene (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie – and if you haven’t then see it RIGHT AWAY).
The exhilaration one feels as Hit Girl and Big Daddy mow down dozens of would-be killers runs into a brick wall when Hit Girl finally squares off against the man who murdered her mother and father. In this climactic moment, she inexplicably ends up lying on a table, helpless, as the misanthrope prepares to kill her. That she is in such a helpless position is not at all consistent with everything we have come to know about this character. I do not object to seeing her struggle as she battles a more powerful enemy (the last man standing always is), but seeing her fall short of her goal after witnessing her father being burned alive was reminiscent of the sadistic letdowns of the Batman films; we just don’t need it.
But then, to add insult to injury, the director indulges a full-on Prince Charming / Damsel-in-Distress motif <queue vomiting sound> by having the character known as Kick Ass – a hapless, hopeless boob who possesses no fighting skills and even worse judgment – save Hit Girl, kill the villain, and then carry her off in his arms.
In fact I can divine several possible explanations for this sickening turn of events, including (1) that the movie needed to resolve through its main character, which was Kick Ass, not Hit Girl, and (2) Hit Girl kills dozens of bad guys without emotion, but when facing the direct target of her vengeance, she is perhaps compromised by emotion.
As for #1, Hit Girl, by the end of the movie, has completely stolen the show and any effort to restore Kick Ass to the central role is in vain. As for #2, such a reason would be interesting, but it need not have been portrayed so severely.
Such a final act is a stain on this brilliant film and I must beg the Director to give us an alternative ending on the next DVD release. You MUST restore the integrity of this great work and give Hit Girl the final kill shot. Go ahead and have the buffoon assist her, even in a meaningful way, but she must strike the final blow, and she must not be carried off in anyone’s arms.