The premise seems innocent enough: A high school dork is sick of getting mugged, so he decides to order a costume, do some pushups, watch a martial arts training video online, and take to the streets to start superheroing. He gets his butt kicked pretty good by some common streets thugs, but he holds his own against a mugger, and has the good fortune of becoming a youtube sensation. Kick-Ass is born.
Had this been played for satire, the film might have become a darkly humorous rebuke to vigilantism. Instead, Kick-Ass celebrates vigilantism, as if this movie were some sort of Icon Productions how-to video for young Mel Gibsons. Nic Cage plays a dad who spent time behind bars and has dedicated his life to seeking revenge. So, long story short, he regains custody of his daughter, who he turns into something like a combination of Dora the Ruthless Murderer—a pint sized Chow Yun Fat. The film’s set pieces feature the little girls dispatching baddies like The Bride in Kill Bill, with Tarantino’s eye for streams of blood and lopped body parts.
It’s one thing for Quentin Tarantino to unleash his kind of metacognitive b-movie violence, but it’s a whole other thing to involve kids. There’s absolutely no meditation on violence and death—you kill because they stand in between you and the crime boss. Really, the film peddles a kind of child pornography: If we think of children as little adults, there’s nothing that separates what’s appropriate for adults and what’s appropriate for children. The film takes pain to ensure realism—these are real people who are really shot and whose brains really splatter. You can’t have it both ways—you can’t at once say that this is a cartoon and also be thrilled by the authenticity of carnage.