I watched a couple of movies during my long train ride to Texas.
Cop Out has it’s funny moments but overall it has an unhealthy mix of over the top violence and silly humor. Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis play moderately likeable, semi-competent cops. The humor mostly works well but the violence feels jarring and tacked on.
Kick Ass works better as a semi-satiric superhero movie. While the titular hero is a competent but boring everyman type, the story really should revolve around Hit Girl, the sociopathic side kick of Nic Cage’s character Big Daddy. Kick Ass’s story is fairly straightforward. He’s a wimpy kid who was inspired by comic books to don a scuba suit and mask to fight crime, mostly small stuff like stopping muggings while generally getting being beat up a lot during his attempts.
Hit Girl’s story is far darker and more compelling. Her father is a cop who is wrongly convicted of dealing drugs. This drives his pregnant wife to attempt suicide, leading Hit Girl at one point to disturbingly dismiss her as having died for nothing. (In fact the mother delivering the child who would become Hit Girl.)
But the father sets his sights on becoming the perfect crime fighting hero. And when he gets out of jail, he sets his sights on turning his now eleven year old daughter into the perfect crime fighter as well. Both father and child are transformed into ruthless sociopaths, killing bad guys with nihilistic glee. It’s a very dark story which this movie glosses over with bright colors, cheery music, and by focusing on the more PG-rated exploits of Kick Ass.
This also leads to a problem with the final confrontation at the end of the movie. Hit Girl is largely untouched as she gleefully mows down the bad guys. But near the end, she finds herself badly beaten and has to be rescued by Kick Ass. While this is supposed to symbolize the arrival of Kick Ass as a “real” superhero, it also suggests a disturbing double standard. If it had been a “Hit Boy” who had to be rescued by a female hero, I imagine that the scene would have come off as emasculating.
But with Hit Girl, it feels like an attempt to soften her and help turn her into a “normal” girl. Indeed, there is something of a sense of triumph as Hit Girl gets to be a normal girl who attends a normal school when we know her horrific back story. And it is a pretty dark story, rivaling anything you’d see in say, Spawn or the darker Batman stories.
Ultimately, Kick Ass is definitely not a story for kids but for someone who goes in prepared for the dark nihilism that must assert itself for the story to work. If you are not in that frame of mind, you will likely find Kick Ass to be sadistic garbage. But if you can put yourself in that frame of mind, that this is a dark story hidden under bright colors, you will really enjoy this movie.