Hit Girl Is a “Kick-Ass” Hero for All Ages

Killer kid steals the movie – and incites controversy. In the end, she’ll knock the critics on their butts

She kills – too many times for the casual viewer to keep an accurate count.

She curses – including spewing two words, beginning with the same letter, that likely have never been uttered by an 11-year-old girl in a mainstream movie.

The great Roger Ebert, among others, suggests that her character pushes the often over-the-top comic-book flick “Kick-Ass” over the edge into “morally reprehensible” territory.

Amid the controversy, we’ll make a prediction: Hit Girl will go down in movie history as a “Kick-Ass” hero for the ages – all ages.

One of the film’s primary and winning conceits is that the title character Kick-Ass doesn’t have a typical superhero origin tale, ala Spider-Man or Batman. But Hit Girl has a close-to-classic backstory: Her father, an ordinary hero done wrong by those in power on both sides of the law and devastated by loss, raises his daughter to become a costumed killing-and-cussing machine for the cause of good.

So when Hit Girl strikes out, it’s true to her character.

Which is not to say “Kick-Ass” is for everybody. The popcorn movie is rated R for good reason: this comic-book adaptation featuring an 11-year-old heroine wasn't made for 11 year olds.

Hit Girl’s initial impalement-fest is set to a manic version of the theme from “The Banana Splits,” a kiddie show that few under 40 probably remember. In Nicholas Cage’s turn as Hit Girl’s father, the Batman-like Big Daddy, he reaches back to channel the clipped cadences of Adam West, who played Caped Crusader in the 1960s campy TV show.

“Kick-Ass” may not even be for some folks old enough to appreciate those touches: As in a Quentin Tarantino flick, director Matthew Vaughn’s film moves jarringly from comic violence to fast-and-furious, gut-pounding bloodshed and back again. It’s fun at times to watch Hit Girl mow down the bad guys, and disturbing at others, especially when she gets knocked around. Her foul mouth is the least of the issues.

The character’s power and the appeal doesn’t rest solely in her salty language and violent exploits. Hit Girl, as portrayed by the talented Chloe Grace Moretz, is a product – but never a victim – of her circumstances.

Her sense of right-and-wrong has been shaped by her father, with whom she has a unique, loving relationship. When left alone, she’s the one character in the film  – at least on the heroic side – with a clear sense of purpose, guts and determination.

That doesn’t sound quite “morally reprehensible” to us. And it makes us wonder whether there would be a similar outcry, if the character were named, say, Hit Boy.

Hit Girl may literally break hearts, but the only thing she can be charged with is stealing the show.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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