movie film review | chris tookey
 
     
     
 

Kick-Ass

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© Lionsgate Films - all rights reserved
     
  Kick-Ass Review
Tookey's Rating
3 /10
 
Average Rating
5.82 /10
 
Starring
Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass - Aaron Johnson , Chris D'Amico/Red Mist - Christopher Mintz-Plasse , Frank D'Amico - Mark Strong
Full Cast >
 

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman , based on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's comic book

 
 
 
Released: 2010
   
Genre: ACTION
COMIC STRIP
ADVENTURE
BLACK COMEDY
CONTROVERSIAL
COMEDY
   
Origin: UK/ Ireland/ Australia/ New Zealand/ US/ Canada
   
Colour: C
   
Length: 117
 
 


 
My review of Kick-Ass (see below) resulted in an extraordinary but revealing reaction by defenders of the movie.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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HOW I FELL FOUL OF THE INTERNET LYNCH MOB

A necessarily abbreviated and watered-down version of this article, for family consumption, was published in the Daily Mail on 29th April, 2010 and can be found on Daily Mail online. This is the full, unexpurgated version.

Cyber-bullying is a plague of epidemic proportions.

Nearly a fifth of young people in Europe have been bullied, harassed or stalked via the internet and mobile phones, according to a London School of Economics report. That proportion looks certain to rise, for America’s National Crime Prevention Council estimates that cyber-bullying now affects about half of American teens.

The results can be extremely serious. In 2007, 13-year-old Megan Meiers hanged herself after being cyber-bullied on MySpace. In 2008, a Brighton schoolboy attempted suicide after persecution on another social networking site, Bebo. In 2009, 15 year-old Cheshire schoolgirl Megan Gillan killed herself, also after being tormented on Bebo.

But cyber-bullying is not confined to children and teenagers. A recent survey by Britain’s Dignity and Work Partnership found that 1 in 5 UK employees had been bullied at work by e-mail, and that 1 in 10 believes cyber-bullying is a problem in their workplace.

The problem is that the internet positively encourages mud-slinging, because of the very way it operates. An unkind remark that most of us would never say to another person's face becomes much easier to express from the safety of a computer keyboard. Add to that the poisonous effect of anonymity - the ability to say anything you like without being held accountable for it - and, too often, any sense of civility is abandoned online.

I can say this with authority because I recently joined the ranks of the cyber-bullied, thanks to a review I wrote of Kick-Ass in the Daily Mail on April 2nd, which features a youth who decides to become a super-hero despite not having any special powers.

My complaint was that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s film purveys “a perniciously sexualised view of children and glorifies violence, especially knife and gun crime, in a way that makes it one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever”.

The reason I found the movie so objectionable was that its most violent, foul-mouthed and sexually aggressive character, Hit-Girl, was an 11 year-old.

I called attention to the obvious sexual overtones in the deliberately glamorous, fetishistic way Hit-Girl and her startlingly violent behaviour is portrayed, and in her sexually explicit vocabulary. The movie’s writers clearly wanted the audience to see Hit Girl not only as cool, but also as sexy, like an even younger version of the baby-faced oriental assassin in Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

“Paedophiles,” I wrote, “are going to adore her.”

The Daily Mail often sets the news agenda, and I knew my review would provoke debate. What I hadn’t anticipated is that it would result in an avalanche of vitriolic personal abuse.

Hundreds of bloggers, twitterers and facebook fiends weighed in, calling me “a perve”, “a fucking paedophile” and someone with either “an obsessed diseased mind” or “latent pedophiliac tendencies.”
One of my internet critics detected homosexual and bestial overtones to my writing: “Mr Tookey suck's [sic] donkey dick, who's fav film is prob ‘The Chipmunks take it up the chocolate speedway’. This guy needs to get a life and man up to the real world.”

Another concerned citizen wrote: “Personally, I wouldn't leave Mr. Tookey alone with anyone's kids or pets. I highly suspect he might think a dog is inviting sexual assault if he sees it licking it's [sic] own balls.”

Nor was I the only critic to be pilloried. Nigel Andrews’ negative review of the same film for the Financial Times led to him being denounced on the net as an “idiot” and a “moron”. One commentator addressed the award-winning critic and Cambridge graduate in person: “No wonder you gave it a bad review, your [sic] writing for the financial times, the newspaper for brain dead, incest rapist, BNP badge wearing tits!”

The Pulitzer prize-winning Roger Ebert, who is generally regarded as America’s most important film critic, gave Kick-Ass a one star-rating out of five (as I did) and asked: “Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool? Will I seem hopelessly square if I find Kick-Ass morally reprehensible?”

He too attracted astonishingly tasteless abuse on the net.

One person branded him a “fukstain”. Someone made reference to his recent operation for throat cancer which left him speechless, and wrote “I guess Ebert had his balls removed the same time they removed his jaw.”

As for Mark Millar, author of the comic book on which Kick-Ass is based, he had already used the internet to denounce Ebert’s negative review of a previous film based on his work, Wanted: “That fat bastard wouldn't know a good movie if it up and bit him in the goolies. If Ebert can wheel his arse into a theater to see Kick-Ass I promise it'll knock his jaw clean off!"

The targeting for personal abuse of Messrs Ebert, Andrews and myself was all the more remarkable since we were far from the only leading critics who deplored Matthew Vaughn’s movie.

One of the youngest national critics in the UK, Tim Robey of the Daily Telegraph, shared my view that the Hit-Girl character, a foul-mouthed, murderous 11 year-old, is “a deeply icky fetish figure who should set all sorts of schoolgirl-porn alarm bells ringing.”

In the Sunday Telegraph, Mike McCahill complained about the amount of “cold, unfelt violence: clearly, at the Methusalean age of 32, I fall outside the designated demographic, but then again I am old enough to remember plenty of films based on comic books that didn’t so obviously resemble instructional videos for sociopaths.”

Reviewers for the Observer and Mail on Sunday also found the film despicable. Even Kevin Maher in the Times, who praised the film’s action sequences, acknowledged that “morally, Kick-Ass tends to drift into the abyss, and certainly the pig-tailed sexy-assassin poses of Hit-Girl are problematic.”

Several American critics wrote reviews at least as damning as my own. One complained that “director-panderer Matthew Vaughn fetishizes the little girl.”

Another condemned the film as “cinematic child abuse” that “promotes and glorifies guns and youth violence to the max.”

A third wrote “Let’s just say you shouldn’t be surprised if you let your 8-year-old see this movie and they wind up expelled from school the next day for wielding a pocket knife.”

Anthony Lane, a respected British reviewer writing for the New Yorker, even repeated my view that paedophiles would love Hit-Girl. He wrote: “Kick-Ass is violence’s answer to kiddie porn. You can see it in Hit-Girl’s outfit when she cons her way past security guards — white blouse, hair in pigtails, short tartan skirt — and in the winsome way that she pleads to be inculcated into grownup excess. That pleading is the dream of every paedophile.”

Anyone doubting whether Hit-Girl really appeals to the perverted need only look at the comments on YouTube videos of her, which include “I’d fuck her brains out”, “mmmmm sexy”, “i wanna fuck her bad”, “she’s hot” and “I’d fuck the shit out of her tasty tight asshole. Damn she is so damn fine. My dick would explode if it even got near her sweet pussy.”

I would have thought that such comments remove any scintilla of doubt as to the film’s effect on this highly appreciative section of its target audience.

So why was my review singled out more often than any other, by hundreds more people on the web, and for such poisonous vilification?

Partly it is because I write for the Daily Mail. One of my colleagues, who reviews films for a less successful newspaper, told me that he envied me the bullying. “If I had given a one-star review to Kick-Ass,” he complained, “no one would have cared!”

It may be significant that no sooner had my review appeared than a Facebook site sprang up, with the witty title “Tookey, Everyone at the Daily Mail and All Its Readers are Idiots”. The site has only 38 members, but I suppose every mass movement has to start somewhere.

I don’t suppose they’ve read my colleague Baz Bamigboye’s piece for the Mail, in which he described Kick-Ass as “exhilarating” and praised Chloe Moretz’s performance as the 11 year-old vigilante: “I cheered everytime she appeared on screen.”

It’s probably just as well. The idea that the supposedly “fascist” Daily Mail allows many different views within its pages and on its website might confuse them terribly.

On the whole, I regard the internet as an asset and a terrific forum for contrasting opinions. I don’t mind people disagreeing with my tastes, and welcome the fact that others may hold different opinions.

The whole of this web-site, which is the biggest collection of movie reviews on the planet and includes “Pro”, “Mixed” and “Anti” reviews as well as my own opinions, reflects my belief that there is more than one way to view the same movie. All I ask – and all that any serious critic can ask - is that readers consider my arguments and then form their own judgments.

Of course, not everyone is going to agree with me. For example, after my review of Kick-Ass “Jimmy”, of Edinburgh, won the approval of 171 other readers on Daily Mail online, with his comment that:

“It's actually a fantastic movie. I took my three young children ages 5, 8 and 10 and they all loved it.”

It seems to me that the cinema had no business admitting Jimmy’s three young children to a 15-certificate movie, and – illegalities aside – he was foolish to have exposed them to this kind of material, which approves of extreme vigilante violence, and suggests that the foulest of language used by small children is somehow funny and “cool”. As for the 171 Mail Online readers who disturbingly approved of Jimmy’s doing so, I would question their good judgment as well.

But there is a world of difference between Jimmy’s expression of an eccentric personal opinion and the bullying – complete with hurtful and libellous accusations - of those whose views conflict with your own.

I am in favour of the internet when it enables freedom of expression and leads to a democratization of debate. But very little of the abuse I have received ranks as debate, or coherent argument. Hardly any could be published in newspapers for fear of libel.

I do not ask for your pity. I don’t mind taking criticism, as well as handing it out. I am old enough to look after myself, and happy to stick up for my opinions. I welcome the cut and thrust of civilised debate.

But I’d be lying if I said that my own recent experience didn’t leave me annoyed and depressed. You might think that the victims of cyber-bullying could just turn their computers off and ignore the insults, but that’s not how the human mind works. There is a horrible fascination in discovering what other people think of you. You read on… and on… all too often, as I have mentioned, with tragic results.

As I read more and more foul-mouthed comments by people whom I don’t know and – more importantly - who don’t know me, accusing me of revolting or ridiculous perversions and often using anonymity or pseudonyms to disguise their identity, I could feel in my gut how such cowardly attacks must affect children and teenagers more vulnerable than I am, who are also being cyber-bullied for taking a stand, or for being unfashionable, or just different.

The whole, unpleasantly memorable experience brought it home to me with a visceral impact just how horrible it must be for people to be victimized for being fat, or gay, or politically incorrect.

I can especially sympathise with the victims of so called “hate sites”, which are web sites entirely dedicated to making a victim’s life as much of a misery as possible. Two Facebook sites exist, in order to spit out the most venomous hatred against me. I try not to look at them too often.

But my story is nowhere near as tragic as poor Alexis Pilkington, a 17 year old from Long Island, New York who killed herself after nasty online comments, and was harassed even after her death by spiteful, lewd and gruesome images of her placed anonymously on her Facebook memorial website.

Think also of Megan Gillan, the 15-year-old who took an overdose after two of her peers mocked her on Bebo, calling her appearance 'scabby'. At the inquest into her death, school worker Pauline Holt expressed concern about the potential for bullying provided by new technology. "It is how [teenagers] communicate - Bebo, Facebook and mobile phones," she said. "It is something the school can't police."

Can anything be done about such obnoxious cruelty? Last August, 18 year-old Keeley Houghton, who posted a death threat on Facebook, became the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site. She was also given a restraining order banning her from contacting her victim in person, via the internet or in any other manner for five years.

A bill is passing through the Louisiana state legislature that will make a crime of harassing or intimidating someone by text message, email or posts on networking sites.

I worry about all infringements on freedom of speech, and hope that such legislation may be unnecessary in the UK. A marked decrease in cyber-bullying could surely be achieved through education. Reading my own hate mail, I was struck by how astonishingly ignorant, ungrammatical, mis-spelt and lacking in coherent thought it was. Many of these people clearly feel unable to make a forceful argument; they use abuse as a substitute for verbal skill.

For too long teachers have taught pupils that self-expression is everything, and now the advent of twittering and instant comment means that uninformed opinions are being crammed into an ever smaller number of words.

The old traditions of liberal education made pupils aware that their views counted for little if they could not back them up with reasoned argument, personal experience or illustrations that supported their hypotheses.

But now the internet is increasingly being used by people sheltering behind their own insignificance and determined when they find like-minded, aggressive chums to gang up and bully anyone who holds views that run counter to their own. Remember, all I did was criticise a film - I did not call for it to be banned, or for anyone who disagreed with me to be silenced. And the response to that was to call me a paedophile.

The cowardly demand of such cyber-bullies is that contrary opinions about, say, a kind of film that they like should not be expressed – and that is the antithesis of free speech.

Currently, it happens that among the most vociferous opponents of free speech are those who maintain that critics who dislike such films as Kick-Ass, Watchmen and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are too old and out-of-touch to review movies at all.

I can’t answer for other critics but I can for myself. I have given top, 5-star ratings to such pictures as Men In Black, The Road to Perdition and Spider-Man 2, and 4 stars to other entertaining films inspired by comics and graphic novels.

It’s movies that mindlessly glorify violence or establish appalling role-models that I dislike. That’s not an age thing either. Some of the youngest national critics shared my distaste for Kick-Ass, as did my 19 year-old son, who is often the first person to tell me if he thinks I have got a film wrong.

Fortunately, not everyone who read my review of Kick-Ass found it the ravings of an incorrigible idiot. I would like to extend my thanks for the many messages of support I have received.

If you choose to disregard my arguments, that is your prerogative. It’s a free country.

But even in a free country, we are entitled to expect more responsible films than Kick-Ass, and a more intelligent, informed debate about violent movies than is currently taking place on the internet.

It’s too important a medium to be left to the cyber-bullies.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW.

Millions are being spent to persuade you that Kick-Ass is harmless, comic-book entertainment suitable for fifteen year-olds. Don’t let them fool you.

Kick-Ass is so hyped, that it is certain to be a hit, at least among the geeks who are its core audience. It is also bound be among the most influential movies of 2010. And that should disturb us all.

For it deliberately sells a perniciously sexualised view of children and glorifies violence, especially knife and gun crime, in a way that makes it one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever.

The title character is nerdy American teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson from Nowhere Boy). He yearns to be a superhero, so he dresses up as one. The trouble is that he has no super-powers and – unlike Batman – no money.

His one asset as a crime-fighter is that he can survive serious thrashings because his nerve-endings have been destroyed by previous beatings. Like Wolverine in X-Men, he has metal plates where some of his bones should be.

The movie’s central appeal is to fanboys like Dave, who will spot the references to previous comic strip movies, and imagine that these constitute satire. Really, the tone of the movie is deferential pastiche.

The premise of ordinary people trying to become superheroes is unoriginal, having formed the basis of at least two movies, Condorman and Mystery Men. The plot is an unimaginative clone of Spider-Man 2, and the screenplay – by director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, wife of comic-book enthusiast Jonathan Ross - conforms slavishly to the cliched norms of Hollywood action movies by working towards not one but two huge action set-pieces at its climax.

As a rip-off of its Hollywood betters, it is sporadically funny, efficient, and well shot – hence my arguably over-generous award of three stars.

The biggest problem of the movie, creatively speaking, is that it has pretensions to intelligence, but is profoundly, irredeemably bone-headed. It starts as though it’s going to expose the huge gulf between comic strips and reality, but ends up reducing the real world to the most morally fatuous kind of comic strip.

A worthwhile satire on comic-book culture might criticise the idiotic way it uses sadism and voyeurism to entertain, with no thought of the social consequences. It would also lampoon the risible pretentiousness of many so-called “graphic novels”. Kick-Ass does neither.

The movie looks at first as if it might satirise the era where talentless nonentities can become celebrities. But it has nothing to say about that either.

Though it runs nearly two hours, there’s even less character development than there is social comment. Our hero learns nothing by the end, except that extreme violence against criminals is cool, which is something he thought in the first place.

The reason the movie is sick, as well as thick, is that it breaks one of the last cinematic taboos by making the most violent, foul-mouthed and sexually aggressive character, Hit-Girl, an 11 year-old.
Played with enormous confidence by Chloe Moretz (pictured), she’s the most charismatic character in the movie. She may not realise it, but she has been systematically abused by her father, brainwashed and turned into a pint-sized instrument of vengeance.

She believes that her vigilante dad (played, simplistically, for laughs by Nicolas Cage) is a hero just as much at the end as she did at the beginning. Her attitude towards him doesn’t mature, which makes her pathetic, rather than cool. The fact that many people who see the film are going to think she is cool is one of its most depressing aspects.

The movie’s writers want us to see Hit Girl not only as cool, but also as sexy, like an even younger version of the baby-faced oriental assassin in Tarantino’s Kill Bill 1. Paedophiles are going to adore her.

One of the film’s creepiest aspects is that she’s made to look as seductive as possible – much more so than in the Mark Millar and John Romita Jr comic book on which this is based. She’s fetishised in precisely the same way as Angelina Jolie in the Lara Croft movies, and Halle Berry in Catwoman.

As if that isn’t exploitative enough, she’s also shown in a classic schoolgirl pose, in a short plaid-skirt with her hair in bunches, but carrying a big gun. And she makes comments unprintable in a family newspaper, that reveal a sexual knowledge hugely inappropriate to her years. Oh, and one of the male teenage characters acknowledges that he’s attracted to her.

Now, children committing violent acts and having distorted views of sex inappropriate to their age-group should be a matter for concern. Children carrying knives are not cool, but a real and present danger.

Underage sex isn’t a laugh. Recent government figures revealed that in this country over 8,000 children under 16 conceive every year.

Worldwide, child pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry.

In Africa and South America, brutalised youngsters who kill and rape are rightly feared as members of feral gangs or child soldiers. Movies such as City of God, Innocent Voices and Johnny Mad Dog have treated the issue with sensitivity.

But in Kick-Ass, childish violence of the most extreme kind – hacking off limbs, shootings in the mouth, impalings and fatal stabbings - is presented with calculated flippancy, as funny, admirable and (most perversely of all) sexually arousing.

The film-makers are sure to argue that there’s nothing wrong with breaking down taboos of taste; but there are often good reasons for taboos. Do we really want to live, for instance, in a culture when the torture and killing of a James Bulger or Damilola Taylor is re-enacted by child actors for laughs?

The people behind this grotesque glorification of prematurely sexualised, callously violent children know full well that they are going to make a lot of money, and they’ll get an easy ride from the vast majority of reviewers, who either don’t care about the social effects of movies or are frightened to appear “moralistic” or “judgmental”.

The truth is, of course, that all critics moralise and make judgments, whether they realise they are doing so or not.

So please don’t be misled. Kick-Ass is not the harmless fun it pretends to be. Yes, it’s lightweight and silly, but it’s also cynical, premeditated and mind-bogglingly irresponsible. And in Hit-Girl, the film-makers have created one of the most disturbing icons and damaging role-models in the history of cinema.

AFTERWORD:

Unbelievably, some Kick-Ass fans have objected to the above review on the grounds that there is nothing remotely unhealthy about the relationship between Big Daddy and his 11 year-old daughter, Hit-Girl. The fans have clearly failed to spot the phallic symbolism in the opening scene between them, where he is educating her for later life and deliberately desensitising her by shooting at her with a gun - though I’d have thought the sexual implication should be clear, even to non-Freudians. Who do the fans think educated this little girl with her sexual knowledge, and why do they think she says that the Mayor knows how to get in touch with them, by projecting on to the clouds an image of a giant penis? Do these people really think these are just normal words and ideas for an 11 year-old to come up with? There is nothing naive or asexual about the writers of Kick-Ass, and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply a fool. And if the Kick-Ass fans think these observations are proof of my filthy-mindedness, rather than the film-makers’, I’m afraid there’s no reasoning with them.

There is an extraordinary campaign of misinformation about the critical response to this film. On Jonathan Ross’s BBC chat show - and overseas readers of this may need to be reminded that the BBC doesn’t allow advertising - Ross, who is the husband of the film’s main writer, Jane Goldman, gave an uncritical puff to the film while interviewing its star, Aaron Johnson, and claimed that the movie had attracted 5-star reviews from all the critics. it wasn’t true when he said it - it had already received panning reviews from Tim Robey at the Daily Telegraph, Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times, and from me in the Daily Mail. It became even less true at the weekend, when it received further negative reviews from Mike McCahill in the Sunday Telegraph, Matthew Bond in the Mail on Sunday and Philip French in the Observer - curiously reported in the following day’s Guardian as a 7/10 review, when it clearly was much less favourable than that.

RESPONSES TO MY REVIEW:

My own critics have spoken, and they have not been a joy to read.

Is “oriental” a term of racial abuse?

One website has taken me to task for my use of the word “oriental”, which is held to be some kind of racist abuse. Well, I certainly never intended it to be a racial slur. I seem to remember a school of Oriental Studies when I was at Oxford, and the University of London continues to have a school of Oriental and African Studies. And I note that Wikipedia says “Oriental is not usually considered an offensive term in Britain.”

Am I a secret paedophile?

Someone called Tom Dentith wrote on the facebook page of my website: “Hey Tookey how many wanks have you had over Hit Girl today? hahahah! Pedo in denial! Clearly.”

Mr Dentith appears not to be alone in his conviction that my review of Kick-Ass entitles him to libel me as a paedophile.

Hundreds of other people on the net have been willing to put similar opinions of me into the public domain. Here are a few examples:

On Twitter, Forducks wrote “Still worried about the Daily Mail reviewer Christopher Tookey, he really seemed to find everything about Hit Girl sexy. The guy is a perve!”

peter__l tweeted: “CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY - you really need to see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.”

markrendle tweeted “Christopher Tookey's review of Kick Ass says far more about him than it does about the film. He should be on some kind of register.”

mikecurrie tweeted “CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY IS A FUCKING PAEDOPHILE”.

HDRMcShazzle tweeted “that Tookey review was bollocks, the guy has mental problems”.

stuntmandrew tweeted “Re-reading Tookey, he does come across as a bit paedo-y himself.”

himwiththecyst tweeted: “Hit-girl is "sexy"? What is wrong with SICK Christopher Tookey? BAN THIS FILTH!”

Google alerts have made me aware that someone called “Schroeder” has written of me that “he's probably a pedo”.

“sandman” calls me “a closet paedo”.

A writer describing himself as “sortalikethat” wrote of my review “See this here is a perfect example why even 'reformed' pedophiles shouldn't get jobs as film critics”.

“Peace Frog” dismissed my review as “clearly an outlet for all the self loathing he feels for getting a boner over a costumed child”.

“Biplab” wrote of me: “So the first thing that comes to his mind seeing a ridiculously costumed 12 year old girl holding knives is Child Pornography? Wow. Make sure he doesn't live in your neighborhood.”

“vf” wrote: “anyone else think this guys' a pedo pervert? He's the first reviewer that got aroused by hit girl.”

James Taylor – presumably not the singer-songwriter - wrote: “Personally, Chris, I think you're [sic] employers should be extremely worried, the fact that you spent 48 lines of your diatribe dedicated to your assumption on the over sexualization of an invented character in a fictional story, such a philistine postulation could only come from an obsessed diseased mind or a fellow with latent pedophiliac tendencies.”

Carlos Ylagan agreed: “Either he had an agenda before watching this movie which should revoke his status as a critic... or something more disturbing. I think he needs to take a good look in the mirror if he found a 12 yr old girl cursing, hacking and dicing villains sexually arousing before taking the pedestal of morality.”

Joel Hearity wrote: ”Mr.Tookey, if you found that sexually arousing or could even associate the violence that you saw with anything that could be sexually arousing, then you sir, have problems.”

Andrew Collins, a middle-aged occasional critic who holds down a serious job as film editor of the Radio Times, took a surprisingly similar view on his blog:

“[Tookey] states that the “childish violence” is presented with “calculated flippancy, as funny, admirable and (most perversely of all) sexually arousing.” Is it? I mean, really, is it? I didn’t get sexually aroused by the violence. It is not sexual violence, as it is meted out by an 11-year-old to adult men. They are not sexually aroused and nor is she. The only explanation for this observation is that Christopher Tookey is sexually aroused by the violence, or that he vicariously imagine that Daily Mail readers might be.”

“Stan” commended Mr Collins’s observations as “Good stuff. That’s exactly what I thought when reading it: sexual arousal is in the eye of the beholder. I wouldn’t let Christopher Tookey babysit my kids.”

On the same site, “liquidcow” agreed: “I found it very odd that the reviewer would find a school uniform inherently sexual. I think this is a classic case where the outrage says more about the person spouting the view than it does about the target.”

“Paul” agreed: “Spot on as usual Andrew, Tookey’s review makes him appear genuinely unstable.”

“Kevin”, a 19 year-old Irish blogger whose writing reveals outstanding illiteracy and stupidity, accuses my claim that "Paedophiles are going to love her (Hit-Girl)" of being “a statement that says so much more about Christopher Tookey than anyone else. This is a claim that is far more twisted and warped than he claims the film to be, in my opinion… Tookey claims that the violence is presented in a manner that is "sexually arousing", again a phrase that says so much about the writer of the article rather than someone who has viewed the film.”

On the Kick-Ass facebook site, Eugenia Rawlins-James wrote “Tookey the Twat is a bit of a perv, as well as a massive twat.”

Someone calling himself Max Doomsday at atomicgadfly.com even thinks I should be locked up for my review:

“Tookey looked at Hit-Girl and saw something sexual. Therefore he is, by definition, a pedophile [sic]. Only a pedophile would see something sexual in Hit-Girl. There is no satire in that. Christopher Tookey is a pedophile, and as long as the police allow him to remain on the street, he is a threat to every child in the UK. I’m disgusted that he remains free.”

And there are many others. It is truly amazing that the same people who are unwilling to see, let alone condemn, any sexual or anti-social content in Kick-Ass are more than happy to observe perversion and fulminate against it where none exists, in my review.

Why I have an interest in child abuse.

To all these people and anyone else who feels the same way about me, I would simply reply that I have rather more experience and knowledge of paedophiles than you seem to have. I am not a paedophile, closet or otherwise.

I have some knowledge of child abuse because, as a director first of many episodes of the disabilities programme Link (for ATV and Central) and then of an After Dark discussion on paedophilia (for Channel 4), I have discussed the topic in depth with several experts in the field, most notably Ray Wyre, who was until his recent death Britain’s leading expert on sex crimes and the treatment of paedophile offenders. Ray told me about the techniques paedophiles use to “groom” children - sometimes their own - to a distorted morality similar to the one Hit-Girl has learnt here from her father.

Ray also introduced me to one extremely dangerous sex offender, who appeared on the After Dark programme I directed, and the man left a lasting impression on me, as an articulate, intelligent man who didn’t like his own sexual tastes but was at times powerless to control them.

Also, because I have helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds in support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, I was invited by the NSPCC to go down to their East London headquarters to be briefed by members of their child protection services specializing in paedophiles. They gave me further insights into how these people think, how they view children and how they set about grooming them. There is considerable congruity between the way paedophiles treat their victims and the way Big Daddy brings up his daughter in Kick-Ass.

My interest in the subject is not prurient or voyeuristic, nor is it motivated by paedophile instincts of my own. On the contrary.

When I was 10 and 11, I experienced at first hand the attentions of three different men who would now be called paedophiles – a doctor, a teacher and an unknown man in the woods behind my house. Only the last of the three resulted in the police being called, but my experiences leave me in no doubt that paedophiles can commit acts of astonishing psychological cruelty that leave their victims affected, quite significantly, for the rest of their lives.

I got off comparatively lightly as I came from a secure, happy family with loving parents who removed me from the school where I was being “groomed” by one particular teacher, but many others are not so lucky. My own experiences left me with several years of nightmares and sleepwalking, and a continuing disgust for people in responsibility who abuse positions of trust.

The difference between Kick-Ass and other films dealing with child abuse.

In my review of The Woodsman (2004), a responsible film about the topic in which Kevin Bacon gives an extremely fine, accurate impersonation of a troubled paedophile (as did Peter Lorre in M, and Dylan Baker in Happiness), I started off my review with the words “Too many films approach child abuse with lip-smacking relish. Few treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.”

I really find it hard to believe that so many people refuse to acknowledge the deliberately glamorous, fetishistic way in which Hit-Girl and her startlingly violent behaviour is portrayed, or that her sexually aggressive vocabulary suggests an exposure to sex inconceivable in an 11 year-old who has not been abusively “groomed”.

The link between violence and sex in Kick-Ass should be obvious to anyone – especially professional critics - aware of the fact that most films have what academics call “a symbolic structure”. The imagery in Kick-Ass is blatant in its use of phallic symbolism, with guns, knives and even bazookas all carrying crudely sexual overtones. Anyone who tries to persuade you otherwise, and pretends that the film is innocent, is either naive, or having you on.

I would also remind you of the problems Matthew Vaughn had in finding finance from Hollywood studios. My understanding is that they found the character of Hit-Girl too problematic for them to invest in the movie, and in my view they were right to do so.

Everyone who goes to a film brings his or her own experiences and opinions to it, and I am no exception. However, I approached the film with no particular editorially imposed agenda or religious beliefs. I imagine that those who do have strong religious beliefs will find it especially offensive and irresponsible, as will anyone whose profession involves child protection.

In spotting a subtext of child abuse in a film where many people refuse to see one, I am in good company. Pauline Kael, John Simon and Robert Asahina – three of America’s most intelligent critics - provoked an enraged response when they perceived paedophile overtones in the apparently innocent Bugsy Malone (1976).

Even further back, Graham Greene created a furore – and ended his own, highly distinguished career as a film critic - with his review of Wee Willie Winkie (1937), in which he mischievously analysed child star Shirley Temple’s sex appeal.

I have been a professional film critic for 23 years, and not only for the routinely maligned Daily Mail, so it is unsurprising that I, too, have provoked outrage over the years. My review of Kindergarten Cop (1990), written for the Sunday Telegraph, was the first and, I believe, only one to spot the subtext of child abuse that does indeed underpin its narrative. And I stand by my belief that Adrian Lyne’s crassly exploitative version of Lolita (1997) was, whether intentionally or not, an “apologia for the sexual abuse of children”.

So I stand by everything I wrote in my original review of Kick-Ass. Indeed, I could also have gone on about the disturbing delight Mr Vaughn shows in the beating up of Hit-Girl by the principal villain. But I’ll leave that to others.


Key to Symbols