When Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was submitted for censorship, the censors thought long and hard about their decisions. We've come a long way from the bad old days when a flash of ankle would be too much for anyone to handle. Eventually they changed only one scene, zooming in on a needle so you don't see the tip enter the skin. Drug use is OK. Violence is fine. Glorifying them is where they drew the line, and the change they made was the minimum required. Censorship's now a subtle and intelligent business and I have a lot of respect for it.
At first viewing Kick-Ass appears to have walked straight through the censor's office leaving a bloody trail across the cutting-floor. Scene after scene of children dishing out vigilante justice. 11-year-old Hit Girl shooting up a coridoor of bad guys Matrix-style, accompanied by quips, jokes, good humour and a kick-ass soundtrack. Taking these scenes individually you might think they were glorifying violence in a big way, and I was shocked that so much of this remained uncut.
Putting the same scenes back in context is a little different. What sticks out about this film is not the glorified violence but the pain. There's a whole lot of pain in this film. Excruciating pain. And this is not a 3D film, it's filmed in Pain-O-Vision - watch and you'll feel as if you're getting a baton to the knees, or your teeth knocked out. I practically limped home and I can still taste the blood from my lungs. Almost every battle Kick-Ass enters leads to him getting a solid beating, whether he ultimately wins or loses, and even Hit Girl has her moment of doubt, when for a few seconds she's no longer an invincible heroine but an 11-year old cowering behind a cabinet.
This level of pain has two effects on the film: firstly, it converts it from a violent film to an ultra-violent film, but secondly it changes the message. Far from glorifying vigilantism, this film says: go ahead, but don't come running to me when you get hurt.