05/19/2010 06:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011


The last time we saw Chloe Moretz was in (500) Days of Summer where she dispensed preternatural wisdom to her lovesick schlep of an older brother, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn, written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., she appears as superhero Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl, again more mature than her age should allow but here she's too precocious.

The movie begins with a sensible premise. An ordinary dude, Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson), with no discernible superpower, decides to take New York crime-fighting into own hands. Shortly thereafter, the movie falls apart and became as grisly and gory as any big budget, star-laden action film you could imagine. Problem is, the wee lass Hit-Girl commits most of the carnage. These are not the occasional shoot-the-bad-guy life-and-death scenes where she has to defend herself or her father, Damon Macready aka Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). These are grand guignols where she massacres dozens of people, trained hit men themselves. She's a tweenage Terminator/Freddy Krueger who slashes, stabs, shoots, crushes, and blows up people not just with the greatest of ease but with no awareness of what she's done.

The effects are dazzling, as it were. Moretz has the panache, the swagger, and the attitude (bring it on!) to pull it off. It would be one thing if, say, this were even a midget who slaughtered with such abandon. But this is a 13-year-old girl and, even if she does so with murderous aplomb, you have think it's got to affect her somehow. Sure, she was trained by her ex-cop father whose rigged expulsion from the force caused her mother to commit suicide and dear old dad to cross over into some dark, secret place. There's certainly a motive but, as the movie shows, Hit-Girl shows nary a trace of remorse or regret for the imaginable amount of blood she's spilled. Even at the end, after she suffers yet another immeasurable loss, we find her at school, swapping her purple wig and leather outfit for a J. Crew skirt, where she beats the crap out of two douches that want to roll her for her lunch money.

Watching her exploits on YouTube, some sappy kid mutters "I think I'm in love." You might also share the sentiment if she were a character in a comic book environment where actions have no consequences and emotions still incubate in a beta version. Instead, you feel sorry for the character and for the messed-up way the movie has taken such an adorable and immensely talented actress and thrust her into a role that demonstrates not the dumbing down of movie audiences but the way the chronological age of killers becomes younger and younger. It's not a loss of innocence movie because Hit-Girl had no innocence to begin with. Character development-wise, Hit-Girl doesn't change from the beginning of the film to the end. Perhaps if she did, we might think she's learned something from the prior 117 minutes. To ask the audience to accept otherwise is simply too much,

It doesn't help that Vaughn created an otherwise well-crafted film, with a nice set up, a funny beginning, moments of humor, tenderness, teen angst, and good supporting characters. If this were a crappy film, we might understand. It's not. It's just that the embodiment of something wrong in the character of Hit-Girl takes the film in a whole other direction.