SXSW 2010: 'Kick-Ass' doesn't live up to its title
The 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival got under way Friday night with a packed screening of "Kick-Ass" at Austin's Paramount Theater. Introducing the Q&A after the screening, festival programmer Jarod Neece declared the film "the best opening night film we've had in the history of South By Southwest."
On paper this would certainly seem to be true; nothing would suit the Paramount audience better than Matthew Vaughn's subversive take on superhero culture, based on a left-of-center comic book. If only it was true in the theater too.
The independently produced "Kick-Ass," which Lionsgate will release in five weeks, feels somehow at once lean and bloated. Some of the effects underwhelm, and the whole thing has a light, cardboard-y feel. While set in New York City, much of the film was clearly shot in Toronto. And Aaron Johnson doesn't quite have the charisma to pull off the lead part of the teenager who adopts the role of a superhero, leaving something of an empty hole at the center of the film.
The audience seemed with the film in places, but at times the cheers felt almost forced, as if the crowd had come out for a rollicking good time and was determined to have one no matter what.
By far the most enthusiastic response came for the character of Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz, previously seen as the wise-beyond-her-years little sister in "(500) Days Of Summer." Where Johnson's character meekly teaches himself to fight crime, Hit Girl is a prodigy, and from her first moments on screen she is stabbing and shooting and biting and kicking, a dervish of pain and punishment. As her father, Nicolas Cage turns in one of his patented oddball performances, donning his own hero outfit and seemingly channeling Adam West from the 1960s television series of "Batman." We just wish the film had more pow.