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SXSW 2010: 'Kick-Ass' doesn't live up to its title

March 13, 2010 | 12:56 pm


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.

--Mark Olsen

Comments () | Archives (8)

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As an audience member at the Austin screening, I find this review ridiculous. "...at times the cheers felt almost forced." People forcing cheers? When was the last time you had energy to force a cheer at a movie?!? I can't remember the last time I experienced a more explosive reaction to a film! Everyone loved it. Outside everyone was commenting on how much better it was than they'd expected. From the trailer, I myself was expecting a spoof comedy with low budget action; this movie succeeds as an intense action movie, and as a comedy, and as a coming-of-age story.

I agree with the author of this article. I, too, thought some of the reaction was a little forced, almost as if viewers felt obligated to buy into the ridiculous hype of this movie and go along for the ride. It's a silly, overly-violent, garish, and simplistic movie that will have trouble finding an audience one it moves out of the hermetic environments of Comic-Con and geek-friendly film fests like SXSW.

Ok, but I'm looking to see if there was a repeat of bad cell phone service this year?

Good film, better than most that make it to the theaters.
I get good service from US Cellular.

Also at SXSW - I'm not much for superhero movies, or action movies, but I have to say "Kick *ss" was superb. It works on every level it's supposed to. I don't think anyone was faking a response, as far as I could tell. (PS do you guys get the feeling that comment #2 on here was just the reviewer posing as someone else to defend his review?)

Groan. Oh, my. From where I was sitting (the same place as Mark Olsen) the audience was losing their minds for this simultaneously smart and unpretentious, thrilling AND tender film. It was gloriously violent (this coming from a slightly squeamish female) but I would not say gratuitous. I agree with the 1st commenter, I was bemused by the notion of forced cheers. Forcing a giggle may be within the realm of possibility with a sympathetic audience but forcing CHEERS????? Come now. Who forces cheers? Time will tell whether the world agrees with me and the mass majority of other film revelers who have been abuzz with glee after seeing Kick Ass at it's premiere in Austin. But regardless of what happens April 16, Kick Ass opened to roaring cheers and was a truly engaging and invigorating film that set the tone for the festival. And Jojo, if SXSW is what you say it is, why are you here, oh fellow geek?

What The What?! I have no freaking idea what theater (or movie for that matter) this guy was in, but it sure wasn't the one I was sitting in! I usually not a fan of those who yell, scream and cheer during a movie, but this was one of those few rare times where I have violated my own rule. I was a raging fanboy! This was an amazing screening and I will certainly be forking over my $8.50 to see this again! Kick-Ass = woot!!!

USA Today disagrees. Listen to what they had to say about Kick-Ass. Sounds like it's going to pleasantly surprise critics! http://bit.ly/ahn6MJ


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