Matthew Vaughn
showed up with a not-quite-finished version of his upcoming gonzo superhero flick Kick-Ass in Austin, Texas this weekend as part of AICN's Butt-Numb-A-Thon, an annual twenty-four hour movie marathon, and I happened to be one of the lucky few who got to see it.

Kick-Ass, based on the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., still needs some post-production work before its eventual release, but it didn't stop the capacity crowd from going absolutely bonkers over the movie. There's some effects work left to do, as well as color timing, and then there's the tricky issue of that temp score -- parts of which work perfectly with the film.



The use of John Williams' Superman "Krypton" theme in Kick-Ass's opening scene is brilliant and needs to stay. It sets an immediate tone for the film, a pitch-perfect blending of mocking parody and a loving tribute, as a would-be superhero takes a flying dive off a tall building. In another scene, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as wannabe hero Red Mist (who happens to be the heir to a criminal empire) shows off his customized cherry-red crime-fighting Ford Mustang, all to the tune of Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman score. It's familiar and funny, but Vaughn admits the music will have to change since Warner Brothers won't grant usage rights to the Lionsgate film.

I don't think it's going to stop people from loving this movie. Kick-Ass is the story of geeky Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who, inspired by his favorite comics, decides to fight crime as the hero Kick-Ass. Despite no particular athletic talents, Lizewski manages to save a random stranger from a beating in a very public place, which translates to a dozen or more videos of Kick-Ass hitting the web and turning Lizewski into an overnight sensation. He attracts the attention of a father-daughter pair of far more secretive (and more violent) costumed heroes (Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy and Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl), as well as a crime boss (Mark Strong) who assumes that Big Daddy and Hit Girl's bloody path of destruction through the criminal underworld is the work of Kick-Ass.

Despite unfinished effects and a blown speaker that caused the movie to be stopped for almost a half hour while the theatre repaired it, not to mention the fact that the film played near the tail end of a twenty-four hour movie endurance test, the audience was openly cheering, laughing loudly and clapping along with the music during a particularly exciting action scene. Everyone in the film seems to be riffing on something familiar -- Johnson is channeling Tobey Maguire, Nic Cage is doing a hilarious Adam West impression, Mintz-Plasse is obviously inspired by Joel Schumacher's Batman films, and Moretz is basically Tarantino's "The Bride" in a little-kid package.

Moretz was clearly the audience favorite. She gets all the best action and the most shockingly profane lines as Hit Girl. She's destined to become a cinematic cult icon, much like The Bride before her, and it bodes well for her upcoming work in Let Me In, the US remake of Let the Right One In.

It's not fair to the filmmaker for me to review a film before it's finished, and this obviously isn't an official review, but the audience response was so overwhelming, I wanted to make sure Kick-Ass was on geekdom's radar for 2010. Vaughn's screening was a rousing success -- he's made a crowd-pleasing indie comic book film that's both hilarious and brutal. Kick-Ass straddles a fine line between spoof and homage with expert ease, and it deserves a wide audience come April 16th.