by Stephanie Huettner, published on April 2, 2011|
Release Date (UK) TBC
Certificate (UK) TBC
Runtime 96 mins
Director James Gunn
Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler, Michael Rooker
Upon first hearing a summary of Super, (a regular Joe attempts to become a crime fighting superhero), its hard not to immediately think of one of last Summers big blockbusters. But while Kick-Ass was an action comedy aimed to please a mainstream audience, Super is a much darker examination of self-worth, empowerment and loneliness.
Wilson plays Frank DArbo, a devoutly religious, socially awkward short order cook, whose wife, Sarah (Tyler) has left him for a pimp named Jacques (Bacon). Frank confronts Jacques and his posse about this, and takes a hefty beating. He is inspired (divinely, he thinks) by a religious TV show aimed at young teens in which a Spandex-clad superhero named The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame) fights directly against sin in the form of Demonswill (James Gunn). Frank dreams that he has been touched by Jesus and chosen as a holy avenger here on Earth. His eventual goal is to get his wife out of the clutches of Jacques and his gang, but until then, he settles for practicing on everyday criminals. He dubs himself The Crimson Bolt and takes to the streets in a homemade costume.
The brand of justice dealt out by The Crimson Bolt is shockingly violent. Frank doesnt go so far as to invent nifty gadgets, he simply grabs household tools and uses them without prejudice on anyone he deems deserving of his wrath. He develops his alter ego by asking comic store employee Libby (Page), to point him to the best reading material. Libby soon suspects Franks secret and convinces him that he needs a kid sidekick, and that she is the perfect candidate. This partnership has many results: deaths, severe injuries, awkward seduction and non-stop laughs. Gunns writing and directing style is a mixture of smart, off kilter dialogue and absurd situations. It is designed to make the audience feel uneasy while shamelessly shaking laughter from them in the most unacceptable ways.
The actors in the film all push themselves to places they havent yet gone. Page dares to play someone unsure of herself, instead of her usual precocious younger woman character who has all of the answers. Initially, we just see an oddball side to Libby, which eventually leads to some much more unnerving antics. The way she conveys Libbys childish delight in the brutal and violent side to life as a kid sidekick becomes downright creepy, and Page enables herself to be uncontrolled as an actress in a way she hasnt before. Bacon is an incredibly versatile and underrated actor; he has managed to parlay early stardom into a wildly multi-faceted career and has continued to stretch himself year after year. However, James Gunn publicly stated that No matter how much you like Kevin Bacon or how many of his movies youve seen, you have never seen him how he is in this movie and this is certainly true; Bacon has played his share of scumbags, but his performance here is yet again something new and fresh. Elsewhere Wilson is best known for his deadpan delivery in silly comedies, but before he was a well-known character actor, he gave an incredibly moving and impressive performance in Six Feet Under, playing an anachronistic social outcast. Here, he unearths that kind of emotional depth and combines it with his trademark comedic skills. The result is a strikingly real portrait of a man who tries desperately to do the right thing in a tragically misguided way.
Super is a delightfully twisted little number that will leave viewers pondering what exactly they just saw and what its message is. The film is graciously open to interpretation and refuses to hold the hand of the audience as the story reaches its dénouement. It is nice enough to give us something to think about and to interpret, rather than giving a lecture and demanding that we all take notes.