Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
IFC Midnight/MPI Home Video
Making Of Opening Titles;
College Humor Short;
Frank (Rainn Wilson) is pretty close to f***in' nuts anyway, when his stripper-addict wife (Liv Tyler) dumps him to take up with her dealer (Kevin Bacon). With what little grip on reality he had obliterated, Frank occasional voices become more dominant and our freaked out and messed up short-order cook decides to become a super hero, Crimson Bolt.
A raging satire with psychotic tendencies sure to please some folks while others find it repulsive, Super comes to us courtesy of writer/director James Gunn (Slither). Using a monkey wrench to go all whup-ass on pedophiles, drug dealers and other freaks, Crimson Bolt quickly builds a fan base that includes Libby (Ellen Page), a feisty and funny bloodlusting comic book store clerk who offers herself in every sense of the word to our decidedly nerdy super hero.
If you find yourself already comparing Super to the fairly recent Kick-Ass, it's a reasonable comparison though Super is infinitely more violent and likely trying moreso to exist in the edgy, ultra-indie zone than did Kick-Ass. Whereas Kick-Ass had cross-over appeal, it's difficult to imagine Super ever achieving wide release with its lower production values, edgier material, more extreme violence and disturbing ability to blend both humor and the horrific even with more guilty glee than did Kick-Ass.
Super also made me think of films like Observe & Report and a host of others that acted like they wanted to be ballsy, extreme satire but that ultimately caved in to studio wishes and became bland, modestly amusing cinematic fare. While Super in no way fires on all its cylinders, it's one of those films where you find yourself shaking your head thinking "Man, they were really trying to go for it."
James Gunn is a former Troma filmmaker, and his gleeful embrace of super dark violence is to be expected for anyone familiar with Troma films. As a rather extreme devotee of Troma, I'm fully aware that Super should be doing cartwheels around my value system but I simply can't deny it.
I had a blast.
Rainn Wilson is a blast as Frank/Crimson Bolt, a sort of sad sack, deluded loser type whose foray into the world of superheroes is about as misguided as is most of his life. Ellen Page ups the violence to almost frightening degrees, as if trying to reverse the violence done to her during her recent portrayal of Indianapolis teen murder victim Sylvia Likens. Page's joy-filled violent romps are the stuff of sadistic fantasies, done with just enough of a cartoonish nature that they can't truly be taken seriously yet it's hard not to look at the screen without thinking "I shouldn't be laughing at this."
Liv Tyler serves up her best performance in years as the drug-addicted wife, while Kevin Bacon goes delightfully over-the-top with just the perfect amount of restraint as her dealer. Nathan Fillion shows up as a sort of Bibleman-type fantasy superhero, and hits a home run.
Super changes tone frequently and dramatically, an inconsistency that may prove jarring to some but seems to fit with the inconsistent psyche' and behaviors of our leading characters. The film is intelligently written, edgy not quite to the Human Centipede edge and so freakishly off-balance that those who embrace all things indie or exploitation should consider this film an absolute must-see.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic