Super is an irreverent and twisted comedy about an unattractive loser who decides to take his fight against evil to the next level. And if you think the next level is fashioning a ridiculous superhero costume out of red cloth and naming himself the Crimson Bolt, you’d be right. With a disturbing humor, graphic violence and comic book-esque animated sequences, Super puts the Ka-pow in action/comedies.
Premiering at SXSW, Super may take you by surprise. It’s not just the extremely funny and well-written script, or Rainn Wilson‘s pitch-perfect performance as quirky anti-social weirdo Frank (aka Crimson Bolt); it’s the fact that this film is an action/comedy that delivers an emotional punch along with its sometimes uncomfortable humor and comic book reverence. It’s a film for the inner male adolescent geek in us all.
Frank is a loser. Born with a face only a mother could love (if that) and working as a short-order cook, Frank’s only happy moments are the day he married Sarah (Liv Tyler) and the day he helped a cop get a bad guy by pointing the direction he ran. Frank is ok with his world though, as long as he has Sarah. Of course, Sarah happens to be a recovering drug addict, and when she falls under the spell of drug dealer extraordinaire Jacques (Kevin Bacon), he loses her.
That’s when things really get interesting. Subject to strange visions since childhood, Frank literally see the finger of God touch his brain and tell him he has been chosen to fight crime. With the advice of religious superhero The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), Frank designs and sews his own red costume and names himself the Crimson Bolt. Then he goes out to fight evil. At first it goes terribly wrong, but after multiple visits to the local comic book store (where he meets future side-kick Libby) he chooses his weapon and starts making a real difference. At least, he gets in the news as he bashes in brain after brain with his handy wrench. If you are a wrong doer, he’ll be there. Even if your crime is cutting in line at the movie theatre.
Libby (Ellen Page) discovers Frank’s secret identity and convinces him to make her his side-kick, Boltie. Together they go out fighting evil (and sometimes not-so-evil), with the final mission in mind to get Frank’s wife out of the clutches of Jacques (who Frank keeps calling Jock).
What can be said about Wilson’s fearless do-gooder Crimson Bolt? He plays the hapless DIY superhero with all the quirk and sourness we would expect from the actor who brings The Office’s Dwight Schrute to such gloriously cagey life. His Crimson Bolt is misguided, maybe even crazy, but loveable. And what’s more, audiences can identify with him, even when his self-pity is flooding the screen or when he is bashing in the head of a line-butter or when he’s saving the woman he loves from a life of abuse.
Just when I was starting to think Page was a one-note actress, out comes this film and proves she actually has a range. There is still a little of the sarcastic spit-fire she plays so often, but this film made her stretch her wings and go right over the edge. She delivers a great performance as the borderline psychopath in love with superheroes and infatuated with the Crimsom Bolt. As a sidekick, she brings the innocent love of fighting evil, but tempers it with a bloodthirstiness that would make a mass murderer blush. She laughs as she tears off faces and smashes skulls, and her strange sexual encounter with Wilson’s character proves she can handle roles that aren’t one-dimensional and asexual.
I loved this film. In fact, I think it’s one of the best comedies I’ve seen so far at SXSW. Some people have compared it to Kick-Ass, but I think it exceeds Kick-Ass. I mean, they share the home-grown super heroes running around with no real super power, but beyond impotent crime fighters Kick-Ass sometimes wasn’t likeable. Super has the same uncomfortable moments when audiences may wonder if they should laugh, or cry, or be offended, but with Super there’s no question about liking what your seeing. There’s no question who’s good and who’s evil (and, for that matter, who’s the loveable psychopath). Sometimes it has scenes that are hard to stomach, and sometimes it becomes so bizarre and strange laughing is the only reaction. All these aspects, as frenzied and eclectic as they are, come together in one hell of a fun movie.
James Gunn wrote and directed this brilliant black comedy. After giving audiences the popular Dawn of the Dead, Gunn has proved he’s a creative force to be reckoned with. So give a yell of “Shut up, crime!” and do your part to fight the evil flow of mediocre blockbuster films pouring out of Hollywood by going out to see this one.
Be sure to check out our interview with director James Gunn.
Super will be released on April 1st, 2011