This contains some minor spoilers but not too many
Not to be confused with Super 8 (however unlikely that might be) or Kick Ass even though it explores some of the same themes. Super is an entirely different disturbing league of its own. Director James Gunn who gave us gross out horror Slither a couple of years ago serves up an odd mix of melodrama and hyper violence in this dark comedy. Despite it’s stellar cast it barely got a cinema release at all, but DVD is a much better format for this type of film. Rainn Wilson (The Office US) stars as Frank a mild-mannered short order cook. He lives a quiet and simple life, which is the perfect balance for his former drug addict wife Sarah (Liv Tyler).
One morning he discovers his wife has lapsed and left him for local small time crook Jacques (Played perfectly by Kevin Bacon). As he tries to come to terms with it, Frank discovers hope through a cheesy TV show on the All Jesus Network; The Holy Avenger (played by Nathan Fillion in an inspired cameo).
This leads Frank to the Comic Smash store where he meets Libby (Ellen Page), he gets the idea to become low rent hero the Crimson Bolt to get his wife back. Trouble is Frank is clearly having a total breakdown, not the sort of breakdown that makes him buy a motorbike or date a younger woman but the sort of breakdown that causes him to sob uncontrollably and bludgeon people in the face with a wrench while shouting “Shut up Crime”.
After he reluctantly lets Libby become his sidekick they prepare to take Jacques down and reclaim his drugged up wife. This film deals with the repercussions of being a home-made hero, natural comparisons with Defendor and Kick Ass are obvious but both those films were set in a slightly unreal version of the world. What Super does really well is make the consequences very shocking and in one horrific scene Ellen Page goes to town on a goon with her homemade wolverine claws. This is the less glamorous side of the superhero genre and won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Super is best viewed as a one mans breakdown and journey to discover the person he needs to be. Its scale is small but it really suits the tone, Rainn Wilson is an odd choice for a leading man role but he clearly enjoyed a more diverse character to play. Some scenes left me thinking Frank was a complete psychopath while others had me feeling genuine compassion for him and his desperate prayer to god shows previously unseen sides to Wilson as a dramatic actor.
Three of James Gunn’s actors from Slither make appearances Nathan Fillion, Greg Henry and Michael Rooker. All are used well but it’s Fillion who almost steals the whole show as The Holy Avenger, those who have seen Joss Whedon’s wonderful Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog will definitely get an extra chuckle out of his ridiculous outfit and hair. There’s even a cameo from The Wire’s Bubs (Andre Royo) as Franks only other friend Hamilton. There are a lot of good ideas in the movie and most of them work and considering it was made for just $2.5 Million it’s a real achievement.
The only weak link is Libby’s character, not Ellen Page; she is as watchable as ever. Libby is a bit too up for the carnage to the point that she is clearly very disturbed and borderline psychotic. But, I guess that’s the point. Frank at least has some purpose for his misguided mission and as we don’t get to learn much about Libby, her actions seem a little over the top.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Super but I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. From the bizarre animated opening sequence to its sort of heart-warming ending, it’s not for the faint hearted but is defiantly worth a look.
Super is out now on DVD and Blu Ray