People continue to flock almost mindlessly like zombies to the theater whenever the big budget lights and sounds of big name superhero movies hit the big screen. I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing as a good majority of them have been quite good, but no one seems to give the time of day to the little guy anymore. By little guy of course I mean indie cinema- more specifically the non-superhero movies where someone with a slight screw loose decides to do a little ass kicking just because they feel like it, or just wants to help. It’s a shame too, because James Gunn’s new film SUPER is a completely insane, but undeniably focused human story that’s as gutrenchingly twisted and violent as it is emotional and sweet. Take a moment to consider the gravity of that previous statement.
Rainn Wilson stars as Frank, a short order cook that has a hard time coping with the fact that his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), has been whisked away from her by baddie, Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Lonely and distraught Frank prays for God to give him a sign for what to do with his life and how to move forward and comes to the conclusion that fighting crime is the way to go. Inspired by a holy superhero from TV Frank creates his new hero, The Crimson Bolt and begins to wreak utter havoc on the streets by beating people senseless with a wrench. Along the way Frank picks up a sidekick, Libby, who wants to join forces as Boltie to regain Frank’s wife- and send more criminals to intensive care of course.
I must say first off- apologies to James Gunn, because I still have not watched SLITHER from beginning to end, which is a wrong I will most definitely set right ASAP. With SUPER, what really has me flying high is the insane mixture of downright depressing personal problems, quirky- sometimes mean spirited- humor and inspiring determination present in this film. To be able to take each of those elements and combine them in a film this violent, funny and yes, emotional is nothing short of amazing.
Now here is where I tell you to gently throw your expectations in reverse. Personally, I really did love this movie, but I would be irresponsible to not point out that it’s a distinct possibility many people could violently hate this film. Since there is such a vast difference in the aspects of the film, I sense there will be a clear disconnect in regards to SUPER being too goofy and too violent that any having any emotional connection at the end would be laughably impossible. I had it- nine people out of ten might watch it and be completely alienated so all I can possibly say for a recommendation is different things resonate for different people.
I could say it for every indie release I ever see that blows me away- indie movies win me over because the vast majority of them are fearless and never think twice about anything that might be offensive or make people squeamish. I never found SUPER to be offensive, but the violence is at times uncomfortable and shocking. The first “oh snap” moment for me involved Rainn Wislon teaching someone not to butt in line- I knew he was going to get his, but I didn’t expect the camera to not cut away at impact, which I both applaud and cringe at. There are several other moments that caught me off guard with the violence, but I never expected the ending to hit the emotional height it did for me. The ending caught me off guard and did nothing short of move me to an extent that I could not deny how much I’d loved the film.
I wouldn’t call the film laugh out loud funny- although I did laugh, out loud even. The comedy is at times awkward and usually at someone else’s expense even during some of the violent moments. I would describe several scenes as uncomfortable, specifically as Rainn Wilson’s character becomes more involved with Ellen Page’s character. The deeper into the film we get the more batsh*t crazy things get. The insanity starts extremely low and it slowly swells as the end of the movie approaches before things just spiral out of control.
The ending becomes the bloodiest part of the film, but it is also the most exhilarating moments of the film. It borrows from a film like KICK ASS in that it seems to mock the genre it wants to be a part of before actually becoming part of the genre it was mocking- in SUPER’s case though it still manages to mock within the more serious moments. As things come down from the drug induced bloodbath the real emotional kick to the gut kicked in and had me immediately wanting to replay it over again.
Rainn Wilson is quite the character and here he does a great job of playing a man with borderline mental problems, but even he is muted by the absolute balls-to-the-wall craziness that is Ellen Page. Page is adorable and terrifying all at the same time- she seems to be well intentioned but far too eager to inflict pain on people…in extreme ways. Kevin Bacon steals his scenes as a drugged out kingpin who tries to come off as nice till he gets pushed too far and seems to really enjoy his eggs- and Liv Tyler is great in her minor role as Wilson’s drug addicted wife torn between her life of drugs and trying to tear herself away from that life to make something of herself.
I wasn’t devastated by the overall effect of SUPER because as a whole the film is a potent mixture of insane violence, humor and even drama. It might be hard to take the film seriously for some, but if you are like me and can’t get enough of each well done aspect then you’ll eat it up. SUPER is definitely not a tie in to the upcoming AVENGERS film but it’s a more than welcome shake up from the barrage of big budget glossy comic book adaptations. James Gunn is a very talented writer director and I very much look forward to his next project- if it’s on the same level as SUPER I believe we are in for a real treat.