Our superheroes are changing. Last time we saw Superman, he was lamer than ever. Spider-Man is about to use a mulligan. Now The Dark Knight gets bruises. The hottest hero on the market today is a guy whose only power is an expensive suit. Teenagers wear homemade tights and fight with batons. We demand realism from our caped crusaders these days, and it’s time for that realism to get brutal.
Never fear, Super is here. “Shut up, crime” is about to become the “I’m Batman” of the 21st century.
When his angelic recovering drug addict wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), relapses and runs away with a smooth-talking, gold-toothed drug dealer named Jaques (Kevin Bacon), Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) decides he’s had enough. Sick of being stepped on his entire life, he transforms himself into The Crimson Bolt, a monkey wrench-wielding superhero who bludgeons criminals to within inches of their lives. Libby (Ellen Page), a comic book store employee, recognizes him in a newscast and enthusiastically becomes his kid sidekick, Boltie. They hit the streets together to punish the guilty, defend the innocent, and hopefully save Sarah.
Super is a cult-classic in the making. It may sound a lot like another recent film on the surface, but by the closing credits, Kick-Ass seems as tame as an episode of Sesame Street in comparison. The Crimson Bolt may not have any superpowers, but he does have a monkey wrench, and he’s not shy about using it to bash criminals’ brains in. Repeatedly. With little or no provocation. Blood gushes, faces break, and skulls explode as The Crimson Bolt and Boltie wage their war on butting in line, keying cars, selling drugs, molesting children, and the crime world.
There’s one particular scene, featuring the crime fighting duo, that marks the exact moment when Super crosses the line from “funny” to “outrageously funny.” Without spoiling too much, I’ll say only that if Hit Girl and Big Daddy shared a similar experience, the legal status of their film would have been up to regional discretion.
Writer/director James Gunn (Slither) must have known he needed an impressive all-star cast to pull off such purposefully gratuitous violence and crude humor, because he definitely got one. Rainn Wilson communicates D’Arbo’s bulging-eyed rage and lovestruck sentimentality without any more ham than the script requires. It’s a real treat to see him flex his comedic muscles for the first time in a lead role on the big screen, too.
Ellen Page is sure to keep typecasting at bay as Libby, a spunky, excitable, and violent 22-year old. Page is naive and immature in Super, far from the wiser-than-her-years wondergirls she’s best known as in Juno and Inception. Liv Tyler, who, as Wilson put it in the talkback after the film’s midnight screening, is immaculate and good-hearted and a believable drug addict, is perfectly suited for her role. Kevin Bacon charms his way through his part like he’s never had more fun filming a movie.
It never hurts when everyone in the cast looks like they’re having the time of their lives.
Super isn’t high art, though. You’re not going to leave the theater with a new lease on life or find yourself thinking about it for very long after it’s over. We don’t really care what happens to the characters as long as it’s funny or entertaining. The ending is surprisingly inspired for a film this ridiculous, but if you’re sensitive to gore or vulgar comedy, you won’t sit through the movie long enough to get to it.
But Super is destined to find its audience, in theaters or, as is usually the unfortunate case with movies like this, on DVD. If you’re the kind of person who thinks tentacle rape is funny and wants to see a mentally unstable everyman dole out righteous justice in the form of a wrench to the face, this film was made for you. IFC just picked up the distribution rights, so be sure to see the first screening you can get to. Don’t come whining to me when you find it on Netflix next year and regret not seeing it in a crowded theater at midnight.
6 out of 10
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