Review: Super (2010)

Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler

I wouldn’t necessarily brand the typical-everyman-becomes-a-superhero thing as untapped territory, considering last year’s Kick-Ass admirably established itself as a gleefully profane predecessor for potentially countless imitators.  James Gunn’s Super fits snugly into this mostly appealing subgenre, and while its premise is intriguing enough on the surface, the overly graphic nature of the subject matter and a terribly unlikable protagonist suggest that this effort isn’t quite what audiences would expect. Given my track record with adoring everything in this same vein, I personally had a great time with a majority of this sideshow, even if it suggests I may or may not suffer from mental instability.

Those fond of Gunn’s previous effort Slither will undoubtedly find something to like here, with intermittent bouts of unwarranted, over-the-top violence and profanity to entertain those who are unashamedly fond of such debauchery. Sadly, Wilson’s Frank D’Arbo, grief-stricken as he may be, makes for an unconvincing and highly irritating protagonist, and coupled with oddball mockery disguised as a spiritual reawakening, the only things left to admire are Frank’s increasingly bizarre efforts to put a stop to petty crime once and for all.

Armed with a pipe wrench the size of a grown man’s forearm, Frank unflinchingly cracks open the skulls of low-end drug dealers, pedophiles and even those who boldly butt in line at the movie theater in an attempt to establish a name for himself as the not-so-mysterious Crimson Bolt. These sequences are where Super shines brightest, and in spite of their uncouth presentation, I found myself laughing at most of the film’s not-so-low-key pseudo-sadism and the introduction of one Libby (Ellen Page), a.k.a. Boltie as her involvement livens up the proceedings considerably. Outside of the interaction between superhero and sidekick, the narrative itself goes nowhere, and although the film attempts to show a more sensitive side as Frank’s desperation to win back his wife leads to an awesomely over-the-top climax, it fails to overcome what Super does wrong in trying to simply stand out from the pack through such blatant crassness and hyperbole that runs rampant from start to finish.

Rainn Wilson has quite honestly never struck me as the type of actor that’d exhibit any sort of versatility, and his portrayal of Mr. D’Arbo here supports this claim and comes off as borderline ridiculous. His character’s demeanor, regardless of Gunn’s intentions, strongly suggests he’s lost his mind rather than found his calling as a graceless superhero trying to make a difference, and although there is humor to be found within many a sequence, I just can’t get past my feelings toward Wilson himself. Ellen Page certainly brings a substantial amount of appeal to the film upon her introduction, yet if you’ve found her “style” of acting annoying in the past, don’t get your hopes up. Fortunately for me, I adored her character Libby and her eagerness to do nothing but trounce the poor souls that supposedly were given what was coming to them, and Kevin Bacon as Jacques manages to consistently entertain, showing he’s capable of doing exactly what’s needed to suit the off-kilter demands of the script Gunn has crafted.

Realistically, there isn’t a whole lot to dislike about Super, provided you can get past some discrepancies with casting and the film’s possible tendency to offend via ridiculous stretches of absurd occurrences and violence galore. As an acceptable, mildly entertaining entry into the faux-superhero subgenre, Super fits the bill almost perfectly, bringing an appropriately sick sense of humor to the formula we may or may not have familiarized ourselves with over the past year or so, as well as a keen sense of unpredictability and ample amount of shock value to round out the bunch to make this offbeat experiment something to recommend, if only to those as twisted as I am.

Rating: 6/10


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