Thursday, October 21, 2010

Super [movie review]

Super joins a recently born niche genre dedicated to sending up superhero movies, with a common theme being the protagonists not actually possessing any superpowers. Last year's festival saw the premiere of Woody Harrelson's Defendor (which was extremely disappointing) and earlier this year came the terrific Kick-Ass. Super was already well into development before those films came out and though fatigue hasn't set in quite yet on this type of movie, there's an air of "sucking hind tit" accompanying it, especially when Kick-Ass has set the bar so high. To compare the two is perhaps unfair, but certainly obvious.
The film stars Rainn Wilson (from TV's The Office), whose acting range appears limited to recycling his weird guy persona from role to role. Here, he plays Frank, an invisible-to-society loser working as a short-order cook who recently had his wife (played by...Liv Tyler?!) run off with a drug dealer named Jacques. Said drug dealer is played by Kevin Bacon, in a performance so utterly one-dimensional you'd accuse him of just doing the movie for the paycheque if you weren't aware that Super was an indie film with a miniscule estimated budget of only $2 million. Neither Bacon nor Tyler have anything remotely substantial to work with in their characters, with the latter barely even registering in her role, which is admittedly limited. Super is essentially a revenge story, as Frank seeks to reclaim his woman and exact retribution on Jacques. Aiding Frank in his endeavour is his newly created alter-ego, The Crimson Bolt, who has no special powers and uses a pipe wrench to bludgeon criminals or anyone who crosses him, even if it's just a couple who line cut in front of him at the movies. Along the way, Frank picks up a sidekick named Boltie (played by Ellen Page). Page is one of the few redeeming things in the movie, bringing a liveliness to her role as the adventure-seeking, violence-prone Libby (her character's real name) that at least takes some of the dullness off the finished product. Even she wears out her welcome eventually, though, mostly because her over-enthusiastic personality begins to feel somewhat grating.
Kick-Ass was loaded with clever humour, shocking language, and over-the-top violence...Super pushes even further in the brutality department, has its share of off-colour dialogue, but misses the mark virtually time after time in the joke department, although you wouldn't know it from the inexplicably frequent laughter around me at this screening. The comedy in this film is reduced to these levels, just as a couple of examples: Frank mistakenly thinks that "Jacques" is spelled "Jock" and his motto is "Shut up, crime!". Genius.
Aside from the humour problems, there's too much in Super that doesn't add up. It wears its off-kilter sensibilities on its sleeve, but that still doesn't excuse the plot holes and twisted logic: Frank's marriage to Liv Tyler's character is too farfetched (despite the script's efforts to deliver some exposition on their relationship), the city's embracement of the vigilante crime fighting duo makes no sense, and the level of violence which The Crimson Bolt and Boltie mete out on anyone they believe warrants it is always hugely disproportionate to the actual crimes committed.
IFC Films purchased the distribution rights to Super at the festival, so it should be coming to a theatre near you soon (I'm guessing it'll see a limited release). Watch it at your own peril, however...the best thing I can say about it is the animated opening title sequence was pretty good.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆


  1. Rainn Wilson strikes me as a 1-dimensional character. Looking the way he does ... seriously limits his roles to that of an oddball roleplayer in any film. Put him in a headliner role and I would imagine the result would fall anywhere between questionable - pure shit.

  2. That's pretty much bang on IMO.


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