Plot: When his wife falls under the influence of an evil drug dealer, Frank Darbo receives a message from God leading him to create his own super-hero, The Crimson Bolt. Armed with nothing but a pipe-wrench, a poorly woven costume and a psychotic young sidekick, Boltie, Darbo launches himself head-first into the seedy criminal underworld.
Thoughts: On 2nd April 2002, a 50 page script (originally written as a short) born from the creatively messed up mind of James Gunn flourished into the world. Entitled ‘SUPER’ (deliberately all in capitals) the film was destined to be a personal homage to the early comic-books Gunn had grown up with as a child, combined with the sincerely twisted Troma films he had worked on whilst first touching down in the movie business. What remains today, 8 years later, is both a darkly sarcastic tale of personal justice, and a horrifically funny look at the every-man, melting together to form a rather obscure and perversely convoluted masterpiece of independent cinema.
Destined to be likened to the recent features of late such as Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Kick-Ass’, ‘SUPER’ stands alone, successful in its conquest to both alienate the viewer, and twist their perceptions of justice and doing the right thing. Whereas ‘Kick-Ass’ longed to be gritty and satanic in its approach, it only appeared so through the hazy goggles of Hollywood, never fully commanding the realistic ambience that sits so gracefully at the centre of ‘SUPER’. Gunn’s unique and devoutly crooked approach is so confident and gracious in its presentation, every-shot though tremendously rough, settles calmly into the film, reflecting Darbo’s genuine feelings that he’s not actually doing anything wrong. The film, although simple in its set-up, truly digs in under the skin of what is right and wrong and who decides, toying with religion and depression and other serious affairs along the way; whilst also juggling sociopathic violent outbursts and superbly perverted comedy.
Although fantastically scripted, the heart of ‘SUPER’ belongs to the frankly outstanding cast. Rainn Wilson’s astounding central performance as mopey Frank and his demented alter-ego frantically shakes the viewer throughout, tearing the words directly from the page with emotional and personal flair, allowing him to be both despondently bitter and broken, as well as painfully hilarious at exactly the same time. Strong support is held up by Kevin Bacon’s “interesting” villain Jacques, as suavely bold and sophisticated as modern drug dealers come, with his team of bumbling accomplices making troublingly comic targets. Liv Tyler drifts sweetly and innocently into the backdrop of Frank’s crusade as his angelic wife Sarah, but the show-stealing Ellen Page dives straight in front as the sadistically adorable Libby, later becoming Darbo’s sidekick Boltie. Her fearlessly pushy and exaggerated enthusiasm for bloody violence is both utterly hysterical and painfully sinister, although never drifting to the dark-side of the audience’s perception, despite her adversely psychotic attacks on “crime”. Even the cameos from the likes of ‘Slither’ star Nathan Fillion (among others) are marvelously acted and well placed, providing constant hilarity for Gunn fans and others alike.
Due to the tiny budget (roughly $2 million) and limited shooting schedule, visually ‘SUPER’ can be noticed to be rather dim in places, luckily salvaged by the hauntingly humorous use of onomatopoeic graphics (Bam, Boom, Splat, etc.) and truly fragrant soundtrack, in particular Tyler Bates’ chirpy yet thoughtful scoring.
Viciously funny, sadistically adorable and hilariously heart-felt, ‘SUPER’ is bound to be one of the most original, unique and darkly comic films you will ever have the privilege to lay eyes on. It won’t be to everybody’s taste, some welcoming the extreme violence and sickening comedy, others not, but it will certainly open up your mind to look beyond the face value of justice and is sure to blur your perceptions of right and wrong beyond recognition.
What exists beyond the colourful spandex and bloody smears is a truly heart-wrenching and unpredictably grim portrait of the 21st century peppered with love and laughter, making ‘SUPER’ the most beautifully honest and ambitiously passionate vigilante tale to ever grace the eyes of the public. Treat it with care and a thoughtful mind, this is not your average gore-fest, ‘SUPER’ is an engrossingly real and overlooked gem, so original yet commemorative in its approach. Rubbing shoulders with the heavy-weight blockbusters of 2011 won’t allow it to fare well financially, but ‘SUPER’ is a fresh and poignant escape from the dark depths of the Hollywood explosion-fest and should be endured by all those who seek excellent filmmaking. Shut up, crime!