Director: James Gunn
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion
Synopsis: After his wife leaves him, simple diner cook Frank D’Arbo (Wilson) looks for inspiration in his life. He observes a TV show featuring superhero The Holy Avenger (Fillion), and decides the best way to feel better about himself and get his wife back is to become a super hero himself.
Hollywood loves to repeat itself, and this review will make a trifecta on a common theme. This will be the first of two such reviews, this one completing a review triplet with Kick-Ass and Defendor, while you should keep your eyes open for my Friends with Benefits review, a perfect pairing with my previous No Strings Attached and Love and Other Drugs reviews. For today though, I focus on the recent trend for ordinary people making a costume and becoming a powerless vigilante.
SUPER is a film that struggles to be defined to a certain tone. It was advertised for its more comic elements, however in many respects it is a dark film, and is at stages somewhat disturbing. Frank D’Arbo’s character is initially established as a sympathetic loser type whom one could only wish well. However, when he accepts his “mission” as the Crimson Bolt, and adopts a wrench as his weapon, it is often hard to know whether to laugh or not. There is black comedy, sure, but seeing a guy gushing blood after being whacked in the head for cutting line IS disturbing regardless.
Frank finds a supporter and eventual side kick in Libby (Page). She adopts her own costumed persona, Boltie, and buys right into Frank’s delusion. However she is much more extreme and violent than he, throwing him off-balance. Page’s performance is the stand out of the show, and remains impressive despite her character’s extreme nature. However, it should be noted than there is no character in this movie that is not extreme of misguided to some degree. Franks wife (Tyler) has gone astray by returning to her drug habit, a habit which is supported by new partner Jacques (Bacon). The latter becomes the major villain, but one does struggle to wonder how his punishment fitted the crime. That leaves Fillion’s Holy Avenger, perhaps the most innocent character in the film, given that he is a guy playing a Christian superhero on a dodgy christian television station. He in the end also provides some of the best laughs.
The fact that all the main characters are clearly flawed is both the strength and the weakness of the film. As a comedy, these character perform reprehensible acts, and one can often feel guilty for even thinking about laughing. This is particularly the case by Frank’s final assault on Jacques’ property, which certainly goes to some very unexpected places. However, the film does use its black satire to make some very interesting social commentary by the final frames of the film. You may not be laughing, but if you are able to stick with it, you will be thinking. It is this conclusion which for me elevated the film and made it worthy of the third star. For me it could have had more though if in its entire run it was established as a drama, in which case the social commentary perhaps could have had more weight.
Don’t expect a light-hearted romp, and you are on track for appreciating this film. The fact remains however that in this recent sub-genre of films, Kick-Ass is the original and best of what is currently available.
3 stars out of 5