Super is the latest film from Troma alumni James Gunn, and it follows the story of Frank D’Arbo (played by The US Office’s Rainn Wilson). Frank is a pretty normal guy – he’s got a house, a crappy job, a belief in God, and a recovering drug addict wife Sarah (played by Liv Tyler). Is he happy? No, not really… but he’s okay with that. It’s all ‘fine’ until the dastardly Jacques (Kevin Bacon in true weaselly evil form) turns up and steals Sarah away from him and gets her hooked back on the white stuff.
At this point Frank becomes somewhat unhinged and after a rather visceral vision from god (aided along by a great cameo from the ever watchable Nathon Fillion as The Holy Avenger), Frank decides to become The Crimson Bolt! Armed with only his trusty pipe wrench he’ll rid the city of scum, and get back his girl!
Super is the sort of low-budget independent film making that really brings writer/director Gunn back to his Troma roots. On the one hand it has an extremely dark tone with some very twisted sensibilities, on the other, some lighter comic moments. However, neither seem to gel particularly well and hit the darkly-comic target it seems to be aiming for.
Rainn Wilson is passable as the lead, but for me works much better once Ellen Page arrives as the rather neurotic Libby (aka Boltie). Not only does she give Wilson someone to bounce off, but also steal the movie from under him. Kevin Bacon turns in a nice balance of slimey evil mixed with a jittery deviousness as the villain of the piece, whilst Liv Tyler is perfectly fine during her extremely brief screen time.
I have been desperately trying to ignore the Kick-Ass shaped elephant in the room, but you really can’t review Super without some comparison to the aforementioned ‘reality superhero’ film. Gunn apparently had been working on a script for Super since 2002, but as Matthew Vaughn’s movie beat Super to the punch, it makes Gunn’s film look like an attempt to cash in, even though I know that’s not the case.
Overall Super is a strange, off-the-wall little film. Dark yes, but not quite comic enough to balance it out. Some good performances from Page and Bacon, and I can’t help but cheer any time Fillion pops up in a movie (he SO should have been Green Lantern). But the lack of cohesion in the direction and story lets it down. I really wanted to like this film, I just wish it had been a bit more… well… Super…