Super

Super, written and directed by James Gunn, is about a short order cook, Frank (Rainn Wilson), whose wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), is stolen from him by a drug dealer, Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Frank becomes depressed, and after watching a TV show about a religious superhero, he has a religious vision in which he is told to become a superhero himself. He goes to a comic book store to do research on how to be a superhero, and there he meets Libby (Ellen Page), a store employee who helps him find appropriate comic books. Franks makes a red costume for himself and takes the moniker, “The Crimson Bolt”. He roams the streets at night, attacking criminals with a wrench. (Frank’s idea of “criminals” includes a man who cuts in line at a movie theatre.) Libby eventually finds out about what Frank is doing, and she demands that he make her his sidekick, “Boltie”. However, it soon becomes clear that Libby is less interested in fighting crime than in clobbering people. Frank’s feelings towards her become conflicted, but then he has a vision telling him he must rescue Sarah. He takes Libby with him for an attack on Jacques’s heavily guarded mansion.

I found Super mostly funny in a very dark sort of way. However, towards the end the film suddenly becomes merely mindlessly violent. (The turning point comes at about the point when Frank sets a man on fire.) I suppose that itself is intended as a sort of joke. Perhaps Gunn meant this film to be an elaborate shaggy dog story: the ending is less than what we are led to expect it to be.

Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page both give very good performances. (Page is wonderfully disturbing as Libby.) I wish I could give this film an unqualified endorsement, but I can really only recommend about four fifths of it.

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