First up, James Gunn’s Super (2010) is not a rip off of Kick-Ass (2010). Sure they are both films about somebody without super powers who dresses up in a silly costume and decides to fight crime but that is about all they have in common. Kick-Ass is pure light entertainment and a fun ride while it lasts but Super is a darker beast and far more affecting for it.
Rainn Wilson plays Frank Darbo, a cook at the local diner whose strung out wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) runs off with smirking pimp Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Unhinged and enraged Frank creates an alter-ego, ‘The Crimson Bolt’, and hangs around the neighbourhood dumpsters waiting to assault criminals with a heavy metal wrench. Along the way he meets Libby (Ellen Page), a comic book counter clerk who discovers his secret identity and forces him to accept her as his sidekick.
The violence in Kick-Ass was all very comic book. Bullets fly, people die and, although there are some graphic scenes, they are all hyper real. Super has been trashed by some critics for being too bloody and brutal and yes, you will be shocked once or twice but these scenes are completely justified.
Most of the violence is masked by cartoon captions such as ‘THWACK’ and ‘KA-POW’. It’s only when these captions are removed that we see the reality of getting hit in the face or shot in the head. It hurts, it’s not pretty and nor is it pleasant to watch, so if you want to slip on a costume and play hero be prepared for a world of pain because it’s not like it is in the movies. Kick-Ass hinted at this, yet Super hammers it home and a lot of credit has to go to writer/director Gunn. Gunn was almost certainly influenced by 80’s Troma films such as the Toxic Avenger (1984) and the final scene is ripped straight out of Taxi Driver (1976), yet at no time did I feel like I’d seen this all before.
Rainn Wilson does a fine job as the misguided Frank/’Crimson Bolt’ and Kevin Bacon obviously relished playing the one dimensional pantomime villain. However, like Kick-Ass, it’s the lady who steals the show – Ellen Page is excellent. Her character Libby a.k.a ‘Boltie’ is a sexually aggressive, borderline-psychopath who takes gleeful sadistic pleasure out of beating up the bad guys. I didn’t get what the big deal about Page was until I saw Drew Barrymore’s roller derby flick Whip It (2009) and her turn in Super has confirmed that she is indeed one of most talented young actors around.
Super’s box office figures may be disappointing, but this is a film always destined for cult status and I recommend you catch it during it’s limited cinema release or snag a copy as soon as it hits the shops.