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Review: James Gunn's Super (2011), starring Rainn Wilson (Fantasia 2011)

James Gunn's Super (2011), starring Rainn Wilson (Fantasia 2011)
07.26.2011by: Chris Bumbray
8 10

PLOT: A low-key, regular guy (Rainn Wilson) transforms himself into a super hero called The Crimson Bolt, after his addict wife (Liv Tyler) falls under the sway of a local drug lord (Kevin Bacon). He's joined on his quest by a half-crazed comic book store clerk (Ellen Page), who proclaims herself his new sidekick, Boltie.

REVIEW: James Gunn's SUPER is just that. SUPER. Yeah, I know- pretty unoriginal way to start a review, but I also said KICK ASS kicked ass, so what do you expect? If KICK ASS was the big budget, 'regular guy' superhero satire, SUPER is the ultra low-budget indie flavored take on the genre. This feels like a throwback to Gunn's days working for Troma films, and I mean that in a good way. Despite the vast difference in budgets, SUPER is just as creative and perhaps even more wickedly funny than that admittedly great flick. While KICK ASS was also a hard-R, SUPER feels grittier, as our heroes here both might be certifiably insane, although that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't likable. Still, they do some pretty far out things, like tearing half the face off a guy who (might) have keyed someone's car, or bashing a guy and his girlfriend over the head with a wrench after they cut line in a movie theatre.

In the lead, THE OFFICE's Rainn Wilson does a bloody fantastic job. This is the second indie Wilson's completely rocked in 2010 (HESHER being the other), and making low-budget, hip fare like this is going to give him a career that I imagine will still be going strong after THE OFFICE inevitably ends. His character is an endearing sort. This is a regular schmo who's been at the receiving end of a lot of casual cruelty over the course of his life. The one thing he has going for him is his recovering drug-addict wife, played by the luscious Liv Tyler.

However, she once again falls victim to the needle, and soon she becomes object of drug dealer slime bag Kevin Bacon's affections. While it's obvious from the start Wilson's character isn't playing with a full deck, with him being prone to religious hallucinations, you still can't help but like the guy. He just seems so damn earnest in his quest to save his wife, and with her being played by someone like Liv Tyler- you can't blame him. Wilson's final assault on Bacon's headquarters is almost like the superhero equivalent of TAXI DRIVER, and I doubt there are many comic actors that can pull off the balance of simultaneously heroic, funny, and scary.

However, the real scene-stealer here has to be Ellen Page. Wow. You've never seen Page like this folks. Her role as a totally unhinged, murderous, nymphomaniac comic book store worker, with a passion for slicing drug dealers faces up with her Wolverine-like claws might be downright iconic. She's absolutely incredible here, and throughout, I couldn't help but wish Fincher had cast her as Salander in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Her mixture of ferociousness, and understated sex appeal would have suited the role perfectly. Anyone who only knows Page from JUNO, get ready to have your world rocked by her work here. Between this and INCEPTION, Ms. Page is having a great year, and proving she has a range far beyond JUNO.

Like his previous film SLITHER, Gunn fills his cast with a fun bunch of supporting players. As the main baddie, Bacon seems to be having the time of his life, with his first scene opposite Wilson- with the two of them sitting down to breakfast, being a side-splitter. I also loved Andre Royo (Bubbles!) as Wilson's foul mouthed, but kindly co-worker, who enjoys demonstrating his affection toward Wilson by frequently kissing him. The one and only Nathan Fillion also has a gem of a cameo, as a hard-core Christian superhero called The Holy Avenger, and his cut -ins had the journalist audience I saw this with rolling in the aisles. Old pros Michael Rooker, and Gregg Henry (love this guy) also pop up in solid supporting parts, although it has to be said, Henry's rockin' a pretty bad (perhaps intentionally so) hairpiece.

Frankly, I can't wait to see it again. The balance between humor, pathos, and hardcore action is absolutely pitch perfect. Bring on SUPER 2!

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