Frank D'Arbo sets out to get his wife back after she leaves him for a drug drealer. He can't accept that she has left and instead believes that she was taken from him. So dressed in a costume and an alias he begins to fight crime to eventually be able to take her back.
The first thing to say about this movie is that even though it might seem like another "Kick-Ass", I assure you it isn't. Not only was it originally written back in 2002 (many years before the "Kick-Ass" comic), but it doesn't share a whole lot with it storywise. Sure, there are a few things that are bound to happen in movies about superheroes without a power, but the similarities really end there. I thought "Kick-Ass" was like any other superhero movie except aimed at teenagers and more over-the-top. In the case of "SUPER" it would barely be fair to call it a superhero movie. That single label is just not enough.
I've been excited about this movie for a long time. I'm a big fan of James Gunn as a person. His filmmaking isn't bad, I like "Slither", "PG Porn" was great, "Tromeo & Juliet" is well.. one odd Shakespeare film. But James Gunn is great to his fans, and I am a big follower of his internet activities like Formspring, where he is brutally honest to fans questions regarding anything. His filmmaking was never amazing but it was always fun enough to please me. "SUPER" is without a doubt his best work to date, and in many aspects I would call it amazing, so expect a lengthy review.
Rainn Wilson plays Frank D'Arbo, a weird and lonely man. The best moment in his entire life was when he married his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler). One day she suddenly leaves him for drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) and Frank can't accept this fact. He goes to the cops and tries to get them to help him but they quickly dismiss him when they realize no crime has been committed. After watching a show on a Christian TV channel about a superhero, The Holy Avenger, Frank has a vision that he is touched by the finger of God. And this gives him the idea to create his own superhero to be able to get Sarah back. He goes to a comic store to read up on superheroes without powers and creates the wrench wielding "Crimson Bolt". In the comic store he also meets young Libby (Ellen Page), the comic book clerk. When she finds out what he is planning she wants to become his sidekick "Boltie".
What makes "SUPER" something different is that it switches tones through the entire film. The first impressions when looking at trailers and such is that it's just a comedy, but that's only part of it. It has a really realistic feel and with the comedy comes some extremely serious and dramatic scenes. It's bizarrely emotional, even. It's a story about a man who loses the only important thing in his life, and his ways of taking control often makes him look so ignorant to what he really is doing. "SUPER" doesn't always make us root for Frank, at times we see him go way too far in his way to fight crime - such as splitting a man's head open in graphic manner for butting in line. You could easily call him a mad man in many scenes, but that's nothing next to what Libby is.
By the end of the movie I certainly didn't feel I had just watched a comedy, but I was rather shooked up by the entire ending. First it leaves us very surprised, only to become completely action-packed with some violence that I think was more grindhouse-y than films like "Machete" managed to be, and it wasn't even going for that. It becomes more realistic and even though they weren't all graphic, they were much more effective. After all the action, the ending also delivers a fantastic scene between Frank and Jacques along with a great speech, followed by a surprisingly bittersweet end. Needless to say, the final act of "SUPER" is the strongest part of the movie, but it wouldn't have worked so well if it wasn't for the quirky comedy, meetings and character drama that preceeded it.
It's incredible to think that this is a very low budget movie in Hollywood standards, yet it manages to have some huge names, as well as some that are just awesome. How about this cast? Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Linda Cardellini and even Lloyd Kaufman in a speaking part. It amazes me to know that they all worked for SAG minimum wages just because they liked the script so much. Someone like Kevin Bacon, who already is one of my all time favorite actors, just got even cooler because of it. Rainn Wilson delivers his best acting to date and definitely the most emotional, Kevin Bacon gives us a strangely likable scumbag, Michael Rooker is fantastic as the right hand of Jacques and Liv Tyler plays a great victim of drugs. And then we have Ellen Page. I wouldn't call myself a fan of hers, but I am also not as against her as Preston is. However, there are parts in "SUPER" that annoy me because she often brings her typical character acting, but then there are also some really powerful scenes involving her that makes her character so important to the movie. She is also downright insane in the movie and the more we get to know her, the more I can stand her in the film. She also carries the most awkward scene in the movie on her shoulders, for that scene alone she deserves credit.
The movie dances on the line between really absurd comedy (like the scene where Frank is touched by the finger of God - that was a weird one, or the old school "Batman"-styled BANG/BOOMs), a heartwrenching drama and raw violence. James Gunn has called it a mix of arthouse and grindhouse, and even though I don't think of it as arthouse, it definitely has grindhouse qualities without letting it control the movie. I'm generally not a big fan of superhero movies but if I were to categorize this as one then it is by far the best one I have seen (even above "The Toxic Avenger"). This movie was the first one where I really could see how great of a writer James Gunn is, and it brings out the best in many of the actors involved. "SUPER" is a must see, but many people won't like it. It's not flawless by any means but it offers so much that I am a fan of. Be ready to be met by heavy doses of comedy, action, gore, awkward situations, sadness, mature themes, bittersweet love, realistic situations and of course entertainment.