George Rossi is an immigrant and former Vietnam-vet who now runs an apartment building in Queens. George is a nice guy; he tries to help out his tenants anyway he can, even if it means waiting on the rent money or even allowing himself to be walked all over. One day though, George finally snaps and now no one in his apartment building is safe because he's the one with the keys.
Not to be confused with James Gunn's movie "SUPER" or the awful early-nineties Joe Pesci movie; Evan Makrogiannis' "The Super" is one that I've been anticipating. While I haven't seen Evan's first movie "The Turnpike Killer" (though I want to) I had been keeping up with the movie during it's production and going by what I saw and looking at the cast, I figured this movie would be a solid entry into the nu-ploitation genre. However, after finally sitting down and watching "The Super" I'm not quite sure how I feel about it.
The idea and the main plot to the movie is about a George Rossi (Demetri Kallas), a superintendent for a small apartment building in Queens (New York). An immigrant and Vietnam vet, George tries to get along with everybody and satisfy all their demands. Even if it means he becomes a human doormat to everyone. But day after day of abuse from his tenants and the people of New York in general, George finally snaps and reacts in violent outbursts with whoever is upsetting him. After seeking help from a tenant named Olga (Manoush), George starts to settle in and becomes complicit with his new violent and homicidal tendencies.
That's the basic down-and-dirty simplified explanation of the plot. To the movie's credit though, there was some genuine effort put into the writing of "The Super" -- it isn't merely an exploitation throw-back of a superintendent killing residents. Well, it becomes that but there was some thought that was put into the story and so the movie actually has a tendency to go into the psychological aspect of George's state of being. It intelligently blends in George being an immigrant and his military service into who he is and how it contributes to when he finally snaps. All of which becomes an important factor when the ending comes rolling around and it's then you realize how much the movie focus more on psychology rather than trashy exploitation-entertainment. While I'm growing very tired of all the pretentious movie fans and critics who drone on and on about (supposed) social commentary in movies, I will agree with them, this one time, when it comes to "The Super". Most likely because the message isn't deep and the movie isn't up its own ass with what it tries to say -- the social reflection is used as an important factor in how the George character operates and to bring some reality to the movie. It's there a reason for it to be in the movie; it isn't simply there in an attempt to make a mundane (speaking in general terms) movie seem more important than it is.
I was definitely surprised by the effort that was put into the characters and story since that wasn't what I was expecting. What I went into the movie looking for a modern sleazy exploitation movie, and sometimes it was, but for the most part the actual exploitation part left me wanting. Up until I saw the movie I had been hearing about how "gritty and raw" the movie was but overall the movie actually looks and feels a bit too polished to qualify for either adjective. In retrospect that's actually not a bad thing because "The Super" is actually very well made for a movie of this caliber and it's well executed technically -- it looks and feels like an actual movie and not a backyard project. But when you look at it in comparison to a movie like say "Maniac" or even Andy Milligan's "Seeds", (aka "Seeds of Sin") "The Super" doesn't feel as raw because of the obvious planning and forethought that was put into the scenes. Where as movies like "Maniac" and "Seeds" feel more run-and-gun gorilla style which is what gives those movies that "raw" feel to them.
As far is it being gritty -- well, it almost feels a bit too common instead of being a punch to the gut. "The Super" has a nasty streak to it, no question; with certain scenes that involved a poo filled toilet or the corpses of young girls. Again, in retrospect, when you step back and look at the movie as a whole the violence and depravity isn't as strong as you think it would be. That's not to say it's bad because what "The Super" has works well for it (Not to mention it is clear the violence was not intended to be the focal point of the movie.) and fits the tone perfectly for what they were going for. But it seems like they could have pushed it further or perhaps changed the tone to make it have more of an impact. Take Trier's "Antichrist" -- not a violent movie but what few moments of graphic nature are there are both powerful and disturbing. Then again, maybe I was just expecting too much from "The Super".
Which very well could be my problem; waiting with anticipation and mistakenly reading over-hyped and over-sensationalized reviews could have raised my expectations too far for "The Super" to reach. And it is lame to blame other people's opinions on how you received a movie but in this case I think it holds true. I have yet to read a single review for "The Super" where the words "gritty" and "raw" were not used but also because no one mentions the heavy levels of black comedy that are in "The Super". The whole movie wants to make you uncomfortable and so when George has his freak-outs it's played up and over-the-top for laughs. One scene in particular he gets so mad and so worked up the way he lets out his aggression is to cut a plastic pipe while rambling incoherently. There are more than a few scenes that have the same tone -- again, for example, George camouflaging himself and hiding in a Christmas tree in order to get the jump on one of his victims/tenants.
I don't mean to sound like Negative Nancy and just bitch about what the movie didn't do because at the end of the day, when all is said and done, for a nu-ploitation "The Super" was actually good. The writing was exceptional for what kind of movie it was, Demetri Kallas was great as the lead, there was some decent brutality, and overall the movie is competently made from the cinematography down to the soundtrack. I just find myself on middle ground with "The Super" since I was expecting certain elements to be better than they were, even if that's arrogant of me. I liked the movie but because I was disappointed with somethings I don't like it as much as I think I should have. On that note, however, I think Evan and everyone involved should be proud of themselves with how the "The Super" turned out because it could always be worse...Says the man with a stack of screeners from Chemical Burn staring back at him as he lets out a sigh of defeat and despair.