[SUPER opens in Cleveland April 22nd exclusively at the Capitol Theatre.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
I liked last year's KICK-ASS. Liked it quite a bit, as a matter of fact. That said, the movie didn't really make good on it's premise. It claimed to be about what would happen if ordinary people in our ordinary world decided to become super heroes. No powers, not even any special training or gadgets like Batman. Just a costume and the determination to do it. But by the time the first act was over, the main character essentially had super powers, and we were introduced to a couple of other would-be costumed crime fighters who were as proficient at taking down the bad guys as any Hollywood action hero. It was fun, it was clever, but it wasn't what it professed to be.
James Gunn's SUPER actually follows through on the idea of an everyman hero. When his recovering drug addict wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) goes missing, Frank D'Arbo (Rain Wilson) has a vision from God telling him to put on a costume and save her. With a little advice from comic store clerk Libby (Ellen Page), Frank becomes The Crimson Bolt and sets out to fight crime and get back the love of his life.
Realizing that he has the body of Rain Wilson, Frank wisely decides he needs a weapon. He eventually settles on a wrench, and goes about delivering swift and painful justice to evildoers both big and small, ranging from drug dealers and child molesters to people who cut in line at the movies. Eventually he discovers that Sarah is back on drugs and working for strip club impresario and drug dealer Jaques (Kevin Bacon). He sets out to rescue her, but soon finds out Jaques' gun toting thugs don't go down quite so easily.
If you were to ask me what directors I thought could successfully blend over the top, Troma style humor with genuine pathos, which is what SUPER seems to be aiming for, James Gunn would be near the top of the list. After all, he already did it with SLITHER. Here, though, the balance feels off. There are some funny bits, like the religious superhero TV show Frank watches, and most of the scenes featuring Page's character. But the humor just doesn't gel with the more sincere aspects of the story.
The actors all seem genuinely committed to their characters, and that helps carry the film a little farther than you'd expect, but it's just not enough. Too many gags fall flat, and too often the attempts to make us care about the characters are undermined by them doing something reprehensible. The ending is supposed to be uplifting, I guess, but instead it just feels like whatever air was still left in the story gets sucked out. I really wanted SUPER to be super, but it never takes flight. 2 out of 4 stars.