out of Five
Running time: 96
Sharply directed and genuinely subversive, this is an extremely funny comedy that goes to some very dark places, thanks to a superb script and terrific comic performances from Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. Basically, if you thought Kick-Ass wasn't wrong enough, then this is the movie for you.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by James Gunn (Slither), Super stars Rainn Wilson as Frank D'Arbo, a middle-aged loser who works as a chef in a diner and who married ex-junkie co-worker Sarah (Liv Tyler) by catching her at a particularly vulnerable moment. However, when Sarah leaves him for drug-dealing gangster Jacques (Kevin Bacon), Frank has a vision from God (actually a TV superhero version of Jesus, played by Nathan Fillion) and, inspired by comic shop geek Libby (Ellen Page), he dons a superhero costume in order to fight crime as wrench wielding superhero The Crimson Bolt.
Needless to say, Frank's brand of justice leaves his victims in a pretty bad state and the police (including Gregg Henry as Detective Felkner) are soon looking for a dangerous vigilante. Meanwhile, Libby figures out Frank's secret identity and decides she wants in on the crime fighting action too, donning her own costume to become his sexy sidekick, Boltie.
Rainn Wilson is perfectly cast as Frank – as with his portrayal of Dwight in The American Office, he somehow manages to play borderline psychotic and yet still remain sympathetic. Bacon is equally good as Jacques, but the film is completely stolen by Ellen Page, who's utterly fantastic and delivers what is probably the comic performance of the year (her wildly over-the-top reactions to their crime fighting exploits are hysterical).
The cleverly written script keeps things firmly grounded in reality, despite some occasional comic book-style touches: for example, the violence is horribly realistic and genuinely shocking as a result. In addition, the film takes a gleefully subversive swipe at superhero movies in general (and, arguably, Kick-Ass in particular), while also having the balls to follow through with some of its darker ideas.
Gunn keeps tight control of his material throughout and gets both the blackly comic tone and the emotional balance exactly right, to the point where several scenes are simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny, jaw-droppingly shocking and genuinely moving. There's also a terrific soundtrack and an extremely enjoyable animated opening credits sequence that's worth re-watching after you've seen the film.
While it won't work for everyone, Super is a genuinely hilarious, blacker-than-black superhero comedy that's worth seeing for Ellen Page's performance alone. Highly recommended.