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Monday, August 22, 2011


Super is an oppressively indie film that confuses misdirection with originality. The filmmakers want credit for zagging where mainstream movies zig, and vice versa, but fail to account for the fact that, upon much repetition, their zags become as predictable and formulaic as the zigs they snub their noses at.

Rainn Wilson (The Office’s Dwight Schrute) plays Frank D’Arbo, a short-order cook whose wife (Liv Tyler) slips back into drug addiction and leaves him for a heroin dealer and strip-club owner named Jacques (Kevin Bacon, who must be in on the six-degrees game by now and is just being helpful.)

Frank may or may not have been a little off even before his wife left him, but he has a full break with reality in its aftermath. Inspired by an Evangelical TV superhero called the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) and a vision wherein he is touched by the hand (and tentacles) of God, D’Arbo decides to become a superhero himself.

After some false starts, D’Arbo takes to the streets at night as The Crimson Bolt, whacking drug dealers over the head with his trusty wrench. His exploits captivate the local media, but he goes too far when he starts whacking people for cutting the line at the movie theater. Eventually a comic-book store employee and budding sociopath named Libby (Ellen Page) guess D’Arbo’s secret identity and becomes his sidekick, Boltie. Page goes full-throttle playing the violent and psychotic Libby, but somehow she fails to become as unsettling and scary as the part requires.

The movie misguidedly tries to shock the audience through excessive gore and violence, but this works against the movie as the body county runs higher and the viewer becomes desensitized. The ending is another example of the film wanting credit merely for being different. Its violent outcome is certainly atypical, but here the movie also tries to have it both ways, achingly straining for a happy-ish ending it does not at all deserve. The Crimson Bolt is neither truly hero nor anti-hero, and the movie surrounding him is neither memorable nor amusing.

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