Thursday, May 5, 2011

Super (2011)

Pitch-black, take-no-prisoners satire about a societal malcontent who, after his wife leaves him, goes on a quest to become a superhero in order to "free" her from the man she's shacked up with. The tone here is very bizarre; decidedly not a straightforward comedy, nor a bizarre melodrama, the mood never settles into something easily digested, nor easily explained. More than his previous feature, Slither, James Gunn invests the film with his anarchic roots with Troma Films, focusing, in nearly equal parts, on both the grotesque and the heartfelt, the benign and the macabre. He throws you off with the casting, as the presence of Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page as the principals suggesting some sort of detached hipster irony that never comes, leaving you not only emotionally bare from the events on screen, but doubtful that there was anything "genuine" worth getting worked up about. It is a very brave, unique mood for the movie to sustain, and it is, actually, the most noteworthy aspect of the film.

The cast is bolstered by the primary duo of Wilson and Page as the wannabe superheroes. Wilson, in particular, seems thoroughly immersed in the material, and shows a selfless dedication that very few superstars tend to show in their own star vehicles. Page is hilarious and, surprisingly, likable as the feisty, overexcited comic book geek, Liv Tyler is doomed and sympathetic as Wilson's wife, and Kevin Bacon, as the villain, is delightfully smarmy and baffling. In smaller parts, Gunn's Slither buddies Michael Rooker and Nathan Fillion are pitch-perfect, and The Wire's Andre Royo gets in some good lines as Wilson's coworker. Ruining much else of the movie would be a disservice to its effect; I had not seen any trailers for the film, and thus, was definitely impressed by a number of the films surprises. Just don't think this is some hipster comedy version of Kick-Ass, 'cause (maybe unfortunately) it's not.

Recommended to fans of out-there, no holds barred black comedies (read: TROMA) or Rainn Wilson, who, if he does nothing as prolific for the rest of career, can always use this performance to show what he's capable of as an unconventional, intense leading man.

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