Director: James Gunn
This Is That Productions/Ambush Entertainment/IFC Films
I am a huge fan of all things super heroes, so, when I noticed a Kick-Ass reminiscent film directed by James Gunn and starring Rainn Wilson, well, I couldn’t pass it up. Super entertains from the very first second through the very last scene, breaking super-hero film convention. The film centers around a slightly crazy nobody who works a boring job, has a boring marriage, and an boring life. When his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, he decides to break loose. Frank (Rainn Wilson) dons a red super-hero costume, calls himself the Crimson Bolt, and begins beating criminals with a wrench.
Unlike most super-heroes, the Crimson Bolt has an ambiguous moral compass. Yes, he wants to protect people, but will endanger others if necessary. At one point, he even hits an innocent woman with his wrench simply because she gets in the way. He has some rules, but he is not afraid of harming and/or killing, criminals. Super functions as a satire of The Punisher. In essence, Frank is an underequipped, untrained, mental Frank Castle. Gunn plays off of The Punisher’s formula by creating a film that is both gritty and hilarious. Frank is so clueless and awkward that he inadvertently packs the film situational humor. Comic relief is provided by Libby/Boltie (played by Ellen Paige). Libby, who becomes Frank’s “kid side-kick”, makes Frank seem completely normal. While Frank has visions of grandeur (he believes he is on a mission from God) and actual visual and auditory hallucinations, Libby is straight-up psychopathic. She has absolutely no moral compass, and is completely enthralled by murder. She kills the bad guys while laughing maniacally.
Gunn’s film excels because he manages to create a “superhero” character to which all of us can relate. While we may not have lost our wife to a drug dealer, everyone has had their heart broken at some point. Frank is a man torn apart by losing his one happiness in life. He hits rock bottom so hard that he begins seeing himself as a special messenger for God, created to save the innocent. Rainn Wilson is flawless in this role. He pulls off the awkward vibe, but is also fearless in his dips into depravity. When he breaks down, crying to God hat he hates him and that his life is terrible, his screams are universal, something onto which we can onoly connect. Rainn Wilson makes the viewer feel his heartbreak and his anger in this instant, which does nothing to dilute the laughter he provides at other moments.
Super will also manage to surprise its viewers. Since Gunn does not hold true to most super-hero themes, there is a uniquely encompassing sense of dread. The viewer is unsure if their anti-hero will still be alive at the end of the film, or whether he will manage to save his wife. The only thing certain in this film is bloodshed. If you like super-heroes, comedy, and violence – this film is definitely for you. You will not come out of this movie having learned anything, or feeling like you’ve just had an emotional catharsis, but you will have a hell of a good time.