directed by James Gunn
(IFC, 2010)

Maybe I need to stop watching movies when I'm sick.

But I heard that James Gunn, director of the excellent Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, had done an earlier superhero flick, one more like the cult classic Kick-Ass. And I figured I had to see it.


Frank Darbo (The Office's Rainn Wilson) is a sad sack of a man, with a lousy job and an uninspiring marriage to Sarah (Liv Tyler), who ends up leaving him for a high-end drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Devastated by her betrayal, Frank is lost -- until he is "inspired" by a campy religious superhero show on late-night TV, in which a long-haired, Jesus-powered superhero named the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) fights demonic influences in a high school.

Soon, armed with a heavy wrench and wearing a shabby red costume, Frank is patrolling the streets as the Crimson Bolt, looking for evil to eradicate. He soon finds a like mind in Libby (Ellen Page), who is half his age and twice as violent, and who volunteers to be his sidekick.

Oh, and Linda Cardellini, as an unnamed pet-store worker, tries to sell him a bunny.

Did these actors just have nothing better to do? Did Gunn have some hold over them? Was this a contractual fulfillment?

Anyway, Frank begins his evolution into "hero" as a man who wants to stop bad people from doing bad things. He targets drug dealers and child molesters, and we're supposed to be OK with that, even if they do get potentially fatal raps on the head with a large wrench. Then he decides to wreak vengeance on people for, for instance, butting in a movie line, and you realize Frank has lost his grip.

And then he decides it's all right if the bad guys don't get up again.

There's a horrible rape scene that seems to be more titillating than horrifying for some people simple because the genders are reversed. It doesn't work that way -- it's not automatically fun, or funny, when a woman rapes a man, and just because a body has certain physiological reactions to stimuli doesn't mean he wants it or make it OK.

A lot of people are killed gruesomely in this movie, but one death in particular -- I won't spoil it, in case this review somehow makes you want to watch it -- was disturbingly handled. And, apparently, swept somehow under the rug so that no one else in the movie noticed afterwards.

There are no happy endings.

And you finish the movie wondering if the makers intended it to be a comedy -- because there are some funny bits here and there -- or if they meant it to be grim and depressing. Certainly you don't come away from Super feeling good about, well, anything.

review by
Tom Knapp

2 April 2016

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