Super (2011)

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Movies

When most people hear the words “independent film,” they immediately garner images of low-quality cinema that’s either weird or inferior to the kind of stuff showing every two hours at the local cineplex. Truth be told, independent films are usually quite interesting. While the subject matter is often off the beaten path, independent filmmakers are not restricted in storytelling by the deep pockets of Hollywood film executives or the demands of high-paid acting talent.

The end result is usually a breath of fresh air – and the Nutwork supports independent cinema to the highest degree. Granted, many times these films are unusual or quirky, but it rarely interferes with the great tales and cinematic noir these films present.

The latest independent film to catch our attention is James Gunn’s (Slither) Super, which was – well – super.

Yeah, I know- pretty unoriginal way to start a review, but I also said Kick-Ass kicked ass, so what do you expect? IFC snagged the rights to this after it rocked the Toronto Independent Film Festival’s Midnight Madness crowd last fall, and finally having checked it out for myself, I can see why.

If Kick-Ass was the big budget, ‘regular guy’ superhero satire, Super is the ultra low-budget indie flavored take on the genre. Despite the vast difference in budgets, Super is just as creative and perhaps even more wickedly funny than that admittedly great flick. While Kick-Ass was also a hard-R, Super feels grittier, as our heroes here both might be certifiably insane, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t likable. Still, they do some pretty far out things, like tearing half the face off a guy who (might) have keyed someone’s car, or bashing a guy and his girlfriend over the head with a wrench after they cut line in a movie theatre.

In the lead, The Office’s Rainn Wilson does a bloody fantastic job. This is the second indie Wilson’s completely rocked in 2010 (Hesher being the other), and making low-budget, hip fare like this is going to give him a career that I imagine will still be going strong after The Office inevitably ends. He’s likeable, dry, and just quirky enough to establish himself as the new independent film go-to guy.

His character is an endearing sort. This is a regular schmo who’s been at the receiving end of a lot of casual cruelty over the course of his life. The one thing he has going for him is his recovering drug-addict wife, played by the luscious Liv Tyler.

However, she once again falls victim to the needle, and soon she becomes object of drug dealer slime bag Kevin Bacon’s affections. While it’s obvious from the start Wilson’s character isn’t playing with a full deck, with him being prone to religious hallucinations, you still can’t help but like the guy. He just seems so damn earnest in his quest to save his wife, and with her being played by someone like Liv Tyler- you can’t blame him. Wilson’s final assault on Bacon’s headquarters is almost like the superhero equivalent of Taxi Driver, and I doubt there are many comic actors that can pull off the balance of simultaneously heroic, funny, and scary.

However, the real scene-stealer here has to be Ellen Page. You’ve never seen Page like this folks. Her role as a totally unhinged, murderous, nymphomaniac comic book store worker, with a passion for slicing drug dealers faces up with her Wolverine-like claws might be downright iconic. She’s absolutely incredible here, and adds a huge bonus to an already perfect cast. Anyone who only knows Page from Juno, get ready to have your world rocked by her work here. Between this and Inception, Ms. Page is having a great year, and proving she has a huge career in front of her.

Like his previous film Slither, Gunn fills his cast with a fun bunch of supporting players. As the main bad-guy, Bacon seems to be having the time of his life, with his first scene opposite Wilson- with the two of them sitting down to breakfast, being a side-splitter. I also loved Andre Royo (Bubbles!) as Wilson’s foul mouthed, but kindly co-worker, who enjoys demonstrating his affection toward Wilson by frequently kissing him. The one and only Nathan Fillion also has a gem of a cameo, as a hard-core Christian superhero called The Holy Avenger, and his cut-ins add a fresh, nonsensical laugh or two to the film.

The balance between humor, pathos, and hardcore action is absolutely pitch perfect. Each character is unforgettable, and the cast obviously poured their all into their roles, creating what will easily be one of the best films of the year.

The film is in limited run in theaters now, but can also be viewed On-Demand through IFC’s PPV channel, if your cable or satellite system hosts this channel. I would anticipate a late summer DVD release, though no details have yet surfaced.

If you have the opportunity, see this film. In a time where Iron Man and Thor and that guy in the spider suit steal all the box-office revenue and garner all the attention, this unique, triumphant film will steal your heart.

8/10

IMDB: Link | Wiki: Link

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