Still courtesy of TIFF.
The question “what would happen if an average shmoe put on a costume and became a super hero?” has been posited by several directors over the last few years, as comic book deconstructionism has enjoyed its cinematic vogue. One would expect the premise to be wearing a little thin, but underground favourite James Gunn (of Slither and PG Porn fame) manages to bring a fresh perspective in his no-budget black comedy SUPER.
The Office‘s Rainn Wilson plays sadsack nobody Frank, whose only glimpse of happiness in an otherwise miserable life is his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler). When Libby is seduced away by a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon at his smarmy best), Frank snaps—believing himself touched by God, he dons a patchwork costume and begins beating the holy hell out of criminals with a pipe wrench as The Crimson Bolt. Nathan Fillion has way too much fun as Frank’s fundie inspiration The Holy Avenger, though even his delightfully camp-filled cameos can’t hold a candle to Ellen Page’s performance as Frank’s unhinged would-be sidekick Boltie. Seeing Page trade in her usual descriptor of “precocious” for “psychotic” is one of the greatest treats the festival has had to offer thus far.
Gunn’s story careens through so many tones—from shlocky viscera gags to moments of unsettlingly earnest emotion—that the whole thing comes off feeling a bit manic, but in a tremendously enjoyable way. Frank’s outbursts of grisly violence are as disturbing as his ease at morally justifying them, meting out the same fractured skulls for butting in line as he does for child molestation. SUPER is the real life superhero film Kick-Ass should have been, plumbing the dark psychology behind wanton violence—and leaving out the turret-mounted jetpacks.
Want more TIFF 2010? Torontoist’s complete coverage of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is all right here.
This article mistakenly called Liv Tyler’s character Libby; it’s actually Sarah. (Libby is Ellen Page’s character.)