Take “Kick-Ass,” a film about an ordinary delusional guy who creates a costume, dons a mask and calls himself a “superhero” — albeit one without any “super” powers. Strip it of most of its wit and charm, amp up the violence, the sadism. Make it more crude and coarse and gory.
And what you’re left with is “Super,” a vehicle that reunites Rainn Wilson with “Juno” herself, Ellen Page.
Wilson plays Frank, a short order cook who loses his junkie-wife (Liv Tyler) to a drug dealing strip club owner (Kevin Bacon). He has a vision, thanks to a Christian superhero TV show (“Nathan Fillion IS “The Holy Avenger”). He will don a red costume and become The Crimson Bolt. Frank picks up a monkey wrench and yells, “Shut UP, Crime!”
He bludgeons thieves, drug dealers and child molesters. The cops are after him. That’s because he also bludgeons a guy who cuts in line at the movie theater.That, at least, is understandable.
“All it takes to be a superhero is the choice to fight evil!”
Page plays a comic store clerk who discovers Frank’s alter ego and finagles her way into a sidekick gig. She’ll be “Bolt Girl” or “Boltie” or “Kid Crimson” or “The Creeping Bam.” She really likes that last one. But “Boltie” is in this for revenge, or so it seems.
And sex. She’s got a think for paunchy older men with masks.
Frank’s a guy who has been “plagued by visions his whole life,” which suggests the sort of crank you’d have to be to really try doing something like this. He makes the journey from depression over losing his life, to “vision” to rage in a flash. And the rage just grows. But being a paunchy short order cook with no real fighting skills or cunning, he messes up — people get hurt, he gets hurt. Far from helping the cops fight crime, he becomes, instantly, a part of the problem.
A few good laughs pop up here and there. But the graphic violence spatters along for an hour and a half until we reach that point when writer-director James Gunn (“Slither”) says, “That’s all I’ve got” and basically gives up. He cops out and essentially abandons a movie that comes out a year AFTER “Kick-Ass,” a film so ugly it actually makes that version of the story look better in retrospect.
MPAA rating: Unrated, very violent, with adult content, profanity
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler
Credits: Written and directed by James Gunn. An IFC release. Running time: 1:36.