Rainn Wilson is a fine presence on TV as Dwight in The Office, but his movie work has been primarily less than stellar. (Please ... if you have a copy of The Rocker, throw it at the next rodent you see.)
Wilson's best movie work came in Juno, where he had but a few exchanges with Ellen Page. Now, with the release of the highly enjoyable and shockingly sick Super, it's official: Page is Wilson's lucky charm.
The two star as vigilante superheroes in this ultra-twisted comedy, written and directed by James Gunn. Wilson plays diner-cook Frank D'Arbo, a lowly civilian with a hot wife (Liv Tyler). When the wife gets mixed up in drugs with bad-man Jacques (an awesomely cast Kevin Bacon), Frank creates the Crimson Bolt, a wrench-wielding superhero who looks like a cross between the Flash and Strong Bad (from Internet cartoon series Homestar Runner).
When Frank needs some inspiration, he stops by a comic store, where he meets the brash and knowledgeable Libby (Page). The recent rash of vigilante attacks in their city has not gone unnoticed by Libby, who eventually puts things together and realizes that Frank is the guy kicking the crap out of drug-dealers.
Libby reveals that she, too, wants to be a superhero—and she has a costume all ready to go. (Let it be said that Page looks mighty fine in her green and yellow tights!) She eventually becomes Boltie, essentially Robin to Frank's Batman.
Super is kind of like a Kick-Ass that is devoid of any reservations about violent and vulgar content. Or you could call it the deranged cousin of John Ritter's 1980 comedy Hero at Large. Actually, there's a scene in the film in which Frank gets shot that is a direct, yet forgivable rip-off of Hero at Large. I loved that movie when I was a kid, and I am glad Super has given me a chance to reference it.
Some of the film's greater laughs come from Libby's overly enthusiastic and supremely violent approach to crime-fighting. She gleefully bashes in the skulls of evil-doers (and perhaps a few innocent guys she thought were evil), and it is Page's best work since Juno. (Yes, I'm counting her excellent work in Inception.) There will have to be some pretty amazing performances this year to keep Page off of my personal Best Supporting Actress list.
Wilson's sullen performance—spiked with vengefully violent rage—is the perfect counterbalance to Page's jaunty Libby. The two also share an awkward sex scene during which the line, "It's all gushy!" is actually spoken. I still can't believe I actually saw and heard this in a movie regarding a certain body part.
Bacon has always been talented at playing jerks, and Jacques could be his biggest asshole yet. From the moment he shows up at Frank's door begging for scrambled eggs, to his final, shameful drug deal, Jacques is a truly salacious and entertaining scumbag.
The film is not rated, and while it does contain some over-the-top comic-book violence, I would classify it as something along the lines of a very hard R. I will say the sequence in which Frank has a holy vision involving his skull cap being removed, with his brain being touched by God, is quite gnarly.
Actually, there's another grisly moment in which the Crimson Bolt fractures a guy's skull with his wrench. And then there's the time when Wilson's character stabs some dude in the neck with a fireplace poker. And, come to think of it, there is yet another moment when someone's brains get blown out.
OK, maybe this film goes beyond a hard-R rating.
Nathan Fillion is funny as the Holy Avenger, a biblical TV superhero idolized by Frank. Michael Rooker hangs around as one of Jacques' henchmen; while Rooker doesn't have much to do here, his mere presence is enough to raise the menace level a few notches. The man was Henry the serial killer! Blink and you will miss Linda Cardellini as a pet-shop employee.
Gunn is no stranger to crazy movie violence. His other big directing venture was 2006's Slither, an '80s-style horror throwback starring Fillion and Elizabeth Banks that had its moments, although it was nothing to get crazy about. Super represents Gunn hitting his stride. The movie certainly pushes the boundaries of dark comedy to a point where it sometimes becomes unpleasant, but Gunn does a good job of keeping things entertaining overall.
He's turned in a good film, and we can now officially forget that he wrote the first two Scooby-Doo live-action movies.