Super is the sort of film where you spend a good chunk of the runtime starring at the screen aghast at what you are seeing. How much you will enjoy the film is directly related to how much you enjoy said experience of gaping in horror.
This is something that audiences have had a chance to do at the theater a lot lately. While it’s easy to be numbed by such calculated taboo pushing, it would be a mistake to lump Super in with its inferior brethren. Troma trained James Gunn is genuinely sick and I hope he never gets well. Unlike say Machete, Kick Ass or Hobo With A Shotgun, whose over the top mayhem and self aware style gave audiences an easy out, Super has the balls to actually play its concept straight. It does not even have the decency to leer at the horrible things that it puts on screen. Instead presenting them with a matter of factness that is almost unbearable. The film never winks, even when its hero is being mind raped by God (You read that correctly). This is not a film that is interested in letting you off the hook.
The film follows Rainn Wilson as a loser whose life of “humiliation and disgrace” has been marked by “two perfect moments.” The first when he married his wife, the second when he pointed a cop in the right direction of a fleeing criminal. When drug dealer Kevin Bacon (Who I have to admit I find kind of irresistible now that he has embraced his inner sleazebag) steals his wife away Wilson snaps. After what he believes to be a rather forceful moment of divine inspiration he decides to follow his true calling. Smashing people in the skull with a pipe wrench for offenses which range from Child Molestation to cutting in line. Each offense receives the same amount of pipe wrench.
All credit has to go to Wilson for finding the movie’s tricky tone. There is something about Wilson’s dead eyed bewildered stare that is genuinely unsettling. He elevates Super above the one note joke it could have been and gives it its own sort of queasy power. When asked by one criminal if he thinks “Stabbing me to death is going to change the world?” he responds, “I won’t know unless I try.” And that sort of sums up the whole film.
Gunn brings the same zealous conviction to every frame of the movie. If there’s one thing that Gunn has taken from Troma it’s the ability to make you legitimately unsure how far he is going to take things, there’s something legitimately filthy, deranged and dangerous to Super that makes other films of its ilk look sanitized. Helped immensely by his game cast. Which includes the aforementioned Kevin Bacon and old hand Michael Rooker. Ellen Page makes the most out of her role as Wilson’s sociopathic sidekick and it is perhaps the film’s ultimate accomplishment that it makes sex with Ellen Page look like a legitimately terrifying experience.
This is not a film for everybody and I have a feeling that many of the people who the film is for will walk away from it actually angry. I think that’s a great thing. You watch as someone falls to the ground and starts having a seizure thanks to a pipe wrench related skull fracture. Your shocked laugh catches in your throat and you’re unable to look away.