Movie review in the Friday, April 15 Oregonian....
This isn't the film's actual origin story *, but "Super" plays like writer/director James Gunn ("Slither") was watching "Kick-Ass" and suddenly thought:
"You know, this doesn't go quite far enough. It needs to play more like 'Taxi Driver.' Only funny. Until it really isn't."
This unhinged little indie -- part comedy, part exploitation flick, part unnerving over-the-top revenge drama -- stars Rainn Wilson as Frank, a short-order cook whose addict wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon).
Following a vision starring a "Bibleman"-style evangelist superhero (Nathan Fillion), Frank decides to become a costumed vigilante called "The Crimson Bolt." And this is where Gunn (who previously dabbled in superheroes in 2000 with "The Specials") starts taking his comedy to increasingly uncomfortable places.
Frank's weapon of choice is a pipe wrench, and the damage he inflicts (on drug-dealers and line-cutters alike) is shockingly realistic. The film goes squickily off the rails once a psychotic comics-shop employee (Ellen Page) decides she needs to be Frank's sidekick -- and her senses of proportion and propriety cloud his mission in increasingly ugly ways.
Gunn is a former Troma filmmaker, and he revels in audience discomfort. He and his exceptional cast make no effort to smooth over his transitions from comedy to violence, and (to my thinking) the result is bracing -- the movie holds the superhero power fantasy under a nasty fluorescent bulb and finds it funny and sad and deluded and brave and scary all at once. I suspect audiences will divide sharply on "Super"'s wild tone-shifts. I found them sort of fearless.
(96 min., unrated, playing in Portland at Cinema 21) Grade: B
'Super' (The Oregonian, Friday, April 15, 2011)