May 3, 2011


The topic of vigilantism is often explored in subversive cinema. Taking a man with a vendetta and unleashing him upon street rats mostly leads to cinematic gems, cases in point - Harry Brown, Death Wish 1-3, Punisher: War Zone, and Death Sentence. A frequent factor in all of these mechanical murderers, rather, exterminators, is the loss of a loved one. Paul Kersey never had a choice, did he? His family was murdered over the length of two films. First his wife then his daughter, and after an extended bout of gang rape to add to the trauma. In James Gunn's Super, pathetic pushover Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) notices the subtle signs leading to abandonment left behind by his wife (Liv Tyler) but fails to retain his property. Once the smooth-talking Jacques (Kevin Bacon - genius) moves in on his lady-territory and gets her to relapse into heroin among other forms of abuse, Frank decides to take action. In his despair, Frank catches a glimpse of a television series starring The Holy Avenger who is laughably inspired by the ridiculous Bibleman show. After receiving a terrifying request of blood via God in his tentacled form, giving him a god-botomy, Frank finds inspiration in comic books, sadistic, subversive persuasion, and dons a red costume and pipe wrench to "shut crime up". What unfolds after this short origin story is trial and error as well as pure sinematic catharsis as the Crimson Bolt brutalizes Negroes and other ilk of society showing no mercy.

Part of what makes Super so enchanting is the bold and sinister nature of the Crimson Bolt's actions. It doesn't seem to be in Frank's form as his alternate personality bears the mark of judgment and Frank has only compassion and empathy towards his wife's dire straits. Utterly convinced, at first, that his wife has been kidnapped, a police investigator needed to talk Frank into realizing that this wasn't a case of kidnapping, rather, his (whore) wife fell back into hard habits of opiates and strange cocks all around - the likes of which I've witnessed third-hand. Later following comic protocol, Frank enlists the help of a spunky teenage comic retailer (Libby - Ellen Page) in his effort to fight crime and save the life of his wife. If there is one thing you won't find in Super, it is a shred of happiness. Other than the acerbic nihilism, Super doesn't offer any misguided tours into positive emotion. In fact, Super has one of the most down-beat, utterly defeating, endings in a somewhat-mainstream release that I have seen in quite a long time. The problem with Frank is that he demands to be taken advantage of, if not in the form of his wife using him solely as a crutch, then surely his coworker asking him to wait in the middle of a long line to a theater while he and his significant other take their time. Even Libby decides to use Frank to her own gain, what, fulfilling a strange fantasy of costumed premarital sex and attempted murder. In the end, no one is innocent in Super. After all, Super contains some of the more depraved characters I have seen in a film lately. Especially one that brandishes its badge of black comedy over its concealed weapon.

To call Frank D'Arbo a religious zealot would be a severe understatement. Most of the man's workout sessions take place under a crude sign surrounding the corner above his closet door reading "Some of his children are chosen", which could have favored a darker road had James Gunn decided to trail behind the even-darker motion picture Frailty, by all means relevant. By the half-way point of Super, Frank's delusions take reign and spiral him into frequent dances with death, if not for being shot, than for blasting men into a pulpy matter that spreads across the earthen ground. What was once a mission from God turns head to bad blood once Frank realizes that he has lost everything important to him. While watching the ending, I thought to myself, was it all worth it? The psychopathy exhibited by Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page is practically unmatched in terms of budgetary motion pictures. While Frank D'Arbo fights for fallacy, unlike the sagely Paul Kersey of Death Wish, he unknowingly creates a greater good for society, something he didn't intend at all. Sure, he posted street signs warning crime, but at the end of the day, Frank D'Arbo is just a sad, lonely serial killer who wanted to be loved and due to his selfish and psycho-fundamentalist acts, lost his only chance of companionship that was hidden there all along. Super is truly a portrait of the lengths man is willing to traverse in order to save a love that never really loved in return. I pity Frank D'Arbo and the ruination of his introverted character and look forward to more of the morally-bankrupt sinema of James Gunn.


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