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Super

Year: 2010
Production Co: This Is That Productions
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry, Nathan Fillion

It's hard to ignore comparisons between this film and Kick-Ass. At first you might wonder whether they're from the same conglomerate and some powerful producer or executive demanded Super get buried to let Kick-Ass fly, but the truth is a bit more banal.

Where Lionsgate's hit cost upwards of $30m, this film cost less than three and probably suffered from a similarly small marketing budget. Kick-Ass also beat it to theatres and was far more widely released, and there are seldom second prizes in Hollywood.

Ironically it has both far less action and far more blood. The story arc is similar as insipid dolt Frank (Wilson) loses his gorgeous, reformed alcoholic wife (Tyler) to a pimp and drug pusher (Bacon) and creates superhero persona The Crimson Bolt to fight crime.

It's also set in a more realistic world than Kick-Ass. Early scenes of Frank crouching behind a skip bin in a rough neighbourhood are funny – he's there all night dictating the action to his recorder waiting for a criminal to happen past with absolutely nothing happening.

A young comic book store clerk (Page) learns Frank's secret after he gets some notoriety and the pimp's goons come gunning for him, taking him in and demanding to be his sidekick. He reluctantly teams up with her as she takes on the ridiculous name of Boltie, and the two plunge into the underworld to save Frank's wife.

It's not clear what themes (if any) are implicit. In one early scene Frank, in costume, literally splits open the head of a guy who cut into line at a movie theatre with his weapon of choice, a wrench. Frank then hits the guy's girlfriend with it and runs off to his car. It's hard to say whether it's a statement against amateur vigilantism as he never seems to pay for over-reacting and hurting people who don't really deserve it.

The story veers this way and that and while there are enough laughs to keep you interested, it's the explosions of shocking violence that make you sit up. The sight of a major character lying dead with half a head blown away isn't quickly forgotten.

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