Miles away from his “Office” stint as Dwight Schrute, Rainn Wilson absolutely nails his role as diner fry cook Frank, grieving over losing his in-recovery wife (Liv Tyler, “The Incredible Hulk”) to a skeezy drug lord (Kevin Bacon, “X-Men: First Class”). Believing he is touched by the fingers of God, Frank’s fragile psyche tells him to jump into a greater role: that of The Crimson Bolt.
With a pipe wrench for a weapon and a tagline of “Shut up, crime!,” he vows to clean up the streets and rescue his true love. Eventually joining him as sidekick Boltie (Ellen Page, “Inception”), a scrappy, stringy-haired comic store employee who goes way overboard.
How “Super” becomes just that is how writer/director James Gunn (“Slither”) treats the material, taking it into dangerous, disturbing territory. Quite possibly mentally insane, Frank takes to his do-gooder job with the obsession and delusion as Bob De Niro’s sad cabbie in “Taxi Driver” and Richard Dreyfuss’ detached family man in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
In other words, Gunn sets “Super” in the real world, where violence has consequences — brutally violent consequences that cannot be changed or glossed over. With the same satirical touch he brought to scripting the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, he pokes fun at our culture of violence by inserting onomatopoeia bursts, à la ’60s “Batman,” behind the carnage.
Wilson commits completely to the project, comedy or drama. He acts the hell out of it; witness the scenes in which he breaks down. It’s a damn good performance, but hardly the only surprise up “Super”‘s hastily sewn red sleeve. The damn thing’s full of them — some hilarious, some the opposite. No matter the mood, they combine for a unique experience that’s a real gem, with an animated musical opening that sets the bizarre, often at-odds tone.
For a surreal double feature, watch it with Gunn’s previous superhero satire, 2000’s “The Specials.” —Rod Lott