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Film: Super

"Shut up, crime!"
Frank/The Crimson Bolt

"In between the panels. Is that where we are right now?"

A 2010 Black Comedy written and directed by James Gunn, Super stars Rainn Wilson as Frank D'arbo, a man whose wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), falls under the spell of a charismatic drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). To deal with the trauma and take down Jacques, Frank fights crime using the superhero identity the Crimson Bolt, armed with a garish patchwork suit and a wrench. He is aided by an unstable comic book store employee, Libby (Ellen Page), who becomes his sidekick, Boltie.

It originally screened at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival and was released on 1 April 2011.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Boltie.
  • Advertised Extra: Linda Cardellini gets her own spot in the animated opening credits despite only being in one scene.
  • Affably Evil: Libby. She'll help you pick out comics, invite you over to a cozy housewarming party, bandage you up when you've been shot in the leg, kill someone for (probably) keying a friend's car, save your life, go out shopping with you, and rape you. Really, she's less "affably evil," more "affably sociopathic".
  • All Crimes Are Equal: "You don't butt in line! You don't sell drugs! You don't molest little children!" All these things will get you a wrench to the face.
  • Amicable Exes: Frank and Sarah ultimately becomes this, withthe former even becoming an Honorary Uncle to the latter's children.
  • And Starring: Nathan Fillion gets the "With" during the Animated Credits Opening.
  • Annoying Laugh: Libby. Doubles as Laughing Mad.
  • Anti-Hero: Frank is perhaps pragmatic, but Libby is downright unscrupulous.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Featuring a dance sequence including every character shown in the movie, large and small.
  • Arc Words: "Some of His Children Are Chosen"
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted for Crimson Bolt but not for Boltie.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Crimson Bolt beats people up for drug dealing, child molesting, and cutting in line at the theater.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Libby. Subverted with Frank who, despite becoming a superhero, doesn't have much of an interest in comics and knows little about them. Though he does seem to watch The Holy Avenger often
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Deconstructed with the couple who cut in line. They're obvious assholes with no likeable qualities introduced in their time onscreen, but that didn't even remotely justify what they got, and their horror at the attack and the long-term effects of their injuries aren't glossed over.
    • Played straight later on, when the public starts noticing that most of the Crimson Bolt's victims are child molesters, rapists, drug dealers, and murderers, cluing them in that he's not just a psychopath handing out beatings indiscriminately.
  • Attempted Rape: This happens to Sarah at the end with one of Jacques' 'clients.'
  • Ax-Crazy: Frank when he gets deep into his mission as the Crimson Bolt, to the point of splitting open the heads of a man and woman who butt in line at a box office. Libby is even worse.
  • Badass Adorable Action Girl: Libby. Though how adorable she is while laughing hysterically while repeatedly stabbing a guy in the face might change. Oddly, she still manages to seem adorable even when covered in other people's blood.
  • Berserk Button: Cutting in line in front of Frank. Pretty much anything to Boltie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Frank.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Frank tries.
  • Bile Fascination: What the Holy Avenger comics seem to be in-universe.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Frank manages to rescue his wife and kill the drug-dealers, but Libby is shot down in the melee and Sarah later leaves him. The film ends on a somewhat hopeful note however as Sarah manages to overcome her drug addiction and better herself, and Frank ends up feeling better about himself having done something that in his mind validates his existence.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Jacques has no redeeming values whatsoever, but Frank and Libby are both pretty crazy as well.
  • Black and White Morality: How Frank sees the world.
  • Black Best Friend: Frank's co-worker at the Diner, Hamilton. The ending indicates that Frank becomes the Best Man at his wedding.
  • Black Comedy
  • Black Comedy Rape: Of a very dark sort.
  • Blatant Lies: Frank talking to Hamilton after a news item on TV about Crimson Bolt. Frank yammering to the detective after he notices him repeatedly looking at his closet. Somewhat less so when trying to convince Libby he isn't Crimson Bolt. Frank's pretty bad at this.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Crimson Bolt's wrench attacks look more funny than violent.
    • In-universe for Libby.
  • Book Ends: The movie begins with Frank recounting his two "perfect moments", and getting the idea to draw pictures of them as reminders. The movie ends with Frank looking at his perfect moment pictures again, which are now so numerous that they cover an entire wall and then some.
  • Boom, Headshot: Several characters, including the Kid Sidekick.
  • Broken Bird: Sarah is recovering from her addiction.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Reality Ensues. Frank's vest only stops a single pistol round shot from a fair distance, and even then Frank is clearly winded for several moments. Every other shot that hits him is in an unprotected area. And then there's Libby, who catches the first bullet aimed at her with her face, rendering her heavy, bulky vest useless.
  • The Cameo: Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame (where James Gunn got his start) and William Katt of The Greatest American Hero both make appearances.
  • The Cape: The Holy Avenger.
  • Car Fu: And now your legs are gone!
  • Catch Phrase: "Shut up, Crime!"
  • Celibate Hero: Frank turns down Libby's advances because he still considers himself to be a married man. She doesn't take 'no' for an answer.
  • Cheap Costume: They really do look like shit. Frank's is a patchwork mess, and Libby's is just cheap-looking spandex.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Frank's projectile-thingy.
    • Subverted with Libby's bulletproof vest.
    • The plastic bag Frank throws his costume in is later used to hide it while he is wearing it when he shows up to Libby's party.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: It's ambiguous at the start whether Frank is a Knight In Shining Armour trying to rescue a Damsel in Distress, or just a jealous jilted lover who thinks his wife's new lover is "stealing her from me". The latter implication is certainly the one the police take, understandably. However, over the course of them film Jacques treatment of Sarah and Frank's willingness to graciously give her up when she ultimately leaves him of her own free will suggest this is not the case. At least not entirely.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Libby has her moments.
  • Cool Car: Notably averted, Frank drives his completely normal car for his crime fighting.
  • The Cowl: Crimson Bolt.
  • Crusading Widower: Well, not quite a widower, but it plays out very much like this trope.
  • Cute and Psycho: Libby.
  • Deconstruction: In a weird way, this film deconstructs Kick-Ass which came out around the same time. Mostly in showing how a psychotic hero who uses guns and explosives would actually be both ridiculous and terrifying in real life, the young impressionable sidekick is played as a far more serious unhinged sociopath unconcerned with morality or innocence and the hero does not have the ending that he hoped for. It is almost like a serious version of Kick-Ass really.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: This happens to Frank in the end. He does get a new pet bunny, however.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Frank beats a man half to death for butting into a line, then clubs a woman over the head for defending him. Later, Boltie nearly kills someone for (maybe) keying her friend's car.
  • Dissonant Laughter: Hoo boy, Libby...
  • Distressed Damsel: Sarah becomes this when Jacques gets her hooked on drugs again.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Frank seems like this at first, but he takes far too much pleasure in his "crime fighting" and violence.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted, sort of. Libby raping Frank is portrayed as disturbing and uncomfortable, with Frank trying his very hardest to get her off of him. Afterwards, he immediately throws up. Even Libby looks disturbed at what she's done. However, the movie doesn't really deal with it, as Frank (possibly in reaction to this incident) redoubles his determination to go rescue Sarah, and Libby dies in the assault.
  • The Dragon: Abe, Jacques' lead henchman. Strangely, the Animated Credits Opening shows him breathing fire.
  • Drugs Are Bad: At least in Frank's worldview (which is consistently of questionable connection to reality), everyone involved in drugs is either a hopeless addict or a total scumbag.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Subverted. Frank is initially seen as a serial attacker, but public opinion changes when it becomes clear that most of his victims are criminals. When Frank helps someone, they are usually appreciative afterwards, even the woman who's neck was accidentally injured due to Frank's actions. Even though Sarah eventually leaves Frank, it's implied that she would have left much sooner if not for the obligation she felt towards him because of what he did for her.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Behind You...
  • Epic Fail: Frank's first outing as a superhero ends with him getting his ass kicked, falling into trash and fleeing with a clearly used diaper stuck to his ass.
  • Evil Gloating: Jacques stops short of gunning down an already wounded Frank to give him a vicious "The Reason You Suck" Speech which is enough to piss him off to extremes and provoke a Heroic Second Wind. Things end up very badly for Jacques after that...
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jacques' lead henchman Abe is visibly upset after Jacques sends Sarah up to be raped by his client.
  • Expy: The Holy Avenger, of Bibleman.
  • Fanservice: Ellen Page in spandex. Later, Ellen page only in bra.
  • Fan Disservice: Ellen Page in spandex raping Rainn Wilson.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jacques compliments Frank on his eggs shortly before stealing his wife.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: "You don't BUTT IN LINE!"
  • Fragile Speedster: Libby's main asset is her speed. When she wore a very heavy armor, it leads to her death.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Yet another answer to the question, "what would a superhero be like in real life?" Travis Bickle. They would be Travis Bickle.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Libby straps a pair of Wolverine Claws to her hand.
  • Glass Cannon: Crimson Bolt is more focused on the offensive.
  • God: Voiced by Rob Zombie, of all people.
  • Gorn: Boltie ends up with a wound not unlike the T-1000, unlike him, she's human.
  • Groin Attack: Shut up, Crime...
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jacques tries one on Frank after the Groin Attack. Frank just tells him to Shut Up, Hannibal! and stabs him to death.
  • Heel Realization: Zig-Zags this trope. Frank has some awareness that he's crossing lines with his actions and has more than one What Have I Done especially when witnessing Boltie in action but he doesn't stop and he actually becomes more violent as he goes.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Crimson Bolt and (even more so, due to a complete lack of remorse) Boltie.
  • Honorary Uncle: Frank ends up as this to Sarah's kids.
  • Hope Spot: Jacques gets one at the end.
    Jacques: "DO you really think killing me, stabbing me to death is going to change the world?"
    Frank: "I can't know that for sure...unless I try."
  • Hot-Blooded: Libby gets easily riled up.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After telling Frank not to make a joke about her name ("Libby's on your label") after she introduces herself, Libby makes fun of him when he tells her his name.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Libby when she raped Frank.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: This is the only thing that saves Frank from bringing a wrench to a gunfight. Unluckily for him, The Dragon is better than his colleagues, stopping to aim and Lead The Target before hitting Frank in the leg as he vaults the fence.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: "People look stupid when they cry." Frank deliberately does so in front of a mirror, apparently as a kind of self-flagellation.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Libby is clearly turned on by violence, coming onto Frank several times after fights (despite his whole crusade being to rescue his wife) and ultimately raping him.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Jacques immediately hands over Sarah when Frank reaches him, and then tries to appease Frank by noting that he personally killed the guy that tried to rape Sarah (obviously leaving out the fact that Jacques killed him for different reasons entirely). Then, once it's clear that Frank is distracted, Jacques starts shooting.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At least arguably so. A couple of months after the gunfight at Jacques' ranch, Sarah leaves Frank, but this time he doesn't mind because she's happy (unlike when she's drawn into Jacques' drug ring).
  • Jumped at the Call: A call straight from God, no less.
  • Just A Flesh Wound: Reality Ensues. Frank gets hit non-fatally in the leg by The Dragon, but he has to spend a while recuperating and going through painful physical therapy before he can get back in the game.
  • Karma Houdini: Frank does some pretty messed up things throughout the film, and while he doesn't get quite the ending he wanted, neither does he get any comeuppance, and continues to believe that everything he did was justified.
  • Kick the Dog: Jacques sending an intoxicated and insensible Sarah upstairs with his Scary Black Man drug client.
  • Kid Sidekick: Boltie to the Crimson Bolt. She's less of a Kid Hero than a Psycho Supporter/Poisonous Friend (Yes, compared to Libby, the lunatic who bashes in people's heads in with a wrench is an idealist). It's also pointed out that, being 22 years old, Libby is really only a kid when compared to Frank.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Libby. Sure she was crazy, but...
  • Knife Nut: While it's no more prominent than any of his other weapons, the way Frank uses his knife should more than qualify him for this trope. Basically, he comes up at an opponent already distracted by another injury, and stabs him in the torso over and over again. Both times, he's interrupted by a scene change, so the audience never sees how long Frank goes on doing this.
  • Large Ham: Every costumed character.
  • Laughing Mad: Libby has a tendency to do this.
  • Little Miss Badass: Boltie.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Nathan Fillion requested that the Holy Avenger have long hair because of this.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Whether Frank is actually having visions or if he is simply hallucinating is never revealed.
  • Mood Whiplash: The whole movie.
  • More Dakka: While gun shopping, Libby tries out a pink .22 rifle, Frank takes it away and hands her a Bazooka.
  • Mission from God: Frank thinks he's on this; it's not entirely clear whether he is or not. A case could be made for either possibility.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight: Frank brings his trademark wrench the first time he goes to Jacques' compound (that he happens to know a gang of drug dealers operates out of). The moment they see him, they all pull out handguns. Cue Oh, Crap and running for his life.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes the film out to be a quirky indie film when in reality, it's way darker and bleaker.
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero: Neither Frank or Libby have superpowers, and Frank specifically asks Libby to help him pick out comics featuring superheroes without powers for inspiration.
  • Off The Wagon: Frank's entire character arc is to save Sarah from her relapse.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • Jacques gets a hell of a good one when he realizes that Frank is really going to go through with stabbing him to death.
    • Behind You
    • The drug dealer that was Frank's first target get one of these when Frank comes back for him... this time with a wrench.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Frank. The gangsters instantly recognize him in costume and it takes the police detective about five seconds to work it out from a photo-fit picture.
    • Frank's clearly fake beard when posing as a college student merely confuses the librarian.
  • Parody: The Holy Avenger is a parody of Bibleman and other Religious Edutainment.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Frank sees himself as doing this. So does (and more so) Libby.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. The police don't listen to Frank at the beginning of the movie, but only because he has no evidence that anything criminal is going on, and Frank never tries going to them again afterward (even after going to their address and seeing piles of drugs and money lying around). The one detective we're shown gets killed pretty unceremoniously, but mostly due to dumb luck on the part of Jacques' mooks.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Jacques refers to his 'business partner' after shooting him as a 'nigger'.
  • Prison Rape: Frank imagined him being subjected to this and freaks him out.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: You don't BUTT IN LINE!
  • Reality Ensues: One of the funniest and most gruesome things about the movie is how realistically injuries are portrayed. People go down screaming after one hit from a wrench, a glass vase broken over someone's head leaves broken shards in his face and him concussed on the ground, and that's just what the heroes do. It's hard to survive a barrage of gunfire...
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Demonswill, the Big Bad of the Show Within a Show. Also, the film's actual Big Bad wears a red polo in his overall black suit.
  • Red Is Heroic: Crimson Bolt.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Libby gets killed, Frank goes absolutely batshit. It is one of the most disturbing, distressing, depressing things you will ever see. Accompanied by comic-book style sound effect balloons!
  • Sacrificial Lion: Boltie.
  • Scary Black Man: Jacques' drug dealer client.
  • Self-Surgery: Libby is there too, but Frank decides he'd rather patch himself up after being freaked out by her approach to the job.
  • Sensual Spandex: Libby invokes this when she first wore her Boltie costume. Frank is visibly uncomfortable.
  • Shout-Out: To Bibleman (the Holy Avenger t.v. show) and Fletcher Hanks (the Holy Avenger Comic Book looks like his work).
  • Show Within a Show: The Holy Avenger has a comic book and an educational TV show.
  • Spoiler Title: One of the songs on the soundtrack is titled "Libby goes down". What makes this frustrating is that this song plays for a good chunk of the climax and could have easily been called something less spoilery.
    • Considering the [Lampshaded Double Entendre other meaning of that phrase] her clear arousal at combat (which the climax of an action film would doubtlessly be full of) it's less spoilery than you'd think.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Holy Avenger TV show and Comic Book, based on the character of Bibleman and the work of bizarre Golden Age comic artist Fletcher Hanks, respectively.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: Averted at first, but the heroes load up for the final battle.
  • Super Zeroes
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Frank asks for a sign to know whether he should stop, it comes later than he expects so he has to return for his outfit.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: An extremely disturbing example occurs at the end when Frank starts to massacre Jacques' gang; he stabs a guy to death after setting him on fire, he blows three guys away with a pipe bomb, blasts two clearly dead bodies with a shotgun, blasts a guy who lost his arms in the pipe bomb attack and was begging not to be killed, headshots a gangster in the house, smashes Michael Rooker's head into jelly on the corner of a fireplace foundation, and stabs Jacques over and over until the screen fades to red. Sweet. Baby. Jesus.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Averted by Frank, and even more-so by Boltie.
    • Though Frank did object to Boltie trying to kill the keying guy. It's not clear whether it was the severity of the crime(or lack thereof), the fact that Boltie didn't seem sure they had the right guy, or this trope that was the cause.
  • Token White: Frank is the only Caucasian working at the diner, though Sarah formerly worked there as well.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Frank goes from barely being able to take on one Mook, to slaughtering an entire security team.
  • Tragic Hero: Frank.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Justified by the fact that Sarah is a fragile, recovering drug addict who uses Frank as a source of stability.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Jacques goes from being self-assured and affable to practically frothing at the mouth when The Crimson Bolt's presence scares off his client.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: Defied. Libby is altogether too eager to start digging around in Frank's leg with a knife, but he stops her, saying it was a through-and-through.
  • Waif-Fu: Deconstructed. Libby's build has her struggling with the bulky body armor and the only hand-to-hand fight not by surprise, has her thrown against a wall pretty quickly. Her demonstration in her apartment of her acrobatic fighting style is pure What the Fu Are You Doing?.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After the police officer gets murdered in Frank's house, it's never brought up or referenced to again in any way after that. I guess no one thought it was worth investigating.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Frank gives one of these to Libby after she almost kills a guy for (maybe) keying her friends car.
  • Wolverine Claws: Boltie's Weapon of Choice. Also doubles as Actor Allusion since her actress is part of the X-Men film series.
  • Would Hit a Girl: When fighting crime, Frank tolerates no one.
  • Wrench Whack: Crimson Bolt's Weapon of Choice.
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alternative title(s): Super
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