"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.
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.
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 AdorableAction 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dogged Nice Guy: Frank seems like this at first, but he takes far too much pleasure in his "crime fighting" and violence.
Doing It for the Art: It is a very low-budget independent film, so everyone involved was paid scale.
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.
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.
Dueling Movies: With 2010's Kick-Ass, which had a similar premise of dark, realistic superheroics. Super is even darker and more grounded in reality. Both Mark Millar and Gunn are friends in real life, with the former defending the latter's work when accusations of copying came up (both films were developed around the same time independently of one another). Millar even screened Super at his own Kapow! comic convention in London. There's a third movie to factor into this with Defendor, which played at festivals before either film came out. Super could be considered half-way between Kick-Ass and Defendor, or maybe even more similar to the latter in many aspects.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Knife Nut: While it's no more prominent than any of hisotherweapons, the way Frank uses his knife should more than qualify him for this trope. Basically, he comes up at an opponent already distracted by anotherinjury, 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.
Playing Against Type: One of the reasons why Ellen Page took on the film was because she was tired of getting typecast in Juno-type roles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Took a Level in Badass: Frank goes from barely being able to take on one mook, to slaughtering an entire security team.
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.