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dir-scr James Gunn
prd Miranda Bailey, Ted Hope
with Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler, Michael Rooker, Andre Royo, Sean Gunn, Stephen Blackehart, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry, William Katt
release US 1.Apr.11, UK 8.Jul.11
Faithful sidekick: Page and Wilson
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Writer-director Gunn gleefully subverts genre expectations with this superhero movie that goes way against the grain. And what makes it worth seeing is the fact that every scene is grounded in reality.
Frank (Wilson) only has two moments in his life when he felt happy: first was his wedding to Sarah (Tyler) and second was when he helped a cop foil a crime. So when Sarah leaves him for the charismatic criminal Jacques (Bacon), Frank turns to crimefighting, with a little inspiration from Libby (Page), who works in a comic book shop. Frank's super alter-ego is the Crimson Bolt, smacking criminals with a pipe-wrench. And when Libby figures it out, she becomes his sidekick Boltie, helping him launch an all-out offensive to free Sarah from Jacques' control.
This is a fiendishly clever film that surprises us at every step. Just as we begin to believe that this will be like most superhero thrillers (including the similarly themed but more fantastical Kick-Ass), Gunn throws in a shocking turn of events that's horrifyingly truthful. In this world, people get shot (including the good guys), violence is messy, and it's not always easy to tell the heroes from the villains, especially when the heroes get a bit over-excited about meting out justice.
And it's also not always easy to watch, especially since the violence is so intensely nasty. And it gets worse as the story escalates. But it's solidly grounded by a raw performance from Wilson as the hapless Frank, who feels overwhelmed by his "mission" and is a little shocked by the way he deals with Jacques' thugs (Rooker, Royo, Gunn and Blackehart). Page is a little too perky as Libby, although her youthful exuberance is a terrific counterpoint to Frank's moping. And Bacon is magnetic as the baddie of the piece.
In the end, it's somewhat difficult to discern Gunn's point. Perhaps he's saying that violence is violence no matter who dishes it out. Or that when we take a stand for what's right we must also be aware of the possible consequences. Or maybe he's just pointing out how deeply fake virtually every other superhero movie really is. Because this one is perhaps too honest for comfort.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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