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.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th June 2011
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $324.1 thousand
Distributed by: IFC Midnight
Production compaines: This Is That Productions, Ambush Entertainment, Crimson Bolt
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 59
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: James Gunn
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Starring: Rainn Wilson as Frank Darbo, Ellen Page as Libby, Liv Tyler as Sarah, Kevin Bacon as Jacques, Gregg Henry as Detective John Felkner, Michael Rooker as Abe, Andre Royo as Hamilton, Sean Gunn as Toby, Stephen Blackehart as Quill, Don Mac as Mr. Range, Linda Cardellini as Pet Store Employee, Nathan Fillion as The Holy Avenger, Gerardo Davila as Cop (as Gerardo Davilla), Grant Goodman as Young Frank, Paul T. Taylor as Frank Sr. (as Paul Taylor), Connor Day as Teenage Frank, James Gunn as Demonswill, Mikaela Hoover as Holly, Nick Holmes as Jim, Matt Moore as Jesus / Guy In Line, Rob Zombie as Voice Of God, Steve Agee as Comic Book Store Jerk, Laurel Whitsett as Librarian (as Laurel Whisett), James Lentzsch as Passenger Teen, Nate Rubin as Driving Teen, Edrick Browne as Nathaniel, Danny Cosmo as Purse-snatcher, Krystal Mayo as Wheelchair Woman, Russell Towery as Chickenhawk, Mario Jiminez Jr. as Chicken, Jonathan Winkler as Transvestite, Mollie Milligan as Sarah's Sister, Gerry May as Newscaster, Valentine Miele as Line Butter, Michelle Gunn as Line Butter's Girlfriend, Darcel White Moreno as Waitress (as Darcel Moreno), Greg Ingram as Long-haired Hood, Lindsey Soileau as Libby's Friend, Brandon Belknap as Christian, Zach Gilford as Jerry, Lloyd Kaufman as 911 Man, Tim J. Smith as Range's Technician (as Tim Smith), Mark Dealessandro as Thug Jumped On By Boltie, Cole S. McKay as Thug Set On Fire (as Cole McKay), Dominick LaBanca as Thug #1, John W. Lawson as Thug Missing Arms, William Katt as Sgt. Fitzgibbon
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