Film reviews

The Super – Film Review

Val Kilmer, remember him? He's back but is he super?

When ex-NYPD cop, Phil Lodge (Patrick John Flueger), takes a job as a superintendent at a large New York apartment complex, he finds himself in a race against time to find the truth behind a series of tenant disappearances, before the culprit gets to his two young daughters.  Could fellow superintendent, Walter (Val Kilmer) be hiding the truth?

Everyone loves a comeback.  From John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, to Robert Forster in Jackie Brown, both from Quentin Tarantino, it is usually a great pleasure to see previous prominent actors and actresses return to the forefront of their profession.  The Super sees the latest installment in Val Kilmer’s return from serious illness.  It is pleasing to report that, despite the ravages of his recent battles being all too evident in his raspy voice and diminished build, he provides one of the high points of the film, with an offbeat, vanity-free performance that, in many ways, echoes the way he was able to disappear into a role in heyday performances such as Doc Holliday in 1995’s Tombstone.

It is disappointing to report, then, that The Super is entirely unworthy of his talents.

At 85 minutes, The Super is a slight offering, confused in its goals.  It is ostensibly a horror film, from the Scream-esque opening act; with a young female tenant at the mercy of an unseen threat; claustrophobic cinematography that focuses on the street level to outline the imposing nature of the city; an electronic score, evoking 1984’s The Terminator at times; to thinly drawn supporting male characters designed to evoke a mixture of pity and fear at their offbeat drives and behaviours. 

For all that, there is a hint of buddy cop dramedy, as Phil teams up with fellow super, Julio (Yul Vasquez), and part-romance, the lead finds a connection with tenant, Beverly (Louise Krause).  With these competing tonal shifts, the film never settles on one for very long, and at 85-minutes, it has little time to cover the requisite character work.  The viewer learns little of any of the characters, leaving all participants as little more than broad archetypes: the good cop and father (of daughters, as convention appears to dictate); the supportive female tenant, the cold and greedy building manager, the hen-pecked husband.

Despite being ready for release last year, and carrying a tight running time, The Super arrives with a degree of pedigree.  Writer John J. McLaughlin is the creative talent behind such screenplays as Black Swan and Hitchcock.  the aforemetioned Kilmer, a previous lauded Hollywood A-lister.  The running time feels insufficient to tell this story; and the film displays all the hallmarks of a possibly difficult production.  It is not hard to imagine disputes over tone and content: how else to explain such wild lurches in the film’s feel; the skinny running time, combined with a second act that remains baggy  What the film attempts to portray as portentous merely comes off as inert, a feeling exacerbated by insufficient movement in camera work, and little variation in colour palette or grading. 

It is sad to report that the film rarely rises above the standard of a direct to DVD offering.

The Super is available on VOD from Monday 22nd October.

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