In a world oversaturated with young-to-middle-aged superheroes, the elderly defenders of justice are continuously shunned. Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen saw retired superheroes take on a global threat, and the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gave us a beer-bellied Spidey – but what happens when Spidey can’t shoot his webbed loads anymore? Where does Punisher go when his, um, punisher goes flaccid? Director Steve Barron – somewhat of a relic himself, having most notably helmed 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 1993’s Coneheads – knows a thing or two about being shunned. His latest effort – the low-budget, septua-/octogenarian superhero comedy Supervized – takes a noble stab at rectifying this negligence. While the results are decidedly mixed, the chemistry between its formidable cast alone makes it a worthy little diversion.
And what a cast of stalwarts he’s assembled, Avengers-style! Tom Berenger plays the cynical Ray, a.k.a. Maximum Justice, who can move things with his mind. Fionnula Flanagan’s Madera Moonlight “channels energy from the negative dimension to invoke the power of elder gods.” Louis Gosset, Jr. hyper-speeds his way through the film as Pendle, a.k.a. Total Thunder. And then there’s Beau Bridges’ Ted, a.k.a. Shimmy, who can vanish and reappear in places (think a low-rent Nightcrawler). Together, they live in an Irish retirement home, crammed with other aging, flatulent superheroes, all struggling with their deteriorating powers.
“Ray unveils a conspiracy, which involves local teenagers… stealing/absorbing the elderly’s superpowers.”
From the opening shot of a butt-naked Ray grumbling about his “f*****g towel,” the film establishes its tongue-in-cheek tone, as well as Ray’s cynical, resentful persona. The fact that the reigning hero supreme, whose acts of heroism are broadcast on every news channel, is a small twerp clad in purple tights named Celestro (Hiran Abeysekera) doesn’t help matters. Unlike the content Pendle, who loves simple things like mashed potatoes and the comfort of a bed, Ray isn’t ready to “watch endless reruns of Murder She Wrote.” The arrival of the extravagant Madera shakes things up for the two men. “Wow,” she says, upon seeing them, “two ex-boyfriends under one roof. What could possibly go wrong?”
Well, there’s Ted’s terminal illness, for one. (Yes, superheroes get cancer, too.) With only months left to live, he helps his partner (sidekick?) Ray, unveil a conspiracy, which involves local teenagers – and possibly the head of the retirement home, the stern Alicia (Fiona Glascott) – stealing/absorbing the elderly’s superpowers. At first skeptical of Ray’s suspicions, Pendle and Madera soon join his quest, which leads to a somewhat-perfunctory, SFX-driven finale, our four heroes finally donning their outfits of yore.
Barron and his screenwriters manage to make some acute, witty observations about the perils of old age. “Are we early?” Pendle wonders at the empty stalls that greet them during a “Hero Day” trip. “I think the term is ‘forgotten,’” Madera corrects him. A character named Hurricane Jane, who once could level buildings with her super-breath, now struggles to blow out the candles on her 100th birthday cake. (“Imagine her blowjobs,” one of the sleazy old men smirks, just to be corrected by Ted that blowjobs require suction, whereas Hurricane Jane’s power is blowing.) I enjoyed the scenes of Ray and Pendle jogging together, Pendle huffin’ and puffin’ before taking off at light-speed, leaving an embittered Ray behind. The group’s rapport is, for the most part, quite sharp. “For the hundredth time, the wind caught my towel,” Ted responds to accusations of flashing a 10-year-old.
“…the chemistry between its formidable cast alone makes it a worthy diversion.”
The great Elya Baskin provides some of the film’s biggest laughs as the “Russki” ex-supervillain Brian, in a love/hate relationship with our venerable crew – a caricature that plays to the stereotype of a “vulgar Russian,” but a funny one nevertheless. There’s also Jerry (Clive Russell), who “stopped the moon from colliding with the Earth,” and gets the loneliest funeral in the history of superhero funerals. Moonlight displaying her demonic powers to a stunned Alicia is another highlight (“Do you have an aspirin?” she asks nonchalantly afterward).
Don’t come in expecting high-octane thrills and frills, then. This is a low-key, indie take on a well-worn genre; one that frequently resorts to scatological humor and easy targets, making for an odd mix of the sophisticated and crass. Amongst the plethora of prostate jokes and limp-dick references, the one visual that’s stuck with me is that of a character propelling himself on a wheelchair by… farting fire. The sparingly-used special effects range from “kind of decent” to “terribly shoddy,” especially during the final “battle,” cheapening the overall feel.
Supervized gets quite a few things right, especially considering its inherently silly, B-movie origins. It deals with memories, aging, finding a purpose, and coming to terms with death. It gently scalds us for our mistreatment of the elderly and reminds us not to forget their contributions. Barron’s film is at its best when it just lets the cast riff about senility while playing cards. “We all get that superpower that people get with old age,” Ray says, “invisibility.” Here’s hoping that same fate doesn’t befall Supervized.
Supervized (2019) Directed by Steve Barron. Written by Andy Briggs and John Niven. Starring Tom Berenger, Ned Dennehy, Fionnula Flanagan, Louis Gossett Jr., Beau Bridges, Clive Russell, Fiona Glascott, Elya Baskin, John Kavanagh, Hiran Abeysekera.
6 out of 10