Short Takes: Rainn Wilson unmasked in Super, Paul Giamatti in Win Win 

WIN WIN If you're a fan of The National, you probably know their brooding new single "Think You Can Wait" accompanies the closing credits of Thomas McCarthy's bittersweet new film — and that should give you a pretty good idea what to expect. (Maybe you'll hear it when the group plays Vanderbilt's Rites of Spring this Friday night.) White-collar anxiety and suburban boredom have provided a consistent muse for the Brooklyn-based quintet, and they're the undercurrents of The Visitor, writer-director McCarthy's comedy-drama about a down-at-heels attorney (Paul Giamatti) whose desperation to provide for his family leads to shady dealings — and to a high school wrestling prospect (Alex Shaffer) who could either show him a way out or dig him in deeper.

The story threatens to tilt into the kind of sappy, inspirational sports yarn that keeps cable networks afloat, but it's saved from generic uplift by its R-rated vocabulary and by the acting — especially Giamatti's. The ease with which he plays the dejected family man is somewhat concerning: you hope to God he's acting, but he doesn't seem like it. There are moments in Win Win that deserve to have been handled more seriously — in particular, a near shark-jump when what could have been a revealing conflict progresses awkwardly into a front-yard wrestling match. But the overwhelming majority of the film gets the balance between dramatic tension and comic relief just right. Mostly, Win Win adopts the best trait of its lead actor — that unassuming quality that allows him to go from nonthreatening to forcefully affecting in half a scene. You should see Win Win — and if you do, stay for the credits. (Opens Friday at Green Hills) STEVEN HALE

SUPER As the single link between Troma Films, the Dawn of the Dead remake, the surprisingly funny Scooby-Doo live-action reboots and the cheerfully icky monster movie Slither, writer-director James Gunn knows the passion and pitfalls of fanboydom from the inside out. His superhero satire about a sullen, recently dumped fry cook (Rainn Wilson) who reinvents himself as a costumed crime-fighter with a single super power — a big dumb wrench to club people with — jumbles pathos, ultraviolence and slapstick in messy, unresolved terms that suggest a true believer's honest conflict. Really, could Bruce Wayne just be Travis Bickle with cooler gadgets, cleaner kills and better-masked pathology?

That said, the best parts are the most overtly (if queasily) comic, as Gunn places Wilson under the straight-to-video sway of a Bibleman-like Christian crusader (Nathan Fillion) who inspires him to suit up as the Crimson Bolt, enemy of drug dealers and line breakers everywhere. Soon he has his own apostle: a psycho comics-store employee (Ellen Page, giving off sunburst rays of crazy) whose spunky looks camouflage a Joker-sized id. As they zero in on the drug-slinging sleaze (Kevin Bacon) who macked on Wilson's recovering-addict wife (Liv Tyler), the cathartic blood-spewing climax looks considerably less ironic (and more obligatory) than it did in Taxi Driver. Worse, it's capped by an unworkable ending that looks like a failure of nerve. A lot can be forgiven, though, for the Dada eloquence of the Bolt's catchphrase: "Shut up, crime!" (Opens Friday at The Belcourt) JIM RIDLEY


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