J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Supercon: Taking Down the Con Crud


Fan conventions are quite a shrewd place to pull off a heist-caper. There is tons of cash floating around, as well as a bunch of distracting odors. The cos play will also be handy for five questionable celebrities out for a big score in Zak Knutson’s Supercon (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

As a child actor, Keith Mahar played a cringey Indian stereotype with testicular cancer. Now approaching middle age, he ekes out a living at fan conventions. At least Matt Wheeler was the lead of his canceled TV show. Brock Hutchinson was a legit star in the 1970s, but those days are long gone. On the plus side, he can be much more open about his sexual orientation. Comic book artist Allison McNeeley has real talent, but since when has that ever been enough. They are all regularly exploited by Shatneresque TV space opera icon Adam King and his crooked partner, Gil Bartell, the forces behind the three-day cash cow, Supercon.

When Bartell fires the fab four and threatens to blackball them at other cons, they decide to hit back where it will hurt them the most—their wallets. With the help of respected comic book and screenwriting legend Sid Newberry, they hatch a crackpot scheme to rob the cash fleeced from fans. Thomas Crown would not approve of their minimal preparation, but they have plenty of enthusiasm to compensate.

That is somewhat true of the film as well. The screenplay is basically a clothes line holding a series of gags and rude insults, but it blithely barrels ahead at warp speed. In fact, the ensemble seems to have a go-for-broke spirit, weirdly invigorated by the in-jokes and defiant political incorrectness.

Surprisingly, John Malkovich (yes, the John Malkovich) actually tones it down a little as the Obiwan Kenobi-like Newberry, but he nicely provides the film’s fan-centric ethical compass. Russell Peters makes Mahar an unusually dry and acerbic sad sack loser, which is an accomplishment. Brooks Braselman goes in all for flamboyant shtick as Hutchinson, but he also delivers some cuttingly droll lines. Maggie Grace’s McNeeley is also quite the lethal banterer. Ryan Kwanten is a bit out of his league in their company as the impulsive Wheeler, but Clancy Brown is totally in his element, chewing the scenery as the scenery-chewing King.

Supercon is definitely slapdash, but it would be a blast to watch at one of the bigger Comic Cons. Clearly, Knutson and co-screenwriters Andrew Sipes and Dana Snyder know their con culture. It is hard to imagine actually paying money to see this film in a brick-and-mortar theater, but Supercon has its place in the world and should find an extensive audience. It is not exactly recommended, but this is a film that is bound to find real fans eventually, so you can just wait for it to happen. For the time being, Supercon opens today (4/27) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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