Dir: Michael Barnett

This documentary looks at people who spend their spare time dressing up in superhero costumes, and patrolling the streets as masked crimefighters. First thought: "They're making this up, right?" Second thought: "No, really: they're making this up." But apparently not, even though they don't, of course, possess any superpowers - creeping people out by wearing a mask in public, doesn't really count. This didn't end well in Kick-Ass, and there's certainly plenty to mock here, such as the real-life superhero who has his own, "Super Xtreme Death Metal Fighting System, which appears to consist of flailing away with your arms like an epileptic octopus. Unsurprisingly, comic books have a lot to answer for, and even Stan Lee seems bemused, and slightly concerned by the entire enterprise. Though not as much as the police spokesman, or the cops on the beat, who regard the RLSH as little more than a nuisance, and at best a danger to their own selves. One can see their point, especially with dubious "bait" operations, where some groups try to entice muggers, etc. into attacking one of their members.

But, just as I was prepared to dismiss the entire thing as little more than inadequate adults playing dress-up, it turns out there's a whole separate set of RLSH, who prowl the streets in disguise... to help the homeless? And I was all the way back to, "They're making this up, right?" Again, apparently not, and this is far more laudable and inspiring, in terms of benefiting society - even if the obvious question is never asked, i.e. why is the costume necessary for charity work?, the reactions of those they assist to the kindness of simple human contact, are genuine enough to give pause for thought. I do get a sense that the motives are not truly altruistic, with some self-aggrandizement involved - the masks worn are less to conceal an identity, than shout, "Look at me!" While I'd like to have seen more digging into the questionable motives of those involved than the film provides, it certainly didn't go the direction I expected, and gives a glimpse into a strange little subculture, that I never knew existed.

[September 2011]

Crap crusaders
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