When I was watching the first few episodes of “True Blood,” one of the thoughts I kept having when Ryan Kwanten showed up onscreen was, “Seriously… screw this guy.” And not in the sure-to-get-ratings-for-HBO way, either. More in the how-much-work-do-you-think-went-into-his-abs sort of way.
Over the course of the wildly uneven and occasionally ridiculous series, though, Kwanten has demonstrated a strange, boyish vulnerability that makes me like him more, and the more of his work I see, the more I’m convinced this guy’s an actor worth watching. It would be easy to use a show like “True Blood” to immediately make the jump to big-budget Hollywood movies, but Kwanten hasn’t done that yet unless you count his voice-only appearance in “Legend Of The Guardians.” Instead, he’s got an interesting list of small indie films to his credit, and it seems like many of them are Australian films. The neo-Western “Red Hill” that was released last year was a solid little film, and a nice showcase for a very different side of Kwanten, and now the same can be said for Leon Ford’s “Griff The Invisible,” an interesting take on the real-world superhero genre that has emerged over the last few years.
It’s no wonder there have been so many of these over the last few years. “Kick-Ass” may be the highest-profile version of this sort of thing, but it’s certainly not the only one that’s been made. We’ve seen Michael Rapaport do it in “Special,” Woody Harrelson did it in “Defendor,” and Rainn Wilson took his shot in “Super.” Each of those films dealt with the idea of powerlessness, and considering the way superheroes have become our new predominant symbol of power, culturally speaking, it makes sense that people would use this iconography to start dealing with these ideas.
Ford’s script deals with Griff (Kwanten), an office worker who has never felt like he fits in with anyone. He spends his days in isolation even when he’s among other people, and he spends his nights dressing up in a latex suit and pretending to fight crime. He is broken, nearly beyond repair, and his older brother has actually moved home to help him get his life on track. One night he meets Melody (Maeve Dermody), a girl his brother’s seeing, and right away, there’s a connection between them. She recognizes something in Griff, some oddness that is a part of her, and ultimately, the film is about finding a kinship in someone else in the world, even if the two of you are totally off the charts nuts. What I liked is how the film doesn’t try to justify Griff actually assaulting people or him as a crimefighter. Ford demonstrates no particular flair for superhero fare, but that’s not the point. The suit is just the way Griff deals with his own disconnect from “normal,” and Melody is the only person in his life who seems able to see the same world as him.
It’s a very small film, and Kwanten plays it so internal, so contracted, that fans looking for some of that Jason Stackhouse swagger might be disappointed. But it’s nice work, and Maeve Dermody is right on his wavelength, making them a very nice match in the film. Visually, it’s solid but unspectacular, and you can tell they stretched to try and put every dime onscreen with a few clever effects sequences. Overall, “Griff The Invisible” is one of those films that you might want to make note of and catch at some point, but I wouldn’t urge you to make a superheroic effort. It’s a charmer, but in a minor key.
“Griff The Invisible” is now playing.