Inception Media Group // 2010 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 23rd, 2011
Evil Has A New Enemy.
"I don't do this for fun."
Having witnessed firsthand the murder of his mother some ten years ago, Sean Donovan (Caleb Steinmeyer) has dedicated himself to finding her killer. However, what began as a quest for justice has become a dangerous obsession, which now threatens to derail not just Sean's life, but also the lives of those around him.
The title Boy Wonder immediately brings to mind the adventures of Batman and Robin, and is clearly intended as the story of Bruce Wayne informs so much of writer-director Michael Morrissey's directorial debut. Recent films, in particular Kick-Ass and James Gunn's ultra-violent Super, have attempted (albeit humorously) a "realistic" take on the costume vigilante, but what Morrissey has accomplished is, if not necessarily a better movie, certainly the most true to life. This is the story of Batman, without the wealth, gadgets, or ridiculous costume.
In lieu of the more traditional superhero adornments, Boy Wonder is more interested in why Sean spends night after night taking on New York City's criminal element. What drives Sean, and where is the path he has taken leading him? Well, the murder of his mother -- which Sean witnessed as a young child -- shapes every fiber of his being. His steely determination to track his mother's killer, who is still at large some ten years since her death, has seen Sean become something of a recluse. Shunning his peers, Sean has dedicated himself to gaining the skills he requires to fight crime. A straight-A student, he is also multilingual, and, thanks to the Maui Thai classes he takes each evening, amazingly adept in unarmed combat. Still, there are other demons that haunt Sean, chief amongst them a formerly abusive father who mercilessly beat Sean and his mother for years. This tragic upbringing, seen in flashback at key points during the film, is seen to have had a detrimental effect on Sean's psyche. As the film progresses, we see how Sean's grip on reality is slipping, suggesting psychotic tendencies. This is best exemplified by Sean's frequent visits to the offices of the NYPD homicide division, where a sympathetic force has allowed Sean access to their database to search mug shots in a vain attempt to locate his mother's killer. Sean's meek daytime demeanor is so far removed from his dark nighttime alter ego that the detectives have no reason to suspect he is using his time there to select targets from their rogue's gallery.
Morrissey's screenplay is smart enough to realize the implications of a vigilante's intervention, addressing it directly. One scene sees Sean take down a pimp who is guilty of beating his girls. Having taken a beating, the pimp calmly reminds Sean, "You didn't save her; you made it worse." The insinuation being that his act of heroism has only infuriated the pimp further, and resulted in an even worse fate for his girls. In this regard, Morrissey's film finds itself at the same crossroads most superheroes/costumed vigilante's come to; that being whether the "hero" dares cross the line and actually take the life of his adversary. Morrissey makes his decision and boldly sticks to it. Within the context of his story the path he takes makes sense, and stays true to the character of Sean. As the film hurtles towards its stunning finale, Morrissey explores the morale complexities of Sean's actions, asking whether Sean is a hero, or whether he is himself a criminal, just as dangerous as the drug dealers and pimps he pursues.
The cast, in particular Caleb Steinmeyer and Zulay Henao, deliver solid performances. Special praise should also be given to Bill Sage. His portrayal of Sean's father, Terry, really conveys the demons the character battles with on a daily basis as he struggles to redeem himself for past crimes.
The DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer appears soft in parts, but generally impresses with natural (if slightly muted) colors, and deep black levels. The 5.1 soundtrack offers clear dialogue.
Apart from the film's trailer, the DVD release of Boy Wonder contains a 21-minute making-of, which is dominated by the contributions of writer-director Michael Morrissey. Morrissey discusses his comic book influences, while also explaining the reasons for grounding his story firmly in reality. Though short, it proves to be an excellent addition to the package, especially as it features interviews with key cast members.
Boy Wonder is a genuine surprise. Writer-director Michael Morrissey has crafted something truly exceptional, and his film keeps the viewer hooked from its graceful opening, right through to its shocking finale. This is a gritty, realistic take on the superhero genre that delivers something original, thought provoking, and not easily forgotten.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site