First of all, despite the creatively suggestive but misleading title, this genuinely unique indie film noir/revenge fantasy/psychological thriller/adolescent drama/urban action flick from first time writer/director Michael Morrissey, shot in the suitably rough-and-tumble environs of his native Brooklyn, has nothing directly to do with Batman’s tights-wearing sidekick. Though it’s consciously filmed in contrasting hues to convey disparate moods depending on the situation, location and time of day (or night), and edited like fast-moving frames from a gritty graphic novel, Boy Wonder is not really a superhero movie, either. It’s a self-consciously realistic portrait of vigilantism gone horribly awry, depicting the tragic consequences of a fatal car-jacking which has far-reaching implications for everyone touched by this tragedy, particularly the murder victim’s young male child who witnesses the crime, named Sean Donovan (played with unusual ferocity, conviction, vulnerability and passion by newcomer Caleb Steinmeyer.) Sean grows into a troubled teenager who decides to take the Law into his own hands, self-training himself to become a lethal ninja of the night (shades of Batman, Daredevil, and The Punisher rolled into one), stalking gang members, pimps, crazy trouble-makers, common crooks and basic bullies wherever and whenever he might find them.
This amazingly fatalistic film is somewhat similar to last year’s outrageously satirical and ingeniously subversive action-noir-superhero-parody Kick-Ass, except it takes its premise of a self-styled young superhero far, far more seriously, if less graphically, despite the expertly choreographed fight scenes. Essentially a character study, Boy Wonder often wallows in its own nihilism, which bumps up its neo-noir street cred, with deliberately paced but beautifully written and acted scenes of exposition and carefully developed relationships suddenly interrupted by nocturnal sojourns of vengeful violence. The contrast can be jarring, but the juxtaposition is deliberately disturbing and continually compelling. The tone is relentlessly downbeat and the denouement a true stunner, especially in an industry that prides itself on peddling happy endings to the mallplex masses. This is bold, uncompromising filmmaking from someone who knows the streets and isn’t afraid to show both their sensitive and savage sides. With a committed cast including Bill Sage, Zulay Henao, Tracy Middendorf and veteran character actor James Russo, Boy Wonder hits the artistic bulls eye, even if it’s audaciously aimed below the mainstream’s belt.
Boy Wonder is now available on DVD.
Will “the Thrill” Viharo is a pulp fiction author and B Movie impresario.