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Posted at 09:15 AM ET, 08/08/2011

HBO’s ‘SUPERHEROES’: When real-life costumed crimefighters attack


HBO’s “SUPERHEROES”: The Vigilante Spider. (HBO)
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Entertainingly yet uneasily, it’s the 2010 film “Kick-Ass” come to real life. Self-anointed and sometimes well-appointed, costumed vigilante “crimefighters” across the land seek their own rough justice in the new HBO documentary “Superheroes.”

As Post critic Hank Stuever rightly underscores in his review: “If Stan Lee thinks you’re extreme, you might want to chill.”

In the hour-and-a-half docu debuting tonight at 9, filmmaker Michael Barnett gets up close with a few of what the film says are several-hundred Americans who play dress-up and cop-and-robbers with the aim to nab true-life baddies — including sexual predators and hate-crime assailants.

“These are not the people you’ve seen at amusement parks and Comic-Con and along Hollywood Boulevard ... ,” Stuever writes. “Something in the comics lore has spoken to real-life superheroes on a personal level, and they are serious — if perhaps a touch delusional. They see society as troubled, and they are especially disenchanted with law enforcement.”

The film quotes a streets-of-Brooklyn superhero who goes by the moniker Lucid, who says: “The N.Y.P.D., even the government, is completely unreliable.”

Elsewhere, there is Mr. Xtreme, the “frustrated jujitsu student” in San Diego; Orlando’s Master Legend; and Lucid’s crew that includes would-be superheroine ”T.S.A.F” (aka “the Silenced and the Forgotten”). These are the real-world counterparts to Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Johnson, almost charismatically passionate figures without the cinematic fireworks of high-stakes crimefighting — yet they wield actual “knives, nunchucks, sharp spikes, Tasers, retractable batons, maces, pepper sprays, blinding spotlights and lasers.”

You only hope they themselves aren’t someday mortally wounded by their delusion. (Says one masked crusader: “I have been tased by my own stun gun before. ... It’s unpleasant.”) Because whether some of these ”superheroes” are playing to the camera or not, they’re about to get much more exposed via HBO.

Stuever’s review is recommended reading. And Barnett’s film — a Slamdance winner and Comic-Con selection — is recommended viewing.

STAN LEE: As ‘Thor’ scores, creator considers the continuing lure of the superhero

JOHN ROMITA JR.: The artist talks family business, Big Daddies & the ‘Kick-Ass’ sequel

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HBO’s “SUPERHEROES”: Superhero and his ride. (HBO)
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A HORNET TOO GREEN? The “superhero” Life. (HBO)
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BROOKLYN “SUPERHEROES”: Zimmer (from left), Z, T.S.A.F. and Lucid. ( HBO)

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“SUPERHEROES”: Filmmaker Michael Barnett (right) with Theodore James and Mr. Xtreme. “To this day, I actually don’t know Mr. Extreme’s real name,” Barnett tells SuperHeroHype.com. (HBO)
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By  |  09:15 AM ET, 08/08/2011

 
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