Leon Ford’s “Griff the Invisible” wears a very good disguise. It sets itself up as another one of those “pathetic-loser-dresses-up-like- super-hero-to-help-make-a –difference” movies, like the 2009 Mathew Vaughn film “Kick Ass.” In the opening scene our “hero” and loveable loser Griff (Ryan Kwanten) is in his apartment sitting by some high-tech computers, monitoring the street for crime, when all of a sudden he sees a woman being stalked by two scary looking men.
The film cuts to the next scene. Griff has put on his super hero suit (a black and yellow one, that looks sort of similar to Batman’s) and is running down the street, where he confronts the criminals and beats them up. The scene is like something out of a Batman film, with cheesy superhero music playing in the background. It’s exhilarating. But when day comes, Griff is in regular clothes, going to his boring office job, where his co-workers look him at as an outcast.
After that opening, we’re expecting another “Kick Ass” superhero vigilante movie, when in fact “Griff the Invisible” turns out to be a far more complex drama/comedy about how we view the world, our place in the universe and the superhero in all of us. Unlike “Kick Ass” we don’t see how Griff gets his high-tech gadgets, or his suit, or his motive for fighting crime. He doesn’t have a partner per se and he doesn’t fight an arch nemesis.
Technically, the antagonist in the movie is society. Griff’s family, co-workers and his bosses keep telling him that he needs to fit in and be normal but Griff would rather be invisible and stick to fighting crime. As the movie goes on it becomes less about Griff putting on the suit and fighting crime and more about him finding himself.
For the most part, “Griff the Invisible” is a cross between an indie romantic comedy and a dark delusional fantasy. Parts of the film are focused on Griff’s relationship with a woman named Melody (Maeve Dermody), who’s a perfect match for Griff because she is also odd and an outcast. She spends her days questioning things like protests and testing theories like trying to walk through walls.
Dermody and Kwanten bring a certain timid, awkwardness to their roles (Dermody in particular). The two of them share many intentionally uncomfortable scenes together (a trademark of indie comedies) but they’re convincing and you ultimately care for them.
However, for the rest of the time the movie blurs the line between dream and reality. It’s often difficult to tell whether any heroic deed that Griff does is real or imaginary. In the opening scene, Griff can run like The Flash and beat up criminals with ease but in a later scene, when he’s in his regular clothes he is easily beaten up by a guy from his work. We see him put on an invisibility cloak in his apartment but later on we see it isn’t invisible at all.
Griff wants to disappear and go to other dimensions but really he’s already living in two different worlds. One where he is a masked crusader of the city and the other where he’s nobody and is treated badly. Now, some people might find this to be annoying and confusing, but it gives the film more depth, instead of being another “Kick Ass” and in the end it’s the better movie.
Does the movie have problems? Sure. The films’ pacing is a bit slow and stalls at places. Also it doesn’t quite know how to come to an end but the actors do a sufficient job, there’s a nice balance between funny and seriousness and it leaves you with a few things to ponder afterwards. And if a movie can do that, then it’s effective.