General Release 2009
101 minutes approx
Arthur Poppington/ Defendor -
Chuck Dooney -
Paul Carter -
Dr Park -
Directed by -
Written by -
Arthur Poppington thinks that he's a superhero. Every night, he goes out dressed in a home made outfit with equipment put together from childrens' spy kits and tries to fight crime. For the most part he just gets himself beaten up. His aim is to bring down Captain Industry, so when he meets a young street girl who claims to know where Captain Industry is, his confrontations with the villain's goons, including a corrupt cop get ever more dangerous.
You wait for years for an ordinary person as superhero movie and two come along at once. It's like buses. But whilst KICK ASS played everything for comic book laughs, DEFENDOR takes a much more serious, realistic view of the whole thing. By making Arthur an emotionally damaged child grown up into a mentally damaged adult, the humour is underscored by a strong streak of pathos that is greatly aided by Woody Harrelson's performance, which doesn't downplay the man's mental problems, but adds in enough charm to make sure that he comes off more as a misguided individual rather than a total nutter. He is simple rather than stupid and his motives are simple and all the more heartbreaking when they are finally revealed.
It also helps that the supporting characters are also nicely judged. Sandra Oh's psychiatrist is supportive and caring, as is Michael Kelly as Arthur's best (and probably only) friend Paul. It is through their eyes that the goodness of the hero shines through despite his obvious mania. Then there is Kat Dennings, who plays Kat, a sort of antithesis to LEON's Mathilda. Instead of a good girl learning to defend herself on the streets, she is a streetwise chancer and druggie who isn't above turning a few tricks to get by, but through her burgeoning relationship (platonic) with Arthur she begins to see that there might be another way. Even the higher up police officers take to the man.
The same does not apply to Elias Koteas as Dooney, the dirty cop who is willing to do just about anything for his criminal masters, but who somehow always manages to come off worst in his encounters with the masked vigilante. There's no comic book performance here, Koteas using his trademark intensity to create a genuinely unsettling bad guy.
DEFENDOR is a funny film, but it isnt' a comedy. There is far too much nastiness that goes on for that. The language is harsh at times and the violence is matter of fact and perfunctory. When Defendor gets beaten up he ends up in the hospital and despite his belief that guns are for cowards, they kill people very simply and effectively throughout. Kat also uses drugs on a number of occasions. This is not one for the kids.
DEFENDOR is a grown up look at the superhero genre and what would happen if someone did decide to play the superhero game. It is intelligent, fun, occasionally surprisingly moving and it keeps its nerve right to the very end.Top
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