In a world of large-budgeted super-heroic cinema run amuck, it’s refreshing to see a low-key approach such as the one presented in Defendor. One glance at Woody Harrelson as the dime-store crime fighter would probably make you think that the film’s tongue is firmly planted in its cheek. In actuality, this comedy drama has weight, serious performances,...read more
In a world of large-budgeted super-heroic cinema run amuck, it’s refreshing to see a low-key approach such as the one presented in Defendor. One glance at Woody Harrelson as the dime-store crime fighter would probably make you think that the film’s tongue is firmly planted in its cheek. In actuality, this comedy drama has weight, serious performances, and a fair share of comedic flair that isn’t so self-aware that it induces eye rolls. No doubt, Harrelson is the key to putting people in the seats, but it’s the ensemble that really sells the material, brought so economically to the screen by writer/director Peter Stebbings.
The film tells the tale of Arthur Poppington, a slightly mentally challenged man who heads out onto the streets to take crime fighting into his own hands as the vigilante “Defendor.” Armed with marbles, lime juice, wasps, and a bat, Arthur scours his city for evil-doing, equally dishing out and taking beatings on a regular basis. While mostly concerning himself with low-rent street crime, the not-too-all-there hero stumbles onto a real criminal organization after he saves a young crack addict, Katerina (Kat Dennings), from a crooked cop (Elias Koteas). Shortly thereafter, Katerina uses Arthur to exact revenge against those who wronged her, even if it means unknowingly interfering with an undercover police investigation and endangering both of their lives in the process.
Though Stebbings’ well-written script is equally on par with his slick directorial stamp, it’s John Rowley’s score that really nails home this unique film’s tone. Part playful and part bombastic, the music consistently keeps the proceedings light -- making the severely dramatic moments stand out even more when they inch themselves into the picture. Harrelson tackles the character head-on and imbues him with a stoic, yet naive quality that really fits the role. As far as the supporting cast goes, Kat Dennings and Elias Koteas both deliver the goods and inject both humor and the tragedy of the streets into their extremely different characters.
Maybe what’s most fresh about Defendor is the plausibility of it all. This isn’t a wealthy vigilante or a superhuman one -- just a mixed-up guy using household items to fight the crime that made him what he is. Though others have mined this same territory before (2010’s Kick-Ass being the most obvious) and will in the future, it’s a sure bet that none will match Defendor’s realistic uniqueness anytime soon.
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