Film Review – Defendor

By | April 13th, 2010
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

We live in a world now where the idea of a super hero movie is actually quite popular. Even outside of comics, we have people getting excited about the idea of “normal people” dressing up in costumes and fighting crime as vigilantes. With Kick-Ass right around the corner (and surprisingly getting good reviews), there’s one other little film that is being released on DVD today. This film explores similar ideas of vigilantes, but with it’s very own unique twist to the equation.

This film is Defendor.

Click behind the cut for my thoughts on the film.

Defendor stars Woody Harrelson as the titular character, a vigilante obsessed with taking down Captain Industry and keeping the streets of his city safe. Of course, since this is not an adaptation, there has to be some singular twist to the tale in which to drive the plot forward, right? Well, in this case, our titular hero “isn’t all there” mentally. In fact, for the most part all of this is in Defendor’s head. As the audience quickly learns, Defendor’s crusade in the city is little more than a grown child’s way of acting out certain fantasies while inadvertantly doing a vigilante’s duty. Defendor clearly takes cues from various popular vigilante heroes (most notably – and obviously – Batman), and crusades against “the punks” of the city (which is made clear in a notably humorous line). Throw in a crooked cop, a Russian mob boss, a misguided teen, and a cop who just wants to do right by his city, and you’ve got the workings of a fairly classic superhero origin tale.

Of course, what makes this story unique is that Defendor is (as I said) a child in the body of a grown man. Due to events that you learn about later in the film, he refuses to grow up beyond a certain point, which also helps to explain the O in his name. This plot aspect ends up being his most endearing characteristic as well as the “make it/break it” point of the film. In all reality, the film is fairly flat and bland. It’s supposed to be a dark comedy, and while there certainly are humorous parts of the film, a Coen brothers film this is not. For the most part while watching Defendor, I found myself zoning out and waiting for the plot to move forward. To be quite honest, the idea of a “mentally challenged superhero” isn’t a very entertaining one, and while seeing Woody Harrelson channel the child-like optimism of Defendor was entertaining at first, by the end of it it became routine and old. The charm just did not last.

On top of that, there’s nothing really special about anyone else’s performances. Kat Dennings and Margaret Cho are billed as the two leads, and both of them are really neither here nor there. Margaret Cho is featured in the out of order therapist sequences, and Kat Dennings is the trouble teen that spends the film with Defendor. Of course, Kat Dennigs (who plays a character named Kat) is what I liked least about the film because her character was selfish and couldn’t “pick a side.” At one point she hates Defendor, at another she wants to help him, and she switches back and forth between this role until the end of the film. It’s hard to find a character entertaining when the character can’t even make up her own mind. As far as the other main leads – the crooked cop (Elias Koteas), the police chief (Clark Johnson) and the mob boss (AC Peterson) – are all basically just stereotypes. No one really exerts themselves into any kind of memorable performances at all.

That’s not to say the film was awful by any means. There were definitely some entertaining parts. Right off the bat the film shows it’s new angle to the “just a guy” superhero angle, and the opening scene is quite entertaining. I loved Harrelson’s attempt to mask his voice, as well as the fact that he simply paints on a mask. His opening actions lead him straight into police custody where he switches between his childlike nature and his superhero persona, and that too was fairly entertaining. As you get further and further into the story, though, it honestly seems like scene after scene repeating itself until the climax. The rise and fall of Defendor isn’t particularly entertaining to watch, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen either.

Ultimately, the film gets a straight C from me. It isn’t good, but it isn’t terrible, and it keeps up the same pace with a bit of wavering here and there throughout. There’s nothing particular special about Defendor, but it’s still a mildly interesting angle for a super hero type film to take. It’s very odd to finish watching a film and think, “Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, but I suppose some people might like it..”, and with that in mind I find myself very ambivalent to the film. If the overall premise of it sounds vaguely interesting to you, I’d say seek out a DVD and rent it, either through your local Red Box or Netflix. It’s definitely not a buy without watching movie though, and it’s certainly not something I am dying to add to my personal DVD collection either.

//TAGS | Movies

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."


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