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It baffles me that the first time I even heard of Defendor was the day I saw it for sale in the new releases section. I certainly read enough nerd sites on a regular basis to know when a new superhero film is being done, particularly one starring Woody Harrelson. And if there’s one thing comics nerds are, it’s obsessive information hoarders, particularly when it’s one of our passions- like guys in masks and long johns.

Harrelson, as the titular Defendor (AKA Arthur Poppington), takes up crime fighting with a slowly revealed number of misconceptions as his motivation. As he tells his story to psychologist Sandra Oh, his childhood lays out all the clues as to why he picks up the mantle in the first place. And those memories leave him no choice but help crack addicted prostitute Kat Dennings (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) and defend her, no pun intended. Through a bit of dumb luck and just not knowing when to quit, Arthur manages to find a genuine evil to battle and comes out on top. Along the way he gets a bit too much leeway with both the sympathetic cops and the for-no-good reason compassionate crooks. It’s really never explained why they don’t just kill him any of the times they have the chance; they just don’t. Even when they finally decide to they have all too much trouble in their attempt.

Harrelson works a lot closer to his roots as Woody on Cheers than the good-old-boy badasses he’s been seen as lately, and it serves the story very well. He brings out the naïveté and the good natured determination in Arthur beautifully. He’s slow without being stupid and sad without being pitiful. It’s a great performance. Elias Koteas does good work as the crooked undercover cop that serves as Arthur’s chief nemesis. Dennings acquits herself well in what looks to be her first “gritty” role as a runaway teen hooker. A lot of her character is pretty pat but she does well with what she’s given. She gets her moments, too. She’s no “hooker with a heart of gold,” exactly. She manipulates Arthur at least as much as she looks out for him and only returns what she steals when she finds out it’s worthless. So, she isn’t cliché, but a little close to it.

The small touches make the movie, though, and give it a very personal feel. Arthur’s need to label everything, a la Adam West’s Batman, but on a city worker’s salary, the way he dresses himself and the weapons he chooses, everything feels like it belongs on Arthur. I suppose the small nature of the film made it unmarketable as a theatrical release but I hope more people give it a chance. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by it. 3 ½ stars

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2 Comments

  1. That’s Great. Nice Post…


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