100 Days of Superheroes- Day 80: Defendor (2009)
A story of a man who fights crime with marbles and hornets.
“It’s Defendor with an “or”. He gets very upset when you mess that up.”
It’s been a while since we’ve had an indie superhero film again. Like most this follows the trend of being about a superhero who is delusional or simply has no powers. So it’s not the most original of ideas but with some great performances and tight plotting, Defendor is a surprisingly engaging film.
It’s difficult not compare this to Special (a film I review back on Day 67). They both feature characters who think they have superpowers and attempt to fight crime despite their inept skills. Though the central concept might not be as organic as in Special, the script itself is better plotted out and it is definitely visually superior.
It follows Arthur, who is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation and telling about his times as Defendor. His main quest is to hunt down “Captain Industry” and bring him to justice for killing his mother. Along the way he meets a prostitute and drug addict played by Kat Dennings (who would later go on to act in Thor). She pretty much takes advantage of Arthur’s low IQ to send him after a mob boss she has a grudge towards. All the while she crashes at his place and steals everything Arthur owns.
Dennings does a good job in the role and has a well written character arc where she starts by taking advantage of Arthur, then slowly becomes more fond of him and as a result becomes a more likable person.
Woody Harrelson gives a phenomenal performance in the lead role. He injects the title character’s stupidity with a lot of heart and plays off his costars magnificently. He’s a guy you can root for, but also groan at when he does something stupid.
The film also has some good villains with Captain Industry being the central plot for the film, but the main baddie Defendor encounters is a dirty cop who doesn’t really know how to deal with him. At times it’s almost like a Wily Coyote thing going on, with Defendor having absurd plans on how to beat him (involving lime juice, marbles, and jars of bees) then ending beat up in a back alley.
The film is also considerably funnier than Special….but also more depressing at times. The makers clearly had better control over the emotional levels in the movie, for better or worse. There are times when the film slips into melodrama that feels a little too heavy for the rest of the material.
The movie also is complemented by a pretty good score. Most indie films like to go with the acoustic guitar being strummed pointlessly in the background, so to hear a full-orchestrated superhero score for this small film was a nice addition.
The movie might be lacking almost entirely on action scenes and most that are there are short and are nothing more than a fistfight. This is not an action movie. It succeeds by getting the audience invested in the title character and how he connects to people. It makes you root for him to win despite his goal being ridiculous and absurd.
FINAL RATING: 7/10- (70%)
Previous DAY 79: Push
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