While there is humor in this film, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a comedy. Possibly a dark (very dark) comedy might be fitting, but I prefer to think of it as a drama with some darkly humorous satirical elements theoughout. It's not a bitter satire like Network, nor is it gut bustingly hilarious. It's emotional, full of depth, heart, and is quite touching. Some of it just happens to bring chuckles now and then.
I'm not sure if this is what the cast and crew were going for, but this seems like a film you could use in an intellectual conversation about deconstructing the nature of heros (more specifically superheroes), vigilantes, and the subgenre of this type of film. If any of that doesn't make sense, maybe this will: basically this is, I feel, a treatise on deconstructing notions of heroes and superhero films. Like I said earlier though, this may be valid, but it's first and foremost a character study.
And what a character! Woody Harrelson has really been on a roll in the past two years, and this is another performance that is just dynamite. He shines as the lonely, troubled, and delusional Arthur/Defendor. You wanna think he's nuts (he is), and laugh at him, but at the same time, he's oddl;y charming, and compelling, and you really grow to love and care about him. Longtime character actor and That Guy Elias Koteas is terrific, as is Kat Dennings. They both play archetypical characters, but aren't totally run of the mill, same-old same-olds. Oh is also good, but I wish she had a larger role. Given her screentime though, she's really good.
This is probably not a film for all tastes. For people who like tons of action and mayhem, you'll be disappointed, for peope who don't like superhero type films, you'll be disappointed. But if you want a sharp, moving, and terrifically well made Canadian Indie about a guy who uses a superhero alter ego to escape his troubles, you'll probably like this. Really, the character could have chosen anything to use as his refuge. That he chooses to be Defendor just adds to his character, and helps the movie provide an interesting take on notions of heroism.
And initially this is the approach the film itself appears gearing up to take, opening with a hysterical spoofing of overblown superhero film clichés, including rooftop billowing fog, high contrast city lights against nighttime darkness, and larger than life acrobatic feats ("always check the garbage days" moans a wounded Defendor after leaping off a rooftop into a dumpster recently emptied of garbage to cushion his fall). Such astute genre awareness combined with the wonderfully imaginative collection of Defendor's makeshift crimefighting weapons (including the most inspired use of marbles seen in ages) could easily have assured for an hour and a half of lighthearted, enjoyable cinematic fun.
Kat Dennings is equally delightful to watch as a young prostitute who may be either befriending or manipulating Defendor, warping her naturally quirky and spunky energy into something darker, yet just as resonant.
Quite a different kind of superhero movie where our hero neither has supernatural powers like that of Spiderman & Superman nor super financial powers like that of Batman. But he has a cause for which he feels that he needs to become a superhero with whatever resources are handy to him. Since he's not right in mind, he gets out to fight the baddies with his limited resources, & this is supposed to create comedy situations. But it fails there for most of the part. The emotional sequences aren't well done either. I felt somewhat sympathy for Arthur, but not enough. "DARKLY FUNNY"? It's neither enough dark nor enough (in fact, hardly) funny. I can hardly remember myself laughing out loud while watching the movie. Maybe 2-3 chuckles at the most. The script lacks meat & doesn't work at many levels.
One of the main reasons I went for this movie was Woody Harrelson's name on the casting list. Unfortunately, he isn't that effective here. I'm not sure if the weak script is to be blamed for that. Kat Dannings is the best of the lot. Sandra Oh & Elias Koteas are efficient. Michael Kelly is okay. I was surprised to find Lisa Ray on the casting list. Of course, she went unnoticed for me.
On the whole, you won't be missing much if you give this one a skip. 5.5/10.
DIRECTED BY: Peter Stebbings
SUMMARY: Despite lacking any actual superpowers, Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) transforms himself into costumed vigilante "Defendor." But danger beckons when the hero tries to protect young prostitute Kat (Kat Dennings) from an assailant.
MY THOUGHTS: "I went into this film expecting a dark comedy. What I got instead was a smart, funny, heartbreaking, and extremely touching film that explores what it's like to be a real hero. Some of the movie was outright hilarious, other times you don't know whether to laugh at or feel sorry for Harrelson's character. The fast story holds your attention, and some of 'Defendor's' tools are really creative - and hilarious. He doesn't believe in guns because in his words: 'People who use guns are cowards'. Couldn't agree more. I really appreciated the honesty of this character. Good flick...Give it a watch...."
A crooked cop, a mob boss and the young girl they abuse are the denizens of a city's criminal underworld. It's a world that ordinary Arthur Poppington doesn't understand and doesn't belong in, but is committed to fighting when he changes into a vigilante super-hero of his own making, Defendor. With no power other than courage Defendor takes to the streets to protect the city's innocents.
Kind of weird, dark and funny.
Not the best "Hero Flick" I've seen, but definitely the strangest!
It has strands of humor, a shot of morality and an awkward romance that actually works.
This is "DEFENDOR"
Another entry in the realm of average person takes up the job of superhero. While not as well done as the recent Kick-Ass or as oddly touching as the Michael Rappaport film Special, this film nevertheless makes good enough work of its premise due to Woody Harrelson's performance.
Harrelson stars as Arthur, a man living in solitary, who puts on a costume at night to fight crime as Defendor (emphasis on the "OR"). His skills consists of a utility belt full of marbles and jars of wasps, bad puns, and his weapon of choice - a WWI trench club. Defendor's goal is to defeat his arch nemesis, Captain Industry, who he has had trouble finding. One night, Defendor breaks up a "situation" involving a prostitute, played by Kat Dennings, and a corrupt cop, played by Elias Koteas. Soon, Defendor befriends the prostitute, who claims to know where Captain Industry is. It will be up to him to finally stop Capt. I., that is if he can escape the realm of real world troubles.
The film certainly benefits from Harrelson's performance, otherwise it would just be another entry into this type of very specific genre. There's nothing really exceptional about the way it is put together, other than Defendor's unique utilities and the very on the nose scoring for the film. Still, it does manage to be darkly funny at times, and does have some memorable moments scattered in there. But it all comes back to Harrelson who gives the film its heart.
Worth a rental.
Chuck Dooney: Who writes your dialogue? Superman?
Defendor: No. I write it myself.
Chuck Dooney: You know what? You need a good ghost writer. Somebody with talent.
Defendor: No. You need a ghost writer. 'Cause that's what you're going to be after I pulverize you.
A comedy centered around three characters: an everyday guy who comes to believe he's a superhero, his psychiatrist, and the teenager he befriends.
It is too bad that Woody Harrelson was nominated for best supporting actor for The Messenger; he should have been nominated for best actor for this, his role as a mentally unstable man who likes to pretend that he is a superhero called Defendor, and who lives out his dream by actually fighting crime. There are some brilliantly funny and memorable moments in Defendor ("Oh, no, please, not the lime juice!"), but this is not a comedy in the strictest sense. It's actually a pretty serious drama slash crime thriller. The only glaring flaw in Defendor is the character of Kat played by Kat, a character who is much too together and with it to be a crack addicted prostitute, but the wide range of emotion in her acting makes up for the implausibility of the writing she is dealing with. We almost want Defendor to go a little farther in his wacky vigilantism involving swarms of hornets and marbles, but in some ways it's good that the movie doesn't stray too far away from reality. In fact, we get the sense that Defendor isn't as crazy as everyone thinks he is, that he's actually well aware that he's really just a normal guy play acting, which makes his heroism all the more potent. Three cheers for Defendor!
Woody Harrelson portayed Arthur in a way that completely avoided mocking him. Imagine Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. Arthur has definite reasons for his quest and his actions, and as those reasons are revealed during the movie, you become more and more attached to his character. Kat Dennings plays a young prostitute who befriends Arthur and is instrumental in helping him to his final destiny, and Sandra Oh stars as a psychiatrist who learns about Arthur along with the audience. No one is responsible for the acting burden that Harrelson has, but their performances are still solid.
I liked this movie a good bit. It was funny in some parts, and sad in others. We really don't get to spend enough time with Arthur/Defendor and his world, but what's here is pretty satisfying.