A crooked cop (Elias Koteas), a mob boss and the young junky they abuse (Kat Dennings) are the denizens of a city’s criminal underworld. It’s a world that ordinary Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) doesn’t understand and doesn’t belong in, but is committed to fighting for when he changes into vigilante superhero Defendor. With no power other than courage, Defendor takes to the streets to protect the city’s innocent. Peter Stebbings, known more for acting roles in movies, wrote and directed.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This movie surprised me more than any other in a long time. Of course, like everyone, I underestimate Woody Harrelson.
I rented this to throw in the Blu-ray player while I cleaned, figuring it would be background noise to keep me company while I swept and dusted. Instead, I found myself engaged with an intriguing character in a world that is very real, where people get hurt — a nice sidestep from typical superhero movies. Of course, this is anything but a typical superhero movie.
This is a dromedy, for sure, but it lives within a world that is realistic. What would happen if a mentally handicapped man tried to be a hero? He’d get beat up a lot and have a hard time solving crimes. But to say that is all this movie is would be selling it short. This is a character piece by Harrelson, who adds the humanity and humility needed to prop this picture up beyond being a silly, throw-away hero spoof. It has a sense of humor, for certain, but it’s never cripplingly dumb. This movies was marketed as a goof ball comedy, but it’s not. At it’s core, it’s a drama with a good heart and some dark story lines and characters. But this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously — which is why it succeeds. It could easily be a foolish movie about a moron who dresses up in tights and gets beat up.
Instead, “Defendor” has a subtlety, taking the time to develop relationships, characters, and back stories. I would say this is a movie for people who loved “Kick Ass” or the classic TV cartoon superhero “The Tick,” and anyone who enjoys comic book movies. I give Harrelson all the credit in the world. This was a $3.5 million passion project shot in 20 days, and Stebbings deserves credit for his directing style and writing, especially since this was his first film.