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Given the recent onslaught of superhero films hitting theatres, it
would seem only natural to anticipate parodic responses to the genre,
sending up its excesses and sillier elements. On the surface, it would
appear that debut director Peter Stebbings' Defendor is exactly such a
film, casting Woody Harrelson's oddball everyman as a surrogate
crimefighter and exploiting his antics for humour in the vein of 1999's
Mystery Men. 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.
But Stebbings' film has grander ambitions than a mere surface level parody, which subtly unfold as the film progresses. As the laughs slowly become fewer and fewer, Defendor's narrative becomes steadily more engrossing, settling on a tone pitched halfway between exhilarating crime/mystery thriller and poignant character study, as the viewer is led increasingly to question Defendor's mental stability, and even the ethics of his imbalanced war against injustice. While such transitioning between tones could prove a dangerous stumbling ground, Stebbings is careful to distinguish between his darker themes and moments of levity, utilizing dashes of all too real violence to savagely undercut the fantasy or parodic elements. For all Defendor's silliness, it certainly packs a brutal punch when necessary.
Of course, being the work of a first time director, one would expect the occasional fumble, and Stebbings' film does lose its way for a period nearing the climax, meandering somewhat and losing its rhythm. Nonetheless, an emerging subplot musing on the roots and importance of heroism (clearly borrowing amply from Christopher Nolan's recent two Batman reboots among other sources) which could have been the clumsiest addition to the movie actually emerges as surprisingly tasteful and functional, adding more nuance and complexity to the unfolding film without coming across as excessively pretentious. Completing the package is the wonderfully grandiose musical score by John Rowley, managing to perfectly encompass each tonal shift, whether gleefully riffing on superhero musical motifs or offering something more profound and honest, either way adding welcome depth and volume to a film already far from lacking in either.
The casting of Woody Harrelson as the titular hapless crimefighter also proves a stroke of genius, as Harrelson's naturally wacky yet powerful charisma exemplifies the essence of the film, beautifully blending child-like emotional simplicity, tenacious determination and enough flat out weirdness to make it all ring true, as well as an inspired ripoff of Christian Bale's now iconic Batman voice. 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. Elias Koteas essays antagonistic clichés with the utmost grotesque skill as a crooked cop, and Michael Kelly reconciles a weakly written role with a gruff credibility as Defendor's employer and solitary friend. Finally, Sandra Oh is superb in her few scenes as Defendor's psychological examiner, infusing impressive dramatic tension with moments of deadpan humour, and bringing welcome life to the film.
It would be easy to compare Defendor as a film to its protagonist: slightly cumbersome and prone to stumbling at times, yet cleverly self-aware, comical yet with layers of unexpected darkness, and overall encompassed by such an infectious sense of classic, cheesy charm that it is near impossible not to love in the end. Whether taken as a superhero parody, straight out superhero film or character study (or ultimately all three), Defendor proves a highly enjoyable success, and one easily worth a watch.
The only reason I can think of why a person would give this movie a bad
review is that it wasn't the movie they expected. I liked it from the
first minute to the last, and I didn't know what to expect. I can't
think of a single flaw in this very low budget film, so in comparison
to some of the disappointing big popular movies out there that have
expensive visible flaws, I give Defendor a big YES. Woody did a very
good job on this film. I can see by his performance that he enjoyed
making it and I enjoyed watching him.
I was disappointed in Woody Harrelson's previous acting in the "2012" monstrous mess where he painfully overacted and seemed to be telling the audience that it was all a bad joke. Defendor made up for that.
Woody proved that you don't have to have expensive green-screen special effects to make a good movie. It can be done with acting talent. Thank you Woody!
Relax your mind, see the movie, let yourself enjoy it.
One of the best movies I have seen this decade, funny, touching and
clever. It would have totally passed me by if someone hadn't
recommended it, which is a shame as it's an excellent film.
Acting, music score, writing all come together really well. Thank you Woody for another great movie.
I would really recommend this film to anyone even if the "superhero genre" is not your thing, since that is only tertiary to the theme anyway.
I look forward to seeing more from Peter Stebbings.
I can only hope that "Kick Ass" is half as good as Defendor.
Wow, this movie was awesome.
I sat down to watch this movie with no high expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised. Finally a "superhero" movie you can relate to, instead of everything being all high and mighty on morals and super powers.
"Defendor" had it all, comedy, action, drama and romance. What made this movie unique was the blend of genres which works really well. Initially I thought it was just a spoof of superhero movies, but "Defendor" is so much more than that.
The characters in the movie are real and believable. Hats off to Woody Harrelson for his marvelous performance as Arthur / Defendor. This role really showed off Woody's acting talents. I think we can all see parts of ourselves in the Defendor character, and that is what makes this movie so powerful, so gripping and so entertaining.
And also to Elias Koteas for his role as the corrupt policeman and Kat Denings as her role of a young woman in drug abuse and harsh life situation. And the supporting roles were nicely portrayed as well.
The story told in "Defendor" easily picks you up and keeps you tight. It is really good and you can place yourself in that story. It is very believable and leaves you very entertained.
I was thoroughly entertained from start till end. Lots of good action, really good and solid story, and spectacular acting. This is definitely a keeper, a movie with enough value to be watched more than once.
This was a rather enjoyable and strangely touching action caper, with
moments of genuine depth and truth.
Woody Harrelson proves once again that he's an incredibly versatile and emotionally astute actor, with an arresting performance that carries the story along with remarkable zeal and fun. And while the plot and direction skirt close to sentimentalism towards the end, Harrelson executes the last few scenes in a manner so as not to spoil the quirky edge of the film.
Another angle that I found particularly enjoyable were the deferred references to Don Quixote - if you've read Cervantes's hilarious Rennaissance series you'll no doubt notice uncanny similarities that suggest homage: In lieu of the outlandish chivalric tales that madden Don Quixote and compel him to forge his own suit of armour and 'sally forth' into the wilds of quiet old La Mancha, we have 'Defendor', who similarly loses what few wits he has to begin with by obsessively reading comic books and deciding to become a superhero in an anonymous post-industrial slum. Sancho Panza is replaced by a saner but similarly pliant crack-addict, Kat, and Rosindante is supplanted by his 'defendog' mobile.
There are other similarities the movie has with D. Quixote, but to mention those would give the game away. It will suffice to say, however, that the film is quite highly recommended by this viewer, if not just for the joy of seeing Don Quixote once again take to the streets in all his glory.
Probably the best movie so far, this year. And it would have dodged my
radar completely if my friend wouldn't have recommended it to me.
So here's me, recommending it to you.
It's a dark comedy, which will make you laugh, no doubt. But it's comedy saturated with a sad story about this great guy that escapes his ordinary life by turning into this Defendor character. Someone who's not afraid. Allegedly a thousand times better than the guy without the mask. And together they'll make you love this movie.
It actually reminded me a lot of "Reign Over Me" with Adam Sandler. Which is also very good.
If you're in the mood for a drama that'll captivate you, but won't rip your heart out, like Million Dollar Baby might have or most certainly will. This is what you're looking for.
Thank you, Woody!
Wow, that was surprising.
I stumbled across this film by accident, I saw that Woody was in it so decided to give it a try. I wasn't expecting much because I had never heard of it. But I was very pleasantly surprised.
This movie is great! "Defendor" is very funny, yet has a real story, and will get you emotionally involved when your not laughing your butt off. You pretty much can't go wrong here. Most importantly it was all thrown together beautifully, hats off to the writers and director. Every actor did a great job as well, but Woody stole the show, he deserves an award for this - he nailed the roll and then some. 110%. Well done.
This movie is underrated!
A tragic action-adventure film about a mentally challenged man who
works as a traffic sign holder by day, but who becomes Defendor by
night. Armed with his club, marbles, firecrackers, and angry hornets,
Defendor emerges from his secret hideout, helping others and stopping
punks, in his effort to find Capitan Industry and bring him down. His
exploits pique the interests of a girl, a family, and eventually a
whole town. By his youthful wisdom, determined and fearless bravery, he
gains many admirers who voice support for his cause.
If you're looking for a little adventure or a touching story, take the time to watch Defendor, A very enjoyable movie with great lessons. Don't pass it up!
While at first I thought it was a comedy, I was soon proved wrong. I like Woody Harrelson for his comedic value, this pushed his acting skills in a newer direction. While still maintaining a comedic overtone it settled into a serious note that is very seldom seen in most newer movies. It's not big on special effects or huge explosions, but the movie its self makes up for all that for being big on heart and able to touch feelings that haven't been touched in a while.All in all I'd say Woody Harrleson doesn't deserve an Oscar for his performance(while it was quite memorable), the movie does deserve an honorable mention at as many award shows as possible!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Defendor is a movie that describes a simple history in a very dark way,
the marketing of the movie is wrong because present Defendor as a comic
movie when truly it is not; here we have a sad history when almost
immediately we know that by the end not all will be happiness.
Here we have a very good casting and a movie done with a good cinematography and with details which will be difficult realize that Defendor really had a very small budget.
Peter Stebbings did a very good job here his first chance as director and probably his only fail was in the history of his main character leaving him without any chance of success because it is remarkable that Arthur-Defendor had a lot of disadvantages.
Mention apart deserves Woody Harrelson, again he prove that currently nobody better than him for create characters with a range of emotions, he got the perfect balance between strength and sensibility and in each look (helped maybe for his intense blue eyes) shows intense tenacity and tenderness, in my opinion here he is even better than in "The Messenger" (his last academy award nomination).
Defendor probably is not a perfect movie but Woody Harrelson rescues any mistake on it, congratulations whoever chose him for this movie.
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