"When you break the law, you’re a punk. When you break the law with a badge, you’re a punk with a badge. I don’t strike officers. Punks…different story."
At a glance:
Woody Harrelson’s Forrest Gump like performance as a mentally challenged superhero has some amusing moments, but the emotional impact just isn’t there
Our review (with spoilers):
Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) is a simple-minded man named who lives on the fringes of society and believes that when he dons his moniker (Defendor), his black eye makeup mask and elaborate hand-made costume, he’s a better man – and a superhero. He fights crime, corruption, and bullying wherever he finds it in the big city, and in this fictional big city amalgamation of all big cities, it’s easy to find.
Defendor’s powers are somewhat limited (marbles, an ancient bully club, and swarms of hornets) ; his crime-fighting forays often earn him a beating – but there’s no doubt he has the heart and the morals of a superhero. His simple-minded quest to find and defeat ‘Captain Industry’ is not some comic-fueled fantasy, however: it is a deep need within him based on facts from his childhood. And Captain Industry is a real, dangerous drug dealer and cold-blooded killer; it seems like Defendor is in way over his head this time.
During his quest, he is adopted (or vice versa) by Kat (Kat Denning) a young hooker who alternates between doing drugs and dealing with some rough johns. Kat moves in with him for a fee – she provides info on Captain Industry - and their symbiotic relationship slowly grows into a deeper friendship.
Defendor the movie isn’t wholly successful, perhaps because it can’t seem to decide if it wants to poke fun at or sanctify its hero. Through glimpses of Arthur’s childhood, we see a truly sad story of a boy who is neglected and never nurtured. But then, the film itself treats him in a similar manner. Likewise, undercover narc Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas) is treated similarly – his character is written to be s stupid as to be completely unbelievable. I enjoyed Harrelson’s performance, but the emotional punch just wasn’t there for me. I connected more with Michael Kelly’s supporting work as Arthur’s concerned, brotherly employer.
Rating: 2.5 of 4
Other reviewers said:
"The low-budget movie continually shifts from comic-book spoof to gritty crime story to mental-health drama, the inconsistent tone preventing it from ever fully working as one or another."
- David Germain (Associated Press)