Writer: Peter Stebbings
Director: Peter Stebbings
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings and Sandra Oh
Runtime/Rating: 101 Minutes/R
Popcorn Score: Small Popcorn with Butter
Defendor is yet another Indie drama that is poorly marketed and sets the audience up with completely incorrect expectations resulting in tremendous disappointment. This movie is not a Comedy. Unfortunately, by the time that you realize that, you also recognize that it is a drama that is missing the mark on nearly all levels.
It is the story of a slightly mentally handicapped man who believes that he is the superhero named Defendor. The man whose real name is Arthur Poppington lives in the construction warehouse of his employer Paul Carter, a friend and lifeline for the troubled superhero wannabe because of their intertwined past. Arthur goes to work only occasionally but goes out to try and defend the streets nightly. He often becomes mixed up with real criminals and ends up injured. One night after being beaten in an alley, a prostitute that he had earlier encountered named Katerina (Kat Dennings) picks him up and takes him to his home. She uses him and in order to escape the life on the street but also charges him $40 a day to provide him with false information about a man who Defendor calls Captain Industry. Defendor’s objective is to be a vigilante of sorts, the criminals that the story focuses on most is a crooked cop named Sgt. Chuck Dooney and the leader of the “Biker Gang” dubbed Captain Industry.
The whole movie rushes along with a fuzzy focus slopping a whole bunch of intriguing ideas together. I like the pieces of the puzzle, I just don’t like the way they were put together. It is a typical problem for an inexperienced writer and first time director, in this case Peter Stebbings. The story flashes back and forth between psychiatry sessions between Arthur and a court appointed physiatrist played by the breathtakingly beautiful Sandra Oh that are completely purposeless. The relationship between Kat and Arthur develops at a rapid pace and is based on absolutely nothing. There is an unnecessary commentator in the form of a talk radio host who analyzes the state of the troubled city throughout the film that serves no purpose as well. The criminal organization that acted as if Defendor was a major problem in their way of corrupt domination wouldn’t have even bothered blinking an eye at a mentally handicapped man in tights, and the fact that at the end of the film, the whole city is behind Defendor as if he is a legitimate vigilante is ridiculous, the man never did anything to even be known. It is really one of the few laughable parts of the movie.
The only positive is the performance by Woody Harrelson who makes up for many but not all of the flaws of this film with a devotion to the role that shows his award winning ability. This is the type of character and portrayal that if it were surrounded by a better script and story, it would really have made a splash. Unfortunately this role will be lost with a movie that deserves to be.
Small Popcorn with Butter.