01/11/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
region 2 DVD: pub: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment B003JQK86I. 1 DVD with extras. Price: GBP 13.99 (UK)) stars: Woody Harrelson.
check out website: www.sonypictures.co.uk
What would happen if an ordinary man decided to be a super-hero and fight crime? That is the premise of this film and the idea is treated in a realistic fashion. This is not a comedy. Realistically, only someone mentally sub-normal would decide to be a super-hero and fight crime. Meet Arthur Poppington, wonderfully played by Woody Harrelson, he takes to the streets at night wearing an army helmet with attached torch, a lone ranger mask in shoe polish and a D on his chest in white sticky tape. He fights crime with marbles, a jar full of angry wasps, a catapult and a truncheon. By day, he works on a road gang holding the stop/go lollipop to control traffic.
The film opens with Arthur being interviewed by a court psychiatrist and his story is told in flashback. He attacked a crooked undercover cop, fell in with a nice prostitute and fell foul of a major crime lord. All this because he is trying to track down Captain Industry, the bad guy he blames for his mother's ruin. His mother was a drug addict and a prostitute who left him to be bought up by grandfather. In a flashback, granddad moans about fighting the war so that crooks and captains of industry can prosper. This is misremembered by the boy as Captain Industry, which is probably the weakest part of the film and unnecessary. Defendor didn't really need an imaginary arch-villain to go after.
Arthur's big truck stands in for a batmobile and the shabby industrial unit he lives in makes do as a secret headquarters. When he tortures the crooked cop to get information by throwing lime juice in his eyes it is laughable (the cop laughs) but when he gets out the nutcrackers my sympathies became a bit strained. I think this was a minor flaw, too, and Arthur should have been kept more likeable, though writer/director Peter Stebbings mentions in the commentary that he was a darker character in the original script and became more likeable in the film. The whore with a heart of gold is a movie cliché but was the sort of character needed here for dramatic purposes and her heart wasn't all that golden. The good cop, the bad cop and the ruthless gang lord were all believable characters well played by the respective actors.
There are the usual extras: deleted scenes, out-takes, commentary and some featurettes. The interview with writer/director Peter Stebbings about the genesis of ‘Defendor’ was interesting but most of the rest was luvvies praising each other, which is fair enough in this case because they all did good work.
Overall, this was great entertainment with occasional laughs and just the right amount of pathos. The only trouble with Woody Harrelson playing someone not too bright is that it seems as if Woody from ‘Cheers’ has decided to be a super-hero. At least, they didn't have Kelsey Grammer as the psychiatrist.
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