Skip to main content


Defendor does what Kick-Ass tried to do: portray a superhero in a realistic way, except unlike Kick-Ass, it doesn’t veer into overkill by the second act. This hero has no powers, no fortune, and sometimes no clue. When he gets punched he bleeds, and most people rightfully think there is something wrong with him.

Woody Harrelson plays a construction worker called Arthur Poppington who is Defendor by night. To call his costume rudimentary would be flattery. He has to paint his mask on his face; the big D on his black sweatshirt is just pieces of duct tape, and his helmet makes him look like a coal miner. A camera is attached to his suit so that he can bring evidence to the police, but it is recorded on VHS tapes. Not exactly the bat suit from The Dark Knight. Even the patient police captain (Clark Johnson) tells him he can’t do anything with these tapes because of the low image quality.

Arthur is no martial arts experts either. When he is on a roof and sees a dirty cop (Elias Koteas) roughing up an underage prostitute called Katrina "Kat" Debrofkowitz (Kat Dennings) he jumps...into an empty trash container. “I need to remember the trash schedules” he tells himself.

Yet he is persistent. Eventually he captures the cop and forces him to disclose the whereabouts of Captain Industry, the man Arthur believes is responsible for all the crimes in the city and possibly the world. At first the cop laughs at him when Arthur tortures him by spraying lime juice in his eyes, but he stops laughing when Arthur uses a nutcracker on one of his fingers.

At the beginning of the movie, Arthur is being evaluated by a Dr. Park (Sandra Oh), a court-appointed psychiatrist, which gives the movie an air of credibility. It almost feels like a scene from an episode of Law and Order when a loopy New Yorker has been apprehended and the prosecution wonders if he is fit to stand trial. The doctor sympathises with Arthur as she discovers that he is an honest and kind man who turned to comic books after his mother abandoned him for drugs. When Arthur asked his grandfather who was responsible, his answer was “captains of industry” hence his quest for the dastardly villain which unfortunately only exists in Arthur’s mind.

Kat Dennings has a layered role as the prostitute who is saved by Arthur. At first she stays with him just for his money, which she uses to buy drugs. Not that Arthur would ever sleep with her, but she convinces him that she knows who is Captain Industry and points him in the direction of a vicious gangster who will not hesitate to kill a crazy man in a costume, even if he only sees him as an annoying fly. She can clearly see that there is something wrong with Arthur, but chooses to stay with him as long as he has money. Yet over time his good nature slowly rubs off on her and she feels she should be nicer to the one person who has ever been nice to her.

Another understanding character is Paul (Michael Kelly) Arthur’s friend from the construction crew who wants to help Arthur since he once saved his son. He is often irritated with Arthur’s reckless behaviour but wants him to be safe. After he learns the truth about the bruises on his face, he gives a convincing speech about how you don’t need a costume to be a hero. 

The story’s uneven tone may turn off some people since at first you are not sure if you are supposed to laugh at Arthur as he is clearly mentally unstable. There are funny moments, especially whenever Defendor runs into the cop and manages to ruin his day, much to his own surprise. Yet the filmmakers don’t shy away from implying that in real life Arthur would get seriously hurt.

By the end, Defendor is inspiring since he is the essence of a hero: a simple individual who wants to make a difference and stop the criminals who are hurting people.  


Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #316: Trainspotting

In the 1990s Hollywood directors were the kings of cinema, whether it was for big summer blockbusters or smaller independent films. Guys like James Cameron or Michael Bay would blow up the screens while Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino put the emphasis on snappy dialogue that created relatable characters for the moviegoers. Then in 1996, as if to scream “we can do this too,” Danny Boyle released Trainspotting in the United Kingdom.
Based on a novel by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the movie took the world by storm despite having no explosions, a cast of actors who were relatively unknown and a budget that today could barely pay for the catering of a Transformers movie. Furthermore this is not the story of young people going to college to enter a life full of promise, but about young heroine addicts meandering through the streets of Edinburgh. Despite introducing these characters during an energetic montage set to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge in …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…