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DVD Review

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Starring: Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Michael Kelly, Sandra Oh and Kat Dennings
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £13.99
Certificate: 15
Available 06 September 2010

Arthur Poppington has a fairly ordinary day job working on construction sites, but in the evening he dons his homemade costume to become Defendor, protector of the weak and arch nemesis of Captain Industry. When Arthur befriends a young prostitute his life takes a tragic turn...

Defendor (2010 - 1 hr, 37 min, 17 sec) is a superhero comedy/drama, written and directed by Peter Stebbings.

The film opens with Arthur (Woody Harrelson) talking to his court psychiatrist (Sandra Oh) and partly this relationship allows the film to jump back and forth in time as we learn Arthur’s story.

The first time that we see him in action as Defendor, it’s obvious that he is no ordinary superhero, for a start he has no powers, having to rely on a combination of marbles, angry wasps and a rather nasty club to press home his point. Not only is his costume amateurish, the ‘D’ on his chest is made out of duct tape, Defendor also talks in appalling clichés, in a fake gravelly voice, so what the hell is going on?

Arthur is in fact a man/child, traumatised by the loss of his mother to Captain Industry, a misunderstood childhood memory of the phrase "captains of industry", his inept attempts to track down this nonexistent person leads Arthur to adopt his disguise. Although the film does not explicitly state it you get the feeling that he has been doing this for a large portion of his adult life, making it a miracle that he hadn’t already been killed.

He befriends Katrina "Kat" Debrofkowitz (Kat Dennings), a young prostitute, who in an effort to stay at his place and spend all of his money on drugs tells Arthur that Captain Industry is in fact a local gangster, who also has in his employ a police detective, Dooney (Elias Koteas). Keyed with this information Defendor goes out into the night to take them both on.

I kept thinking about this film, on the one hand it does have problems of identity, as the script tries to do too much. We have the growing love story between Arthur and Kat, the occasional glimpse at Arthur's past, which explains his rather odd behaviour and Arthur’s friendship with Paul (Michael Kelly). Through all of this we have Defendor’s attempts to bring a local biker gang down. Although this makes the narrative feel a little bitty, you can’t but help love Harrelson’s portrayal of a man with a low IQ and a deep sense of loss which swings wildly between the comic and the tragic, there is a great scene where Kat wants to pay him by asking: "What does the wind do?" For anyone else it would "blow", but Arthur is truly innocent and looks bemused when he decides that the wind "swishes around", missing the significance of the question entirely.

The various disparate strands that make up the film are ably woven together by Stebbings, with only a few missteps along the way, for instance Arthur’s relationship with Paul and his family is left too late in the film. When you get the reveal it makes sense but until that moment the audience will be somewhat bemused with the degree of interest that Paul shows. The film is funny, but what really drives the story is the idea that even a simple man can make a difference; so much of the focus is on the dramatic portions of the story.

The disc is provided with a number of extras, including a full length commentary with Peter Stebbings, Woody Harrelson and Kat Dennings, which is a relaxed and humorous affair, you may want to savoir Harrelson’s diner scene, where he admits to being drunk, but you wouldn’t spot it without him telling you. There are five deleted scenes (7 min, 28 sec), which add only a little to the film, Outtakes (2 min, 25 sec), which are amusing rather than funny and five features (56 min, 40 sec) which can be played as a whole or individually and details the history of the film. The picture is pin sharp as you would expect with a flatish, bleak colour scheme which suits the subject matter. Audio is English, French or Polish, with subtitles. The English 5.1 is clear with nice separation.

In the end this is a film which will stick with you because of the impressive central performance by Woody Harrelson, who is able to bring Arthur and his predicament to life. The film is a bittersweet affair and all the better for being so.


Charles Packer

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