When Total Film spoke with Daredevil writer/director Mark Steven Johnson last issue, he complained of having to slash down his movie to achieve a PG-13 rating (the US equivalent of our 12A). Well, he didn't quite manage it, did he? After all, without any cuts, it appears he would have had an 18 on his hands, in UK terms at least. Because, even after the snips, Daredevil is brutally violent: bones crack, teeth fly and claret splashes.
So you can ditch your Spider-Man or Superman comparisons. What we have here is something more along the lines of Blade or The Crow - a tortured vigilante flick rather than a superhero movie. The atmosphere is moody, the conflicts are bloody and the morality's muddy.
Daredevil, AKA street lawyer Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck), is driven to slaughter the guilty by the memory of his father's death, and tortured by his heightened senses and "radar" power, which he gained in the same accident that robbed him of his sight as a child (he needs to sleep in a sensory deprivation tank to stay sane). He's also a devout Catholic, wracked by guilt. But, as his priest tells him during confession: "You don't want forgiveness. You want permission."
Problem is, there's a little too much angst, with Johnson's plot running in circles as it tries to ram its emotional points home. Which means the target audience - teenage fanboys - may feel they've been short-changed on the action front. And Johnson doesn't make it easy on them (or anyone for that matter) when one of the sags features a love scene so sloppy and clichéd he actually pans across from the smooching to a stinkin' log fire. Sheesh.
When the fight scenes do come, though, they're snappy and frenetic - albeit Matrix-lite (bullet-time is, like, sooo 1999) - with fight choreographers Jeff Imada and Yuen Cheung Yan pulling no punches. But it's not in the brief spurts of acrobatic pugilism that Daredevil thumps its high spots. It's in the performances.
Affleck wears his red leather mask well, his square jaw fitting the super-vigilante look, and he's a decent enough actor to convey Murdock's inner pain without slipping into wince-worthy histrionics. Jennifer Garner, meanwhile, proves to be perfect casting for rich-girl-turned-blade-brandishing-avenger Elektra, adapting her Alias persona to a broader, darker canvas. And Jon Swingers Favreau jabs a welcome boost of humour into proceedings as Murdock's partner in law.
But the real star here is that loveable Irish gobshite Colin Farrell, who mugs the movie Alan Rickman-style with his shameless, over-the-OTT performance as ultra-lethal hitman Bullseye. Whether he's lobbing darts while quaffing a pint, offing old ladies or duelling with Affleck, Farrell steadfastly refuses to play it straight or forget that he's there to entertain. "I want a bloody costume!" he growls at one point. Feck that. Give him a bloody movie!
A grown-up comic adap custom-made to keep the fans happy, though rabid action-hounds may be left sniffing for more. Oh, and here's a tip: don't walk out as soon as the credits roll...