On the surface, this superzero flick looks like it’s been raiding Kick-Ass’ wardrobe, emerging with tattier production values and fewer giggles.
But look closer and actor-turned-writer/ director Peter Stebbings’ debut trounces knock-off accusations – for one thing, it was made before Matthew Vaughn’s adap; for another, it brews its own unique (if problematic) vibe.
It’s also rather touching. Woody Harrelson plays a mentally challenged man-child who by night fights crime in a homemade cossie – boot-polish eye-mask, the initial ‘D’ duct-taped to his chest.
On the hunt for the mythical ‘Captain Industry’, he teams up with crack-addled hooker Kat Dennings, who has beef with baddies like Elias Koteas’ dodgy cop.
Harrelson judges his role just right, resisting Method tics or puppy-dog pandering as his delusion and confusion grows. (Defendor does good, but he’s unable to separate himself from the supermen who adorn the comics he hordes.)
Alas, it’s a brow-furrowing experience to figure out exactly what we’re watching. The tone bounds from slapstick (just jumped into an empty dumpster!) to soul-searching, as Harrelson opens up to his shrink (Sandra Oh) in attempts at heartstring plucking.
Still, the real warmth is in Harrelson and Dennings’ unlikely bond. Stebbings pays attention to his characters, but fails to build a convincing world for them.
Admittedly, he was short on cash and time, as he explains in the rather-too-thorough doc. But there’s a dry-run, first-draft feel to the execution that prevents full immersion.
Still, like Defendor himself, its efforts are misguided but divertingly noble.
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