Woody Harrelson is Arthur Poppington, a child-like adult who fights crime by night in the guise of Defendor. His costume and weapons are DIY: a helmet that records his adventures on VHS, a duct tape “D” on his black turtleneck, a trench club, a slingshot, marbles, lime juice. He is obsessed with tracking down “Captain Industry,” a mythical figure whom he blames for the death of his drug-addicted mother. He runs afoul of corrupt cop Dooney (Elias Koteas at his scuzziest best), beating him and “rescuing” prostitute Kat (Kat Dennings), and the latter convinces him that the crime boss Dooney works for is, in fact, Captain Industry. Arthur sets out on his crusade, and the question is whether his naiveté will triumph, or get him killed.
A quirky, charming take on the super-hero genre, Defendor deftly mixes pathos and laughs. There is enormous fun in seeing Koteas taking one improbable beating after another, but there is also real sadness and drama in Arthur and Kat’s stories. For all its “real world” patina, Defendor is ultimately no more realistic than The Dark Knight, but that in no way detracts from the deeply human, deeply moving, character-driven tale that unfolds. Quite the wonderful little movie.
This is a lovely-looking disc. The colours are very strong, and the contrasts and blacks are superb – important considerations given how much of the film takes place at night. Flesh tones are strong, too, and there is no grain. The aspect ratio is the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a very handsome production, one that looks far more expansive than its budget (3.5 million) would suggest.
There was a moment, right at the start, when I feared that the 5.1 was going to lavish so much attention on the rear speakers that the front ones would be drowned out. Fortunately, once past the studio logos, my fears proved groundless. The audio is excellent, with fine use of music and placement of sound effects. The dialogue is never drowned out, and is always clear.
Commentary Track: Writer/director Peter Stebbings get together with Harrelson, Dennings and producer Nicholas D. Tabarrok, and their round table is cheery, lively and informative. Unusually for a track with this many participants, it is always easy to keep track of who is saying what.
Making-of Featurettes: (56:32) Five featurettes (“Origin Stories: The Genesis of Defendor,” “Removing the Costume: Behind the Screenplay,” “Heroes and Villains: Meet the Players,” “An Actor’s Director: Working with Peter Stebbings,” and “Famous Last Words: Wrapping Defendor”) can be viewed as a single, in-depth documentary. The end result is far more satisfying than the usual promotional material.
Deleted Scenes: Five of them.
Outtakes: A short (2.24) reel.
A fine, touching, idiosyncratic contribution to the super-hero genre. Well worth the time spent tracking it down.