Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Defendor (2009)
Directed by: Peter Stebbings
Written by: Peter Stebbings
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Michael Kelly, Kat Dennings
Genre: Superhero, Drama
“Look out, termites. It’s squishing time.” -Defendor
Defendor is a film that suffers from being misunderstood. It is more than a superhero movie. The superhero aspect is more of a vehicle to carry the true message of the film. It is about how our past traumas form our beliefs, actions, and desires. It is about how that transformation pushes us to either change nothing or change everything. For many, they take no action and go about their lives. Maybe they complain about a problem and wish something could be done about it. It is often when someone acts and tries to solve that problem do they find the push that they need to stand up and no longer put up with what is going on. In Defendor that one individual that takes it upon himself to act is a man with an unspecified learning disability. He is child like, mentally slow, poorly educated, and brutally honest. He leads a boring average life and he is just one of the nameless faceless individuals in a crowd, that we all are. He is no one special but he does what so many of us wish we could do, he goes after the bad guys.
The beauty of this is that the movie ends in a way that no one wants it to end. Normally, we want the happy ending and the bad guys in jail. We want our heroes to be safe and to continue the good fight, but there is one problem with that. Reality. Defendor is about the normal average human being standing up for what is right. This bravery not only comes in the form of a superhero but in that of the police or fire fighters. Just like them, the normal everyday man is not immune to violence. They cannot deflect bullets or save the occupants of a burning building without chancing that they too will get burned. These are the chances we take when we go head first into the fight. Defendor does not defy this fact. It is honest and asks are you willing to lose everything to right the wrongs?
The storyline of Defendor follows Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson), a man with a learning disability and active delusions. Arthur is an average boring man who believes he is a superhero named Defendor. He is on a quest to find and bring to justice his arch nemesis, Caption Industry. While having no superpowers, Arthur sets out to find this arch enemy by finding his goons and making them talk. In the process of searching for Caption Industry’s henchmen, Arthur finds them roughing up an under aged prostitute (Kat Dennings) with an addiction to crack. After being beaten to his knees, the men leave, and the prostitute asks Arthur where he lives to take him home. The prostitute named Kat, informs Arthur that she will be staying him for a short time until everything cools down with her pimp. A friendship forms between the two, despite Kat stealing from Arthur and taking all of his money. After Arthur asks Kat if she knows who Caption Industry is she lies and tells him that a certain crime boss is who he is looking form. Well, in reality the crime boss is her former John who is the leader of the crime syndicate that her pimp belongs to. Thinking he has found his villain, Arthur begins his quest to capture Caption Industry.
It is not until the movie nears its end that Arthur explains why he must defeat Caption Industry but before he does so the story turns to flashbacks to help show how Arthur developed as a child. It is these flashbacks that help explain how he has become the man he is now. Had the flashbacks not blended well or were edited well into the scene it proceeded then it would have seemed blocky and would have interrupted the flow of the movie. Credit must be given to those who edited this film. Going from one period in time to another and back again can at times weaken the emotions that the movie has stirred within you. Defendor flows effortlessly and the emotions drawn from the flashbacks continues into the present.
The most surprising thing about Defendor is how well Woody Harrelson can act. Harrelson feels like an actor that one does not actively seek out but is always pleasantly surprised by his performance. Harrelson’s delivery of his lines was always perfect. His body language always fit the moment. With a sly smile or wonder in his eyes, Harrelson spoke with his body in a way that made it seem that he was more than actor, that he could be Arthur had he been born into that life. It would be wonderful if Harrelson was given more roles that are seen by larger audiences. The man really does deserve the recognition.
Defendor does what most movies with important characters that are prostitutes fail to do. It stays as far away as possible from the old clichés. For example, the hooker with a heart of gold. Kat, one of Arthur’s few friends, smokes crack, steals from Arthur, lies to him, and charges him forty dollars a day for her to live at his residence with him. Kat has to support her addiction to crack somehow and she does so by taking that out on Arthur. Kat Dennings, who plays Kat, is average at most. It is very apparent that she is trying to act to her very best but her best falls short. It feels as if another actress could have offered more to the role. At times Dennings makes up for this by being very attractive. She has full beautiful lips, which may distract some from her acting.
One wonderful aspect of Defendor is that it gives hope to directors who are given their first shot at making a movie that wasn’t filmed in their backyard and with a group of their buddies. Defendor is Peter Stebbings’ first feature. Stebbings also wrote Defendor. It is refreshing to see new talent given a chance in Hollywood. With so many movies being remade and so many writers just begging for a chance, Defendor proves that there is untapped talent just waiting for the opportunity to be seen and heard.
Defendor receives 7 1/2 out of 10