Woody Harrelson's 'Defendor' breaks heads and hearts
DVD REVIEW: “Defendor”
Look! Up in the cherry picker! It’s a telephone company repair guy. It’s a tree trimmer. No, it’s “Defendor!”
And be sure to pronounce the name right. He gets irritated if you call him Defender.
By day, he’s Arthur Poppington, slow-witted city street worker and lifelong comic-book fanatic with a childlike sense of wonder. By night he dresses in black, dons a hardhat with mini-camcorder and lights attached, paints a mascara mask across his eyes that makes him look like a fierce raccoon, and becomes a courageous, crime-fighting superhero. True, he has no superpowers, but he compensates with an imaginative if somewhat quirky arsenal of weapons that includes handfuls of marbles (amazingly effective when hurled into the faces of his opponents), a plastic lime juice squirter (a perfect Mace substitute), a jar of angry wasps and a trench club. His Batmobile equivalent is a truck with a basket crane borrowed from the city work shed that serves as his secret base of operations — and his home.
He may have a small IQ, but his heart’s as big as a house, he has the tenacity of a terrier, he’s on a collision course with disaster and no one comes to mind who could have played him as sympathetically as Woody Harrelson in this dark, seriously funny comedy-drama from writer-director Peter Stebbings. Kat Dennings (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) strikes a perfect balance between hardness and sweet vulnerability as the teen prostitute Arthur rescues from the street, Elias Koteas is effectively loathsome as the corrupt undercover cop who is constantly underestimating him, and Sandra Oh’s compassionate psychiatrist artfully underlines the sadness of Arthur’s lot in life.
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