Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I don’t know if Woody Harrelson is considered a good actor or not in the circles of the know but I do know that Woody does do crazy real good. And not just one level of crazy but Woody seems quite adept at playing varying degrees of insanity. All out crazy like in Natural Born Killers, megalomaniacal crazy in ‘The People Vs. Larry Flynt’, heroic crazy in ‘Zombie Land’ and here are in the movie ‘Defendor’ with Woody doing a combo of lovable crazy and heroic crazy, and in true Woody Harrelson fashion he does it well.

When we first meet certified loon Arthur Poppington (Harrelson), he is stealthily observing the actions of filthy undercover cop Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas) as he is forcing drug addicted prostitute Kat Debrofkowitz (Kat Dennings) into giving him some oral love. He’s really only kind of forcing her considering it is in the job description, and she’s going to do this thing anyway, but Officer Dooney is the impatient type. Next thing you know Arthur, complete in his wacked out Defendor gear, leaps down from the roof, accosts Officer Dooney and beats him silly with his hero billy club. Outstanding.

Eventually Defendor gets rounded up by the authorities for this nutty act of vigilantism where he meets kind and concerned policeman Captain Fairbanks (Clark Johnson) who for whatever reason puts Arthur back on the street. One would think assaulting a police officer with a club, even a dirty one, would get a person some jail time, but we are going to roll with it.

When Arthur isn’t fighting crime, he works by day as a traffic redirector at a construction site for his best friend Paul (Michael Kelly) who is really, really concerned about Arthur and his extracurricular activities, and rightfully so because we should mention that Arthur is being evaluated by a clinical psychiatrist (Sandra Oh) for beating some dude near to death and tossing him in a trash can. Again, perhaps Arthur should be in jail but he is such a nice guy.

Arthur’s main goal is to find the evil Captain of Industry, the man he believes stole his mother from him. The prostitute he ‘rescued’ earlier, Kat, seems to have critical knowledge on the whereabouts of Captain of Industry, when in truth Kat just needs a place to hole up and proceeds to roll Arthur for whatever he has so she can get her next fix. She has convinced Arthur that a local mobster named Kristic (Alan C. Peterson) is this Captain of Industry, and while Kristic is nothing of the sort, he is indeed a very bad man. Now Defendor is ready for action and ready to take down the Captain of Industry and his legion of extra mean armed henchmen, as Arthur enters the fight confusing a few lucky breaks with being invincible and bullet proof. Good luck with that Defendor.

Flying completely under the radar and receiving such a rudimentary theatrical release that this movie might as well have been a Straight to DVD offering, veteran actor Peter Stebbings directorial debut is a completely wonderful and engaging, if not a very simple movie which gets by on a lot of heart and a stellar performance by Woody Harrelson. While the story itself is fairly simple and straightforward, the characters that inhabit this film are much more complex and it is these characters which inhabit this tale that makes this movie such a pleasure to sit through. Naturally the movie sinks or swims on the strength of Woody Harrelson’s ability to sell on us on the character of Arthur Poppington, which Harrelson does in a way that’s so transparent that it almost appears effortless. Arthur is certainly insane, but he’s also good-natured, honest and pure. Everything Arthur does is in service to what he believes is the greater good and Harrelson manages to have the audience root for the character as opposed to feeling sorry for him. Kat Dennings had the only character in this movie who was required to actually change in this movie, from a self serving drug addicted prostitute, no heart of gold here, and if you’ve ever known a drug addict The Jones tends to drive these individuals as it drives this character, but her eventual transformation was handled deftly and believably by Stebbings who also wrote the script for his film.

All said ‘Defendor’ was a fine film, even though I have heard some compare it to the recently released big budget movie ‘Kick-Ass’. Rest assured that outside of the fact it centers around regular folks fighting crime in silly costumes, they are about as different as night and day. One is a statically paced relationship drama while the other is an overtly violent action film. That being said, both are fine movies and both deserved to be seen. Unless your underage then maybe you shouldn’t be watching ‘Kick-Ass’. I’m just saying.

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