Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Before there was Kick-Ass, There Was Defendor

"Ordinary People, They Do Extraordinary Things All The Time" 

... Even in Canada

If you happen to be a huge Marvel fan like myself, then I would like to warn you that you will have to to adjust your expectations to enjoy this Superhero flick. But trust me, it's worth it.

Arthur Poppington (wonderfully portrayed by Woody Harrelson) enjoys a relatively familiar Superhero backstory. Living in a crime-ridden city and orphaned at a young age, he has decided that enough is enough. A passionate vigilante with a thirst for vengeance and a desire to protect the innocent, Defendor fights to clean up his town. But not everyone understands his mission. Some wonder if he really is a Hero, or just another Menace. But without any actual superpowers, he's just a guy, trying to do what's right (much like in the Hollywood film Kick-Ass which was released the following year).

But the story is not so black and white. In fact, the grey area of this picture is quite muddy. This is made perfectly clear by the film's opening scene. A close-up of Arthur reveals him to be in an orange jumpsuit, frustrated, as he is being interrogated. He lacks cooperation, it seems. But soon it becomes clear what the trouble is - Arthur has difficulty processing the situation. He attempts to explain himself, at which point flashbacks take precedence over his voice. This will continue throughout the film as his psychological evaluation remains the backdrop. His Superhero guise, as it turns out, is a coping mechanism - he is frustrated, sad, lonely. He wants to be better than himself. When he dresses up, he confesses, he's not so stupid, Defendor is a million times better than Arthur. The guise is a coping mechanism for a mental disorder. Many actually.

The film is heartfelt, due in large part to Harrelson's performance.The story begins when Defendor comes across a young girl being handled violently by a corrupt cop exchanging drugs for sexual acts. After attacking the officer, he takes Katerina (Kat Dennings) home with him and an unlikely friendship develops. Although she uses Arthur's delusions to her own advantage, the two do work together to try to take down a local prostitution ring.

Defendor is a coproduction between Canada, the US, and the UK, but it is shot and SET in Ontario. This is great because it allows for a way to explore the crime problems within Canada. With the stereotype of being "nice" attached to us, these issues are easily ignored. Throughout the film, a radio host speaks openly about local issues of drug abuse, prostitution, sex-slavery, and juvenile delinquency. He argues that Canada needs to open its eyes to these issues, that ignoring them will not make them go away.

I really enjoyed this film, and I would like to close by noting that it had a stellar cast including:

Woody Harrelson
Kat Dennings
Sandra Oh
and Lisa Ray