Superhero films have become a very popular go-to genre for Hollywood. Looking to make some cash? License a property and go to town! The results have ranged from the abysmal (Catwoman) to the fantastic (The Dark Knight) with plenty of stops in between. In addition to those adapted properties of well known characters, we are starting to see more attempts at deconstructing the genre and examining the "everyman as hero." This has resulted in films like Watchmen, Kick Ass, and Unbreakable. Now, the everyman hero is not the only thing they have going for them, often it is not even the main thing, but that leads into Defendor.
Compared to those other films Defendor is a very tiny one. It is a low budget indie whose quality belies its lower budget origins and is executed in a fine fashion that it stands right there with the big budget boys and may prove to be even more endearing as the budget doesn't get in the way of character as is wont to happen in some big budget action extravaganzas. Defendor has a nice balance of character and story, is well paced, and has nicely placed bits of action that disguise the overall lack of action in the film. That does sound a little strange, but Iron Man is similar in how it is not really an action movie, but the sequences it has makes it seem bigger than it is.
Defendor is the story of Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson). He is a fellow who is a little slow, very sweet, honest, straightforward, and very likable. Besides all of that, Arthur also likes to put on a black costume, complete with a duct tape "D" on the chest and painted on bandit mask, and fights petty crime. He has makeshift weapons and corny lines, but he is earnest in what he believes and in turn I wanted to believe in him.
Well, one night his patrol leads his path across that of a dirty cop named Dooney (Elias Koteas) and a crack smoking runaway prostitute named Katerina (Kat Dennings). This leads to bigger confrontations that Arthur is ill prepared to take on, including going after a Serbian crime boss he believes to be his arch nemesis Captain Industry, the man he blames for the death of his mother.
The idea of a regular, if slow, guy taking up arms and putting up the good fight is an inspiring one. Not that I am advocating vigilantism, no, rather the idea that one person can make a difference is a good one. However the movie has more going on, with regards to Defendor's capture and the questions surrounding his mental health, not to mention the mutual affect that Arthur and Kat have on each other.