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   DAREDEVIL (2003) 

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CAST
Ben Affleck
Jennifer Garner
Michael Clarke Duncan
Colin Farrell
Jon Favreau
Joe Pantoliano
David Keith
Scott Terra
Erick Avari
Lennie Loftin

DIRECTED BY
Mark Steven Johnson

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 103 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Comic Book/Super Hero


Unlike his GOOD WILL HUNTING compatriot, it appears that Affleck is better as a lover than a fighter. What Damon pulled off so masterfully in his first action flick, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, Affleck is unable to – be convincing at hand-to-hand combat. This deficiency would be less noticeable if the filmmakers had done a better job with the story. As it stands, DAREDEVIL relies on a second-rate script for a second-string super hero who had the potential to be so much more. The film opens with the required background on how Daredevil became the vigilante hero he is today. We have the freak accident that blinds him, yet enhances his remaining senses and gives him a special way to "see" the world around him. Followed by the murder of his less-than-perfect, but loving father (Keith), a down-and-out boxer on the comeback trail whose refusal to take a dive costs him his life.

This horrible turn of events should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the comic book lexicon. Of course, before his death, young Matt promises his father he will use his mind and not his fists to combat the world's injustice. Assumedly, this is why he becomes a lawyer. The main problem with the rest of the film is that it fails to build on the themes planted in the first 10 minutes. Matt fights for the downtrodden in the courtroom by day and on the mean streets by night. We learn nothing about his life after his father's death or how he created his alter-ego. The film is completely superficial, failing to develop any of the characters beyond their obvious physical traits and story purpose. Matt/Daredevil is the conflicted good guy, battling against the forces of the malicious Kingpin (Duncan), a man who's identity is the city's best kept secret. He believes he's acting for the good of society, but who asked him to anyway?

Handing out justice appears to be the only aspect of his life with meaning, until he meets Electra (Garner). After one whiff of her perfume and a hand-to-hand combat spat just to get her name, he instantly falls in love with her. And who can blame him? She's a female specimen of great beauty and strength, whose father is one of the richest men in the city. If you want to know more about her, that's just too bad. Apparently, that's all the information the audience needs to have to be fully entranced with her character. She's supposed to give Matt a reason to live, someone to fight for, but since we learn very little about her, I didn't buy into it. Garner is seriously likable and truly pulls off the physical nature of her role (unlike Mr. Affleck). Unfortunately, her presence is merely required to satisfy the babe factor and give young girls someone to aspire to while they're at the cineplex.


"That white light at the end of the tunnel? That's not heaven, that's the C train!"

As far as the Kingpin is concerned, sure he's powerful and ruthless, that goes without saying. One doesn't become one of the wealthiest men in the world by being Mr. Nice Guy. However, despite Duncan's obvious physical presence, there's nothing else to distinguish his villain from hundreds of others. I know the basis for all evildoers is their unwavering desire for money and power, yet without additional info, mere greed fails to become a compelling reason for his dire deeds. Bullseye (Farrell), on the other hand, truly lights up the screen with his accurately murderous ways. Yet again, Farrell taps into his not so deeply hidden wild side with highly entertaining results. His is the most energetic, interesting and wickedly funny performance in the flick. All we ever find out about his character is that he's a dangerous assassin with a short temper who never fails to miss his intended target. That is until he meets Daredevil. His lack of accuracy in their initial battle puts a chink in his confidence and he won't allow anyone to throw him off his game or ruin his reputation. At least we get a good reason for his actions throughout the flick. They're not exactly deep, but Farrell sells it all the way.

Since we already know the identity of the Kingpin, there's very little suspense or anticipation involved in Daredevil's search for the mysterious crime boss. His anger is understandable, since the Kingpin pretty much destroyed everyone Matt loved. Yet, the final show down is not as satisfying as it could have been. It doesn't happen very often, but I wished this film was longer. There just isn't enough of Davedevil's human side to make us feel too deeply about his troubles. The story is not given time to develop. It feels like all the events of the film take place in a long weekend. A few quiet moments between Matt and Electra would also have been nice. They are clearly two very wounded individuals who should have been allowed a deeper connection, which would have made the conflict between their alter-egos that much more gripping. SPIDER-MAN didn't really hold many plot surprises either (at least for those familiar with the comic), however, by including us in Peter Parker's development into Spider-Man we became emotionally involved in his life and future.

The audience never truly gets under the mask of Daredevil and that's a real shame. Affleck has the depth and openness as an actor to have made his character more than a bitter vigilante. Unfortunately, the script doesn't require that from him. As for the action sequences, fans of the genre will most likely be satisfied, especially with Garner. Affleck is clearly uncomfortable with the fight choreography. Maybe the suit was too tight. Thankfully, he had it to hide behind. Otherwise, his weak attempts at hand-to-hand combat would have been laughable. The art direction is nothing terribly unique, but at the least creates compelling visual scenery for the characters to bounce off of. The visual effect created to show how Matt/Daredevil "sees" is a pretty cool interpretation of how sound might "look." It's overused at the end, but since the film doesn't have many other original visuals one can't really blame them. Despite all the murder and mayhem, the film has a sly sense of humor, thanks to the witticisms of Favreau and Pantoliano. If there is a sequel, one can only hope their talents will be used more. While not the worst super hero translation from the page to the screen, it's not one to rush out to see either. Fans of the genre will come away more entertained than others.



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