Daredevil


Daredevil

Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios engage in a little foreplay.

(2003) Superhero (20th Century Fox) Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau, Scott Terra, Ellen Pompeo, Joe Pantoliano, Leland Orser, Lennie Loftin, Erick Avari, Derrick O’Connor, Paul Ben-Victor, David Keith, Kevin Smith. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson

It is a fact that every day, handicapped people show over and over again that they are capable of amazing things. Some are aided by technology but much of it is sheer willpower.

The young Matt Murdock (Terra), who has stood up for his father (David Keith) when neighborhood punks call him a washed-up boxer and a mob enforcer, is shocked one day to spot his loving dad thumping on someone who hadn’t been making his vig. Matt runs off, causing a traffic accident that ends with him being doused by toxic waste, right in the eyes. This leaves him blind for life. However, there is an interesting side effect: Matt wakes up to find he has outrageously acute hearing, including a kind of sonar sense, which allows him to “see” almost as well as any sighted person — better, in some ways.

He also spends time developing his body into a graceful, acrobatic, athletic machine. When his Dad refuses to throw a fight and is murdered, his son is left to seek revenge. The adult Matt Murdock (Affleck) becomes a lawyer. Justice being blind jokes aside, he has a particularly strong streak of wishing to do the right thing in him.

Not content at achieving justice through conventional means, Murdock adopts the persona of Daredevil, utilizing a red leather costume, and becoming a semi-urban legend in New York, one that reporter Ben Urich (Pantoliano) is hell-bent on tracking down. Those who have seen the first Batman movie will note the similarity. His day job allows Murdock to represent the downtrodden, much to the chagrin of partner “Foggy” Nelson (Favreau), who yearns for clients who pay in actual cash, rather than in foodstuffs. Murdock meets Elektra Natchios (Garner), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist (Avari) who is in bed with the corrupt Wilson Fisk (Duncan), the legendary Kingpin of Crime. When Natchios tries to get out of business with Fisk, the Kingpin brings in a psychopathic master of hurled objects, Bullseye (Farrell) to kill Natchios, which he does, framing Daredevil for the deed in the process. Elektra — who is falling in love with the blind lawyer, swears revenge, not knowing that it is his alter ego she has sworn to kill.

The New York City of Daredevil is a dark, gothic place, not unlike the Gotham City of Batman, and like the Caped Crusader, Daredevil inhabits the shadows and rooftops of a corrupt, dangerous city. The problem with casting Affleck in the role of Matt Murdock is that he is far too likable. Affleck doesn’t carry off the brooding vigilante as well as he does the wisecracking lawyer, so the dual personality of Murdock doesn’t mesh as nicely as it could.

Farrell carries the movie, enthusiastically chewing the scenery and spitting it out so he can chew more. Favreau and Duncan are excellent as they nearly always are; Favreau would go on to direct the Iron Man movies but his association with the Marvel studios began here. His chemistry with Affleck is pretty keen.

The Elektra of the comics is far more threatening than the Elektra of the big screen. Garner, who on paper is an excellent choice to play her, is dispatched with near-comic ease in nearly every fight she takes part in. This compares unfavorably to the character in the four-color version (who is kickus assus maximus to the nth degree) and herein lies the problem with any adaptation of any comic.

Those who love the comic book will inevitably measure the movie against the comic, and in most aspects will find it wanting. Daredevil has always been one of the consistently best-written and innovative of story in Marvel’s arsenal. The movie’s writing denigrates it to an unsophisticated Batman knockoff. Yet, there are moments of poetry, such as when Murdock asks Elektra to stand in the rain, which allows him to see her face using his radar sense. That’s one of the best moments of any Marvel superhero film, ever.

A nice little aside – many of the characters here are named after comic book writers and artists, many of whom who worked on the Daredevil book itself. There are also several people associated with Daredevil’s long run at Marvel (including Smith, Stan Lee and Frank Miller) who make cameos in the movie. In addition, something must be said about the soundtrack which is one of the best for any movie in the last ten years. The tracks from Evanescence are particularly haunting. Also, The final confrontation between Fisk and Daredevil is very nicely done, visually speaking although the whole thing of the little water conduits running below the floor are head scratch-inducing.

Overall, this isn’t a bad movie. There are some deficiencies, true, but there is a large number of things the movie does well. Affleck would have been an excellent Daredevil had he another movie or two under his belt. The most important thing here however is to take the movie on its own merits. Try not to see it as a note-perfect portrayal of the comic hero, because you’ll only wind up disappointed. Judge it for what it is; a better-than-average action-adventure movie, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

WHY RENT THIS: Better than average action movie. Fine supporting performances from Farrell, Duncan and Favreau.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A bit of a Batman knock-off. Affleck carries off Murdock better than Daredevil. Elektra a bit too wimpy here.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s some violence and a bit of sensuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This was the first American movie in which Farrell uses his native Irish brogue.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: The DVD features a featurette on the comic book series, a comparison of the “Shadow World” as visually realized in the movie vs. the comic book, three music videos and an enhanced viewing feature which, when an icon appears onscreen, allows viewers to see the same scene from different points of view. There is also a Directors Cut DVD edition which restores 30 minutes of footage to the film, cut initially to bring the movie from an R rating to PG-13.  However, oddly enough, the Directors Cut edition has almost no special features, merely a commentary track and a 15 minute making-of featurette. The Blu-Ray contains both the Directors Cut and all the features from the initial DVD release and as such is the best bet for those interested in the movie.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $179.2M on a $78M production budget; the movie broke even.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Tower Heist

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Transporter 3


Transporter 3

Jason Statham thought he was doing High School Musical 3.

(Lionsgate) Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi. Directed by Oliver Megaton

Transporters may come and transporters may go. The nature of the job is that the turnover is plenty high. One thing’s for certain – you can’t keep a good action hero down.

Frank Martin (Statham) has retired to his beloved French Riviera where he spends most of his time fishing with his friend Inspector Tarconi (Berleand). It’s a good life and Frank doesn’t miss the car chases, the fights with half a dozen thugs or getting shot at from a helicopter. Who wouldn’t?

But his reputation remains and when a colleague botches a job, Frank is forced back into the life by Johnson (Knepper), a mysterious and shady sort who has attached an explosive device to his wrist. Should Frank venture more than 75 feet away from his car, the device will detonate and Frank will be everywhere.

His job is to transport the spoiled young Valentina (Rudakova) from Marseilles to Odessa. As it turns out, she is the kidnapped daughter of the Ukrainian Environmental Minister (Krabbe) who is being pressured by Johnson’s employers to allow toxic waste to be dumped in the Ukraine. Hey, what’s a little more toxic waste to a country which already has Chernobyl?

Frank must use all his skills and break all of his own rules to survive the double dealing, backstabbing Johnson, and it doesn’t hurt that he begins to fall for the lovely Valentina despite her annoying quirks, or perhaps because of them.

This is, strange as it may seem, the highest grossing film of the series which is mystifying to me because it’s such an obvious retread of the first from a plot perspective. The only real twist is the exploding wristband thing, and that’s been done before, only as a necklace in The Running Man and it was far cooler to see someone’s head getting blown off of his neck in my humble opinion.

That said, this is still a Jason Statham movie and Statham is my favorite action star at the moment. When he gets the right material (as he does in The Bank Job and The Italian Job) he has a surprising range. When he doesn’t, he’s still interesting and enigmatic enough to be watchable. Perhaps all of the scripts he should accept from now on should have the word “job” in the title.

A movie like this one lives or dies on its action sequences, and for the most part it delivers. My issue with them is that some of the fight choreography is choppy and doesn’t flow really well like a good fight sequence should. There should be an organic feel to it; Asian stunt coordinators understand this better than anyone, and they could have used one here. I get the distinct impression that the botching of these sequences came in the editing process; a little too much artistic license.

However, the concepts are solid and the driving stunts are particularly thrilling, which is what you want when your lead character is supposed to be one of the best in the business in that regard. I liked the first movie in the franchise, was indifferent towards the second and am the same about this one. It’s disposable entertainment that will be forgotten five minutes after you turn off the TV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

WHY RENT THIS: Jason Statham.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the fight sequences were a little choppy and the choreography didn’t flow as it should have.

FAMILY VALUES: As you might expect, there is a plethora of violence, but there is also some sexuality and a bit of drug and alcohol use. Definitely for mature audiences only.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rudakova was a hairdresser with no previous acting experience before producer Luc Besson encountered her on a New York street and urged her to get acting lessons before coming in for an audition, which she did.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s an interesting feature on the real life transportation of people and information by people like Frank Martin, only not as cool or violent.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Quantum of Solace