It’s happened to me before. I swelled with pride when Rudy got on that field and tackled his man. I still get a rush of adrenalin in The Last Dragon when Bruce Leeroy says “I am.” I felt righteous retribution when Inigo Montoya finally got to say “Prepare to die!” Every once in a while a movie comes along that gets me so emotionally invested in the characters that I want what they want. I feel what they feel. Defendor did that for me.
To understand why I think that is so amazing, you need to understand a few things. None of the characters in this movie should be likable. Woody Harrelson plays Arthur who is also Defendor. He is a mentally handicapped individual who has had some horrible things happen to him in his life. In order to cope with his pain he has decided to become a super hero and to fight the pain that he sees in the world. Most of the time, this leads to him getting his ass beat.
Kat Dennings plays Angel. She is a girl who has also had some horrible things happen to her. All of which have lead to her being a crack head and a whore. She comes into Defendor’s life by him “saving” her from getting beat and raped by a dirty cop. We also get to meet Arthur’s boss, who has a special bond with Arthur that we don’t truly understand until very near the end of the film. The final character that we really get to spend some time with is a court ordered psychiatrist who is profiling Arthur to see if he is mentally fit to stand trial. So, does this sound like the feel good movie of the Summer?
I will admit that there are some really funny parts. Defendor has created an entire fantasy world for himself. On his truck, which he has made into a batmobile-type creation he has a hood ornament shaped like a bulldog. Underneath the bulldog he has scribbled “Defendog”. On the main entrance to his “hideout” he has written “Defendoor”. He throws marbles at criminals, as if they were his special batarangs. Those scenes are pretty hilarious.
Continuing to pile on all of the reasons that this film should not work: Throughout the first two-thirds of this movie I regularly thought that Defendor was just plain stupid. I thought that Angel was a horrible human being who was throwing her life away. I didn’t really care about the bad guys being bad.
But then two things happened. We find out why Angel became who she is. And we see Defendor’s reaction to it. These two things completely flip the movie on its head. We see every motivation for every action that these two characters are taking. This is at the same point that reality catches up to both of them. Defendor is arrested for what he does in the above “reaction”. This is not a spoiler. The movie opens up and we know that he has been arrested. We just don’t know why until much further into the movie.
Everything that happens after those pivotal scenes had me hook, line and sinker. When Defendor does what he knows to be right, I was cheering for every single move he made. I was cheering for him. I was afraid for him. I wanted him to be right. Defendor had the glow!
This movie made every move right in my opinion. First time writer and director Peter Stebbings built these characters as flawed and real human beings. He showed us all of those flaws and then showed us why. The why made sense in every way, and it made me fall in love with them because of their reactions to those flaws.
Defendor is dark. There are beatings, death and bad people doing bad things. But if you can handle that, I would very highly recommend it. Who knows? You might just find yourself cheering for Defendor.
Have you seen Defendor? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.