Defendor's Would-Be Superhero Less Than Super

Woody Harrelson shines, but film doesn't hang together
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2010 2:35 PM CST

Woody Harrelson plays a deluded superhero in Defendor, Canadian writer-director Peter Stebbings' debut. The filmmaker's compatriots get where he's coming from; critics south of the border, not so much:

  • "Made for $3.5-million, it looks, if anything, cheaper," James Adams writes in the Globe and Mail. But Harrelson's "expressive rubber face and intense blue eyes" paint a "convincing portrait of a lonely, damaged schlub whose moral code and sense of the heroic" come exclusively from comic books.

  • The flick has "a proper pace, well punctuated with laughs at the right time, and outrage and sympathy at others," writes Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star. At its core is Harrelson's "unrelenting seriousness and dedication to the literal truth."
  • Harrelson is "winning," but "Stebbings is more interested in deconstructing heroism than creating a concrete world," Glenn Whipp writes in the Los Angeles Times. The result is that "the film never meshes into something cohesive."
  • "Imagine Woody Harrelson's slaphappy simpleton Woody Boyd from Cheers if he were mad as hell and not planning to take it anymore," David Germain writes for the AP, and you've got Defendor. Intriguing, but "you end up not so much rooting for him as for the psychiatric profession, hoping it lives up to its destiny and gets this nut case off the streets."
(More Woody Harrelson stories.)

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