Review: Defendor (2009)

By Aaron Vaccaro – Head Writer

Best Bad Quote:

“There are at least eight ways to break out of this dump. I’m taking the front door.”


Woody Harrelson just has a way of making me smile.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s such a diehard tree hugger preaching the gospel of hemp wherever he goes or if it’s because he’s just so damn goofy looking, but there’s just something about the guy I find downright charming. Unfortunately, not even Woody can save the small movie with big aspirations that is Defendor.


Harrelson plays Arthur Poppington, a lonely, middle aged man with a few screws loose, who by night turns into a vigilante superhero that goes by the moniker, “Defendor.”  I use the term “superhero” very lightly however.  Defendor’s costume consists of a big “D” on his chest made out of duct tape, shoe polish to disguise his eyeline, and a helmet that belonged to his father in WWII.  Defendor’s mission is to protect the innocents from the seedy criminals lurking around every corner, the only problem being that he doesn’t have any discernable superheroes, but instead is equipped with some marbles, a jar of wasps, a billy club, and a good, albeit misguided heart.  After rescuing the junkie prostitute, Kat (Kat Dennings), from her abusive corrupt police officer pimp, Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas), Defendor has every scumbag in the criminal underworld looking to take him out.


The description sounds promising enough, and there were moments of this movie that were enjoyable.  Koteas, who many may remember as Casey Jones of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, is very convincing as the corrupt cop douchebag who you are really hoping is going to get what’s coming to him, and he does.  Defendor is aesthetically pleasing to the eye as well.  Taking place in a generic metropolis, its look is very reminiscent of the pulp comics that our hero is such a fan of (The Shadow, The Phantom, etc.)  The score is equally evocative of the pulp serials and creates an amusing atmosphere playing behind the action sequences.  But at the end of the day, Defendor just doesn’t have enough to sustain the 1 hour and 40 minute running time.


The only truly original aspect of Defendor is the fact that our “hero” is mentally stunted, which we learn is connected back to the loss of his junkie mother at a young age, hence his affinity for Kat Denning’s prostitute character.  The rest of the movie just feels like something we’ve seen a million times before and frankly done better.  At times Harrelson seems like he’s having a blast with this subject matter, but at others he seems like he just looks out of place.  The most phoned in performance however is delivered by Sandra Oh, who plays Poppington’s court appointed psychiatrist.  But let’s be honest, Sandra Oh hasn’t really done anything worth of note since Sideways anyway.


Where Defendor fails, is in its inability to get the audience to care about the characters.  This could be partially attributed to the murky tone of the movie which walks the line between dark comedy and crime drama at inconsistent intervals.  As a fan of the superhero genre, I really wanted to like this tale of ordinary man turned vigilante, but when all was said and done, Defendor doesn’t deliver enough “super,” enough “hero,” and is far too ordinary.



2 out of 5 Junkie Whores


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One Response to “Review: Defendor (2009)”

  1. I haven’t seen (or heard about) this movie, but your synopsis of the film reminds me “Mirageman.” It’s a Chilean movie that, from the box art and synopsis, seems to be like a sort of Turkish Star Wars, but you know, from Chile and with a super hero. It turns out to be a great vigilante movie.

    “Where Defendor fails, is in its inability to get the audience to care about the characters. This could be partially attributed to the murky tone of the movie…” This is exactly how I felt about the other 2009 Woody Harrelson vehicle, “Zombieland.”

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