DIRECTED BY PETER STEBBINGS
STARRING: WOODY HARRELSON, KAT JENNINGS, ELIAS KOTEAS, MICHAEL KELLY, CLARK JOHNSON, LISA RAY AND SANDRA OH
‘Defendor’ pitches the innocence of angst as a contrast against the calculative might of corruption and almost inspires hope through the course of it. But what disheartened me was that it fails exactly at the height of its brilliance, being as effective a medium of instruction as can be and yet distinctively inappropriate – considering you can’t let your 15 year old kid watch it. That’s unfortunately the fate of an R-rating.
Woody Harrelson’s titular performance as Arthur Poppington/Defendor tickles some nostalgia in form of Hugh Dancy’s expressionless Adam and Ryan Gosling’s teddy-bear-cute Lars, but only to compare. And he does a fine job, consistent with his charm; almost impressive. Painted around this braveness uncalled-for is a range of stereotypes, of which only Kat (Kat Dennings), the self-disclaimed ‘Lois Lane’ equivalent, stands out as the nearly-mean, adamant, hard-headed youngster who does melt, but only for moments. Her attachment to Arthur is stated and expected, although not entirely sensible. So is the smallness of the world they live in, a well-landscaped Canada.
Sandra Oh is another spark to the glow as she instills amusement merely by lighting up the screen with hers, a subtle choice for the soft-spoken, yet firm psychotherapist. She places Arthur somewhere on the lines of a depressed, delusional megalomaniac, a fair excuse that stops one from asking the obvious and ethical question of justice versus revenge – something that elevates ‘Defendor’ beyond the ruthlessness of Liam Neeson’s ‘Taken’. But does ‘Defendor’ even facilitate analysis? Not much, really – a substantial let-down, considering this is a subject that ought to be championed. Besides, while Arthur’s situation and mindset are substantiated to an extent, the same could not be said of his sustenance. What does he survive on? From where does he get all his money, that which he so gladly extends to the nifty Kat? Is that the only purpose that the friend in picture serves?
This is precisely why I wished ‘Defendor’ were a children’s film – so that I can place everything on the tooth fairy and be happy in the end because he gets to go to the moon. But then again, as is the case of all independents, ‘bittersweet’ happens to be the primer code with room for nothing except for hope and that too in the milli-bytes. I’m not saying that I wanted more, but just that when one throws a statement to vouch for typewriters over guns or ‘bling’, I’d like the younger generation to get a hold of it. And that they wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) is what disappoints me most about this otherwise-sweet, exciting and amusing adventure.