DAREDEVIL opens with our superhero crashing through a church. He’s hurt. He took a really bad fall, but don’t worry, he’s got a medicine cabinet filled with vicodin
The story then unfolds at the beginning, as young Matt Murdock is being raised by a less-than-honorable prizefighter dad, Jack “The Devil” Murdock (David Keith), in Hell’s Kitchen. Shocked at seeing his father rough up a guy, Matt is blinded by a hazardous chemical and, though not bitter, aims to help others less fortunate then himself. Recovering in the hospital, Matt quickly notices that, even though he is blind, his other senses are stronger. He puts himself through law school and builds a life for himself.
Now, twenty years or so later, Murdock (Affleck and an army of stuntmen) works with his disgruntled partner Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau) helping the under-privileged. Why Foggy keeps complaining about having poor clients and keeps working for them is one of the mysteries of the sloppy screenplay. New York City is under the spell of a crime boss known only as Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan). Murdock meets up with socialite/martial arts expert Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of Ambassador Natchios (Erick Avari).
When the Ambassador is murdered, Elektra decides to avenge his death. Elektra thinks Daredevil is responsible. Kingpin’s chief henchman is the dashing Irish villain, Bullseye (Colin Farrell), who utters the definitive comic book line: “I want my own bloody costume.”
But he never gets it.
The blind superhero thing is lost on me. Affleck, wearing Al Pacino’s wig (1), looks lost in a rushed production. Affleck does not have the emotional range to play blind. Isn’t acting hard enough? I like him in his self-effacing interviews, especially his recent comment that he is certainly not leading an “unexamined life,” though his comments on the celebrity life is incredulous.
(2) But am I the only one that notices Affleck’s acting instrument is his mouth? Slightly open is “concern,” barely open is “grief,” wide open is “lust,” somewhat open is “confusion,” and open is “intelligent.” Held tight shows “introspection.”
If Murdock had the kind of heightened sensory acuity claimed, why would he have to look far off in the distance when spoken to? Sound vibrations, as well as a person’s breathing, would direct him right at a person’s eye level.
Matt blindness means he can’t see people’s reactions but his heightened sense of hearing should give him the skill to tell by a person’s vocal inflections if they were lying or being deceptive.
The problem with DAREDEVIL is, regardless of the glut of PR hype, Affleck doesn’t have sexual charisma. He can’t hold the screen — with or without the mask. I’ve done a quick survey among my female friends. Affleck is just not “hot.” We know Affleck isn’t always in that costume and it is stuntmen who are in the fight sequences and leaping off buildings. CGI effects dominate the film but when the character of Daredevil is on screen, it has to be played by someone who can deliver nuisance and a sense of inner turmoil or, how about fun? Having a high profile personal life, or being named “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine, does not translate on the screen.
A great deal has been written about Daredevil’s costume. Well, its safe to say the costume is still cloaked in darkness and mystery. The tiny devil horns are barely visible. We do see at lot of shots of boots hitting the pavement. The question about Affleck’s hair continues in DAREDEVIL. Hair, and the lack thereof, is a big character in DAREDEVIL. Murdock may have a hornet’s nest on top of his head but everyone else is bald. Bullseye, New York Post reporter Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano), Kingpin, and Ambassador Natchios are all bald.
Colin Farrell plays Bullseye and, even though I have absolutely no objectivity regarding Farrell (after THE MINORITY REPORT, THE RECRUIT, and reading his interview in the March issue of Playboy, he can do no wrong), his Bullseye nearly takes the movie out of Affleck’s hands.
Lucky for us, an actor like Farrell can communicate sexual vitality. When Farrell is on screen with Garner their chemistry ignites the movie.
Why keep Kingpin for the sequel? Will Kingpin — all three hundred pounds of him — really suffer in prison?
While the director, Mark Steven Johnson, does give the production an interesting dark and moody washed-out look, where is the story? How is it Daredevil can leap off buildings and fly around New York City? What’s with Murdock “seeing” when it rains? Shouldn’t Daredevil move to Seattle? Couldn’t the writer, again Johnson, have come up with a better story than the tired, old, now-standard one about a son avenging his father’s death and an over-the-top grinning crime boss? While DAREDEVIL may be staying true to it’s comic book roots, the movie audience is entitled to something fresh and novel. We’ve seen this movie before.
The entire movie looks like an assembly line production pieced together merely to give a movie star the biggest perk of all — a franchise. In Affleck’s case, DAREDEVIL is another failed attempt.
(1)According to Vanity Fair’s March cover story on Ben Affleck, his hair is all his. It just looks really, really fake in movies.
(2)However, a very public life does pay well indeed. Affleck was paid $12.5 million for GIGLI and $15 million for John Woo’s upcoming film PAYCHECK. Vanity Fair quotes Ben on the price of stardom: “You have to become a whore. Nobody’s paying anybody money out of the goodness of his heart. What is it worth to whore your private life and have every aspect of it totally exposed? When you consider that, I feel like I’m underpaid.”
Matt Murdock/Daredevil…Ben Affleck
Elektra Natchios…Jennifer Garner
Kingpin…Michael Clarke Duncan
Foggy Nelson…Jon Favreau
Ben Urich…Joe Pantoliano
Written and Directed by…Mark Steven Johnson