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Daredevil (15)


Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentaries with director and producer; Enhanced viewing mode on 8 key scenes; 'The Men Without Fear: The Art of Daredevil' (59 mins); 'Beyond Hell's Kitchen: Making Of Daredevil' (58 mins); HBO First Look Special (24 mins); 'Moving Through Space: A Day With Tom Sullivan' featurette (8 mins); Jennifer Garner - Elektra; Multi angle scenes (9 mins); Music videos: Evanescence - Bring Me To Life, The Calling - For You, Fuel - Won't Back Down; Easter Egg gag reel (5 mins); Behind the scenes (20 mins); Multi angle behind the scenes segments (22 mins).

SUPERHERO movies can stand or fall on the success of their predecessors, so Daredevil was always going to face an uphill task, given the phenomenal success of last year’s Spider-Man.

The surprising thing, however, is just how well it does compare; coming across as a darker, more violent masked crusader than his web-slinging counterpart; albeit with a weaker line in characterisation.

Ben Affleck stars as the hero in question - a blind lawyer by day, who is transformed into ‘the man without fear’ by night, helping to bring justice to those the courts cannot touch.

For although attorney, Matt Murdock, was blinded at an early age, following a chemical accident, his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness, giving him the power to wage a one-man war against the city’s criminal element.

In truth, there isn’t much difference between Spider-Man and Daredevil - both exist in New York, both lost father figures at an early age, both tread a fine line between being idolised and hated by a sceptical public, both like to wear ridiculously tight outfits which border on the camp and both like to kiss their heroines in the rain.

But while Peter Parker and co managed to appeal to all ages, Murdock’s battle is geared towards a much older audience, with the set pieces far more violent than usual and the plot arcs far more twisted and complex.

Murdock’s principal nemesis is Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin, a crime overlord responsible for the death of his father years earlier, but he is also pitted against Colin Farrell’s wickedly psychotic Bullseye, and - on occasion - even his love interest, Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.

All of which should make for an emotionally complex action adventure, capable of pulling you this way and that. Yet while writer-director, Mark Steven Johnson’s film certainly delivers on the set piece front, its script feels somewhat lightweight by comparison.

As a result, the villains feel under-used (with the charismatic Farrell, in particular, deserving of more attention), and the emotional pay-offs nowhere near as effective as they ought to be.

To give credit where it is due, however, the love-hate relationship between Murdock and Elektra is suitably spiky (Affleck and Garner work well together), while several of the support players, including Jon Favreau and Joe Pantoliano, rise above their limited material to lend proceedings a far more weightier feel than they actually deserve.

Johnson’s film also contains at least one decent surprise, a nice line in black humour, and looks very stylish throughout, while being laden with religious imagery - referring to the crucifixion and the stigmata on several occasions.

If the finale feels designed purely to set up the franchise, then this is no bad thing either, for on the strength of this curtain-raiser, future adventures with Murdock and co could well prove to be devilishly good fun!

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