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Daredevil ***
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starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell
written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson


            Daredevil is one of the best superhero movies ever. Really, it makes a little known Marvel comic book character accessible to all those people who always thought Daredevil was someone who jumped over semi-trucks on a motorcycle. Its not a character to be overlooked.

            Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears, Changing Lanes, and Armageddon) plays Matt Murdock, blind attorney and midnight vigilante. The idea of a protagonist tortured by his past is not new to the comic book movie genre, but rarely is so much thought put into it. Murdocks father was murdered at the hands of the crime underworld of New York City not long after Matt lost his eyesight in an accident and gained the superhuman ability of heightened levels of his remaining senses. The young Matt vows to avenge the wrongs the innocent have suffered at the hands of evil. Sounds familiar, right? Well, it should. The genres biggest stars, Batman and Spiderman both had loved ones murdered before they decided to fight crime and goofy villains. But what where Daredevil stands out is in its embrace of the darkness the hero falls into when he dons his mask. He kills the evil that gets away from the clutches of the law in a fit of rage, but he loathes himself for it the next day. A superheros conflictions have not been so believably portrayed on screen before, at least not up to the level they are in the comic books.

            The action rises after a busy night of killing evil and making a confession to a priest the next day (a regular practice.) Matt and his law partner Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau) chit chat at the local café about the New York Posts speculation of a vigilante called Daredevil when Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner of TVs Alias) walks in looking all hot and sassy. Matt hits on her and the two end up sparring in a childrens playground as a kind of get-to-know-you game. Its not all that realistic, but the genre allows for some unusual plot devices. The two exchange witty banter and part after she gives him her name (the reason the scuffle started in the first place).

            Meanwhile, New Yorks kingpin of crime named Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan of The Green Mile and Armageddon) has decided to terminate his partnership with Elektras father through the services of an eccentric hitman called Bullseye. Colin Farrell, who has been in several other high profile films of late, plays Bullseye as a crazy lunatic (the best kind of lunatic, right?) that possesses an uncanny ability to strike a target with any item and with a precise aim. He murders people left and right because they annoy him, and decides to make Daredevil his Holy Grail of targets after Daredevil makes him miss during his attack on Mr. Natchios. The ever-resourceful Bullseye finds a way to kill Natchios in front of his daughter and frame our hero. Elektra thinks Daredevil killed her father and opts to seek revenge using her martial arts abilities and leather outfit. Fancy attack scenes and mayhem ensue.

            Ben Affleck has said that he took the role because he is such a huge fan of the comic book, and it shows. He has a lot invested into the character, desiring to make the character more than just a goon in a mask. He does have to say some catch phrase material, but he invokes as much feeling into them as a good actor can.

            Jennifer Garner has the task of playing a quality love interst/foe. She has shown through her work on Alias that she can act well, but she falls a little short as the leather-clad martial artist in the film. Shes good, dont get me wrong, but the constraints of the written character hold back her true talent.

            Michael Clarke Duncan embodies the comic book villain of Kingpin, quite well. That is, except for the glaring fact that the character was white in the comics and Duncan is definitely black. It doesnt distract from his performance, but the uninitiated deserve to know.

            A lot will be made about the violence in the film, a PG-13 film with the grit of a R-rated Matrix sequel. Much of that is deserved. Bystanders and henchmen are dispatched in a graphic nature with little or no consequences in sight. Bullseye kills and spouts off humorous lines with a grin and fire in his eyes. The audience is supposed to laugh, and the crowd I saw the movie with obliged. Daredevil kills and loathes himself for it afterwards, but he escapes the law and were happy because hes ridding the streets of scumbags. First, Bullseye is a bad guy in a movie based on a comic book. Hes not supposed to feel remorse. Maybe the filmmakers could have toned down the senseless killing of bystanders, but we have to hate him if the story can reach its ending. Daredevil deserves kudos for its portrayal of the effect killing can have on a decent man. Still, I feel weird about seeing a movie that doesnt necessarily fit into its rating.

            This movie is dark, and that contributes to why I like it so much. Spiderman was too campy and happy-go lucky for me. It was fun, sure; but I liked it so much at first because of its hype. Everybody and their mother liked Spiderman, so who was I to disagree. Well, Im a comic book fan for one. Daredevil portrays the darkness that the source material requires. Spiderman was a lighter comic book, but I always liked the shades of gray that came along with the darker breed of superheroes. Batman was dark, and people liked him.

            You dont have to be a comic book fan to like Daredevil, but it sure helps. Most of the people I saw the movie with didnt really care for it, but I honestly believe it is the second-best superhero movie Ive seen next to Unbreakable. No, its not a great movie, but its very good and has the admiration of this reviewer.

            I want to give the film three and a half stars, but my conscience tells me that it deserves three and Ill realize it later. Go enjoy a good movie, or be like my friends and put Spiderman at the pinnacle of superhero movies.

3 out of 4 stars

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