Daredevil Review

by Laura Clifford (laura AT reelingreviews DOT com)
February 19th, 2003


Young Matt Murdock (Scott Terra, "Eight Legged Freaks") has a traumatic childhood. A bully who likes to beat him up
(Robert Iler, HBO's "The Sopranos") tells the boy his dad is a bag man. Matt discovers this truth for himself, and running
away, is in an accident that blinds him. Shamed, Jack Murdoch (David Keith, "Behind Enemy Lines") returns to the ring in
his forties, but refuses to hurt his son again when mob boss Fallon demands he take a fall and so is murdered in front of
Matt's unseeing eyes. Bent on vengeance, the adult Matt (Ben Affleck), now a lawyer, twists his father's old boxing persona
into the mysterious "Daredevil."

Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson ("Simon Burch") fashions a satisfying B movie entertainment from a second tier Marvel
comic book hero. "Daredevil" broods like Batman, travels like Spiderman and dreams of vengeance while squatting with
rooftop gargoyles like "The Crow's" Eric Draven. The film spends its first twenty minutes setting up Murdoch's motivation,
then takes a little longer shedding the onslaught of references to those other films before establishing its own identity. Bring on
the sequel.

Ben Affleck - not the most obvious casting choice for a dark super hero - balances the character's moral conflicts with a
lively 'eye' for the ladies and jocular relationship with law partner 'Foggy' Nelson ("Swingers'" Jon Favreau, providing witty
and warm comic relief). If Murdock loses his pro bono cases by day, he brings vigilante justice by night as Daredevil, then
confesses his sins to an unabsolving parish priest. Every comic book hero needs a reporter trying to unmask him. Here it's
Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano, HBO's "The Sopranos") who tries to figure out whether the man in the red horns' intentions are
good or evil.

Matt literally sniffs out Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner, "Catch Me If You Can") at the coffee shop one day. He's not only
met his match, but the person who will lead him in a dark path to his ultimate goal. Elektra's initially wary, but intrigued by
Matt's school yard martial arts foreplay (the stars' tackling of their own stunts in this scene shows - it plays a little too slowly
and carefully, like Mel Gibson's dancing in "What Women Want," but garners good will nonetheless).

In a second meeting romance blooms in a lovely scene that utilizes the special effects created for Matt's shadow world, a
laser technique which shows us how Daredevil 'sees' by the sound reflected from objects. Raindrops on a rooftop define
Elektra like a sparkling jewel (although the effect should have been more subtle - raindrops would not have defined her
irises). After a sex scene of heightened senses, Matt is invited to the black and white ball, where he will meet both Elektra's
wealthy Ambassador dad Nikolaos (Erick Avari, "Mr. Deeds") and his nemesis Wilson Fisk, not yet unveiled as the
notorious Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan, "The Green Mile"). Kingpin's imported Irish assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell,
"The Recruit") visits the tragedies upon Daredevil that will focus him upon his long time target. Farrell has found his metier as
the bald, motorcycle riding Irish thug who has turned a pub talent for throwing darts into a lethal skill.

Johnson shows talent for blending humor into a dark tale, but loses a few points for choppy execution. It is unclear why
editors Armen Minasian ("Don't Say a Word") and Dennis Virkler ("Collateral Damage") leave in one arbitrary scene
featuring secretary Karen Page (Ellen Pompeo, "Moonlight Mile"), when she is clearly cut from the rest of the film. Urich
throws a match at one of Daredevil's crime scenes to display his signature double D (in yet another nod to "The Crow"), but
the symbol is never repeated. The film feels like it could have used another fifteen minutes of breathing room.
Cinematographer Ericson Core ("The Fast and the Furious") engages comic book framing. Graeme Revell's ("The Crow")
score is complemented with driving rock songs that are sure to become a popular soundtrack CD.

From its opening credits, where the lights of city skyscrapers reconfigure into braille titles, to its closing confluence of red
symbols, "Daredevil" pulls you into its B picture world. It has more scrappy heart than some of its slicker cinematic


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