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Daredevil (2003)
Rated PG13

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and Colin Farrell

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

Frankly, to me, Daredevil was the least interesting of the comic-book characters made into a feature film last year. So, I passed on it until it showed up on cable this month. To be honest, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Daredevil tells the story of Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck), a lawyer from Hell's Kitchen, who defends only "those that are innocent." As a child, he was blinded by acid shortly after seeing his boxer father working for a local crime boss. While the accident left him blind, his other senses took over in a superhuman fashion, allowing him to "see" and function with a disregard for fear. When his father is killed for not throwing a fight, Matt vows to fight for justice as best he can. He becomes Daredevil, a costumed vigilante who is knowledgeable in various martial arts techniques, and hunts thugs by night. By day, Matt attempts to serve justice the legal way by defending those that can't defend themselves in a courtroom.

One afternoon, Matt meets Elektra (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of a billionaire. He strikes up a relationship with her which is quickly cut short when her father is murdered by Bullseye (Colin Farrell), a hit man hired by crimelord Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) to divert attention from his own criminal ways. Elektra, who is something of a martial arts expert herself, believes that Daredevil is responsible for her father's death. She vows revenge on Daredevil while Daredevil vows to protect her from Bullseye.

OK, so the plot is typical comic-book fare. Writer/director Mark Stephen Johnson handles the subject in a manner that's at once stylish and fun. Sure, there's nothing here that's not been done before (and done better), but the combination of winning performances by Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner and, believe it or not, Ben Affleck make it work. Jon Favreau and Michael Clarke Duncan add support that truly bolsters the film's strength. When a comic-book film has such fine performances, it's easier to forgive the somewhat lacking visuals.

Everything in Daredevil has a computer-generated sheen to it. Even the backgrounds in some scenes look unrealistic or have a cut and paste feel to them. I'm not sure if this was a look that was intentional or not, but it certainly is distracting. Thankfully, the rest of the movie passes my story-before-effects test which makes it tolerable. At least the fight scenes, which make up the bulk of the action, are quite entertaining and well-done.

While it's not as strong as Spider-Man or X2: X-Men United, it's much more entertaining than I expected. I certainly can't fault it for that.

Trivia: Matt's father fights a boxer named John Romita in his last fight. Romita is actually a comic book artist's name. John Romita Sr. worked on the Daredevil series in the 60s. John Romita Jr. worked on the series in the 80s. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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