Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Being an account of the amazing adventures of this decade's dullest on-screen superhero, Daredevil is a fascinating piece of cinema but an awful film. Part of this is down to the fact that it opens with an account, rather than a true demonstration, of the character's origins - now, it's understandable that not every superhero film will want to be an origins story (especially if it has little chance of attracting funding for a sequel), but Daredevil goes on to meander partway along that road anyway, so there's really no excuse for the shambles of the first half hour.

The script is so clunky as to rival Ben Affleck's wooden performance. The costumes, far from being sleek and sexy or naturally dangerous, look as if they were found in a thrift store after some impoverished Seventies starlet had a clear-out; as a result, we have to be told when to find them alluring.

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Starting out low (Daredevil does his thing like Rorschach, but without the latter's innocence and charm), the plot strains for moral depth, yet comes across like a poorly lit episode of Sunset Beach. Affleck simply doesn't have the acting muscles to pull off his character's supposed transformation. A potentially interesting performance of Bullseye is let down by the shoddy writing, and Elektra, the only vaguely complex character on display, never gets the chance to develop. The villainous Kingpin is too bland to be intimidating. The soundtrack is the most embarrassing example of intrusive rock marketing I've encountered in 20 years.

So what is it that makes Daredevil interesting? It's a curiosity piece. It makes use of cliches which no one else has dared to touch since the Zucker brothers had their way with them. It shows us what the Eighties generation of feeble comic-inspired movies might have been if they'd only had more expensive effects to waste.

In places, the effects work very nicely - there's some impressive art design work early on, and some effectively shot action sequences. The battle in the church has its moments, though in other places its egotistical breaking of taboos is so tacky that one finds oneself praying for the Kurgen to arrive and show these boys how it's done.

Ultimately, Daredevil is a bit of a pishy superhero, not very hard and not very smart. He owes his successes mostly to other people's incompetence. His alter ego, blind lawyer Matt Murdock, slimes at women in a way which would get him a night in the cells, not a girlfriend, in the real world. His blindness is poorly handled, especially in the context of his ordinary life; one thinks of the dazzling work of Jocelyn Moorhouse in Proof (1991), and all that Daredevil has to offer are wasted opportunities. This film's success must now depend on fashion and the traditional US love of vigilantes; it'd better hope that cinema audiences miss the lessons it's trying to teach.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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Ben Affleck is a blind superhero, known as "the man without fear", who leaps off buildings.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Writer: Mark Steven Johnson

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Scott Terra, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith, Erick Avari

Year: 2002

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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Daredevil - Director's Cut