*Minor Spoilers* On paper- there isn't a lot of originality here. The 'emotionally/mentally disturbed individual who gets in way over his head' archetype was previously done in the excellent Special  [DVD
], although the level of brutality reaped on Defendor/Arthur Poppington is more akin to what happens to Dave Lizewski in Kick-Ass [DVD] [2010
]. The 'Hooker with a Heart of Gold' supporting character 'Cat' is so cliched that it's almost a moot point to mention it. Whilst there are a few twists in turns in the script, and a wonderful ending that a mainstream Hollywood movie wouldn't accept, if I had been a producer or an investor, I might have considered this too derivative of previous movies to bother with funding.
Which probably explains why I'm writing reviews on Amazon, and don't work in the film industry, as the people behind this movie did a great job. Woody Harrelson is excellent as Arthur Poppington, and turns in a subtle yet earnest performance. (Indeed, it would be hard to single out one actor for special praise, as they are all uniformly excellent, including the child actors.) The pacing of the film is great, the editing (with old School Star Wars-style wipes) thoughtful, and the DOP does an astonishing job with the lighting and the fiming, to the point where this movie 'feels' substantially more expensive than it actually was.
There are only a couple of points that belie a tight budget- the score is good, but clearly done on a synthesier/with a band, as opposed to an orchestra, and the director Peter Stebbings shoots the whole movie in about four locations, doing his best to dress it up to look different (and the fake snow looks like polystyrene chips). Finally, the cover of the DVD is so bad that it almost put me off buying it- I wouldn't be surprised if people thought this was a DTV cash-in made on the heels of Kick Ass, instead of the low-budget labour of love that it clearly is.
Whilst there are a load of movies in the 'kidding-themselves-on superhero sub-genre'(as well as the aforementioned Special and Kick Ass, there's also been the enjoyable The Specials [DVD] [2000
], Mystery Men [DVD
] and James Gunn's forthcoming Super) this is still an enjoyable (and emotional) movie that really cuts to the heart of what superheroes inspire in people. More so than Kick Ass, it also makes me never want to put on a costume and try being a superhero- and one hopes that anyone tempted by the prospect of being a 'real life' superhero will pause for thought after seeing this...