Reviewed By Chef ADogg
Posted 02/17/03 04:07:06

"Best action movie since 'XXX'!"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

I went to see "DareDevil" opening night. Why? I don't know. I hate comic book movies. I didn't even like "Spiderman," and EVERYONE liked "Spiderman." Anyways, I say "went to see," and not "saw," because I didn't actually watch the entire thing. I walked out after the first thirty minutes and snuck into "Chicago." Now THAT was a movie.

I did, however, come back tonight (Sunday, February 16th) to watch the rest. And, I'm happy to say, it gets better. Somewhat. It's still not a great movie; the cool promise of a blind, angry, Vicodin-popping vigilante is saddled with a director incapable of simply telling a story, and Ben Affleck, as the main character, is way miscast. Despite these crippling deficiencies, though, "DareDevil" does offer some bang for your buck.

I would compare this movie to "XXX" in its glaring incompetence, but the critical reaction to it probably won't be as harsh since it's based on a comic book. A movie can get away with a lot when it's based on a comic book--like looking cheap even on a budget hovering near the hundred million dollar mark. Tell me: If you gave an interior decorator fifty thousand dollars to renovate your living room, and you walked in to find split-pea shag carpeting and fake wood paneling, would you say you had gotten your money's worth? Would you hire that same interior decorator to do the rest of your house? Let's hope someone has the sense to keep Mark Steven Johnson away from "DareDevil 2."

That, though, is about as likely as someone having the sense to not let him write the screenplay for this first installment. Simply put, there are some people that have no business penning dialogue. Johnson is one such person. At times, "DareDevil" almost seems like a parody of cliched superhero films--but the fun keeps getting interuppted by shots of Ben Affleck silently brooding.

Speaking of brooding, Affleck's not very good at. He has a few nice scenes of comic interplay with Jon Favreau (chubby almost to the point of distraction), and they reminded me that he can be a winning, funny actor, given the right material. It's easy to overlook, though, because he so often chooses big, dumb action movies and tries to be Mr. Serious Man. The only thing remotely serious about him is the danger that he'll become the next Nicolas Cage, a genuinely likable guy wasting his talents in simplistic formula crap.

All joking aside, "DareDevil" is disappointing because it actually could have been an interesting, compelling movie if a real filmmaker had been in charge. When I say "filmmaker," mind you, I don't simply mean one who makes films; if you gave my dog a camcorder and two hours of tape, the resulting footage would probably be more interesting than most of the dreck that the major studios release on a weekly basis. No, I use "filmmaker" in the higher sense: An individual with a personal vision, an extensive knowledge of film vocabulary, and an appreciation for character and dialogue. Mark Steven Johnson possesses none of these traits, as evidenced previously by his horrifyingly bad adaptation of John Irving's complex and moving "A Prayer for Owen Meany," and yet I suspect that if "DareDevil" does as well as the prognosticators are predicting, he will soon join Brett Ratner as one of the highest paid, least talented directors in Hollywood.

I compare Johnson to Ratner because in interviews he has spoken of "DareDevil" as if it is somehow an intellectually stimulating, emotionally involving film, a delusional bent shared by the "Rush Hour" and "Red Dragon" helmer who recently made his shortcomings painfully obvious by frequently and publicly dismissing Michael Mann's "Manhunter." It's a crying shame that directors of so little talent enjoy the luxury of their films opening on 2,500-plus screens while so many honestly talented filmmakers toil in obscurity.

I said earlier that "DareDevil" offers some bang for your buck, but it's more the sour bang of Ben Affleck banging your mom than the sweetly satisfying bang of a banging Wu-Tang track, if you know what I mean.

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