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Movie Review

A pro bono attorney by day and exactor of vigilante justice by night, Matt Murdock fights crime incognito as Daredevil, "the man without fear." Based on a comic book series about a blind superhero whose remaining senses have been miraculously heightened, Daredevil is a grim, violent film about love, loss and the fine line between crusading against evil and living in a moral "gray area" for the greater good.

In flashback, we see young Matt—the son of a prize fighter—blinded in a tragic accident, then left to cope with other senses gone wild. Traffic noise is deafening. He hears the signature of people’s heartbeats. He can literally feel trouble coming. When a crime boss has his father murdered for refusing to take a dive, Matt commits to exacting revenge and battling bad guys ("We made each other a silent promise to never give up. To be fearless. To stick up for the long shots like us"). Hence, Matt’s cowled, rooftop-crawling alter-ego.

More than a decade later, Matt and his wisecracking law partner, Foggy, are sitting in a coffee shop when a beautiful woman walks in. She’s Elektra Natchios, the daughter of a business tycoon who, Matt quickly learns, spent most of her life learning martial arts. They soon become lovers, but when a hit man dispatches her dad, it appears Daredevil is behind it. So Elektra dons leather dominatrix garb, grabs a couple of lethal daggers, and goes hunting for the guy in the red suit. What she doesn’t know is that the real killers are after her, too. Her father’s former partner, Kingpin, has hired a psychotic killer whose dead-on aim has earned him the name Bullseye. Can Daredevil save the day?

positive elements: As a boy, Matt is told by his loving father to study hard and make something of himself, and avoid fighting. Matt is dismayed to learn that his dad is strong-arming people to collect outstanding debts for a dirty businessman (a revelation that leads to Matt’s blindness). When Pop sincerely apologizes, Matt is quick to forgive. As an adult, Matt is a morally complex figure trying to reconcile vengeance, social duty and faith (his sole confidant is a Catholic priest). When Matt goes to confession, he gets lectured by the priest, who knows of his double life ("Justice isn’t a sin, but vengeance is"). His law partner accuses him of costing them clients by refusing to put aside the issue of guilt or innocence and simply represent whoever’s willing to pay the bills. At one point Matt wonders, "Can one man make a difference? There are some days I believe and others when I have lost all faith." By the end he concludes, "Now I have faith that anything is possible ... that one man can make a difference." Matt shows mercy to Kingpin, choosing not to take a life for a life. When Elektra determines to get even with her father’s killer, Matt warns her, "Revenge won’t make the pain go away. Trust me. I know."

spiritual content: A man of the cloth is the one person who knows that Matt and Daredevil are one and the same. This priest tells Matt, "A man without fear is a man without hope." Except perhaps for a healthy fear of the Lord, the Bible fails to support that statement; it’s because of the hope we have in Christ that we do not have a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7, Psalms 23:4, 1 John 4:18). Religious icons appear at several points in the film. A wounded Daredevil clings to the cross atop a church. Some of his blood trickles down the face of a stained-glass saint. Bullseye follows Daredevil to the church (crossing himself as he steps inside) and proceeds to battle Daredevil in the sanctuary and on an immense pipe organ. When Bullseye is shot through the palms, the bullet leaves stigmata-like wounds. There’s a religious funeral held for Elektra’s father. Matt’s dad boxes under the name Jack "The Devil" Murdock, which inspires Matt’s devil-horned superhero costume.

sexual content: Matt gets dumped by a girlfriend via a phone message that indicates they’ve had premarital sex ("Every time we sleep together I wake up alone..."). Elektra wears revealing outfits that show a lot of cleavage. Foggy massages breast-like protrusions on a statue. A man is tried for rape. Matt and Elektra kiss passionately in the rain, which leads them into bed (nude, they kiss and caress as the camera carefully avoids revealing too much).

violent content: Bullies pick on 12-year-old Matt in an alley, knock him down and bloody his lip. After going blind, Matt encounters them again and turns the tables. Viewers get a ringside seat at several hard-hitting boxing matches (at one point Matt’s dad spits up blood on the canvas). A man is beaten to death in an alleyway. Courtroom photos of a woman show that she was brutally beaten. Gritty, often bloody violence includes shootouts, stabbings and a man being cut in two by a subway train (his remains are carted off on two stretchers). A villain plummets many stories before landing on the windshield of a passing car in graphic fashion. Bullseye kills for fun with objects as formidable as daggers and metal stars, or as benign as pencils (three are shown protruding from a man’s neck) and airline snacks (to silence a gabby old woman, he chokes her with a peanut). Elsewhere he hurls broken shards of glass at Daredevil, and flings straightened paper clips into a man’s esophagus. He even murders a girl by slitting her throat with a playing card, then running her through with a dagger. After Bullseye is shot through the palms of both hands, he's pitched through a stained-glass window. Daredevil engages numerous people in hand-to-hand combat, and breaks one bad guy’s knees.

crude or profane language: Just over a dozen profanities include s-words and a few misuses of the Lord’s name. Viewers are first introduced to Bullseye in a bar, a scene underscored by obscene rap music with several audible f-words.

drug and alcohol content: Kingpin commonly smokes cigars. A newspaper reporter named Urich is almost always shown dragging on cigarettes. People consume alcohol at a fancy party. Several scenes show people drinking beer. A scurrilous man downs shots at a sleazy bar. After losing a case, Foggy says to Matt, "Let’s go get drunk." Daredevil is a fully human hero who feels pain, evidenced by the myriad prescription painkillers lining Matt’s medicine cabinet.

other negative elements: Men wager on darts. Eager to spend the night with Elektra, Matt selfishly ignores the distant cries of someone in need of Daredevil’s help.

conclusion: Three. That’s how many trips Daredevil made to the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board before it was trimmed enough to barely avoid an R. I repeat, barely. The violence is still quite explicit in places. That concerns me, because this movie is doing all it can to capitalize on the popularity of Spider-Man, including the way it’s being advertised. That could lead many parents who gave Spidey a thumbs-up to give their approval here as well. But Daredevil is no Spider-Man. It’s darker and considerably more objectionable. Regarding the movie’s cheerless tone and edgy content, Affleck says, "It’s not going to play as broadly as Spider-Man." I'm hoping it doesn't. Aside from the hero’s moral turmoil and some cool effects showing how this blind crusader "sees" things, Daredevil is a comic book cliché that’s most noteworthy for its abuse of the PG-13 rating.

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Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil; Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios; Colin Farrell as Bullseye; Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin; John Favreau as Foggy; Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich; David Keith as Jack "The Devil" Murdock; Scott Terra as 12-year-old Matt Murdock


Mark Steven Johnson ( )


20th Century Fox



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Bob Smithouser

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