Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Written by Brian Helgeland
Starring Ben Affleck



Films made about comic-book superheroes, and so far they include Superman, Batman, Wolverine and now Daredevil, seem to exhibit what you might call the law of the villain. If the hero has just one villain to confront, the film will be good fun. If there is more than one, the film will stumble and lose impact, trying to hold its plot strands together, stay coherent, and still give screen time to the actors who signed up. The first Superman film had only Lex Luthor; the first Batman film had only the Joker. They were plenty, in fact all that was needed for wit and suspense and action. When the filmmakers added more, in the sequels, it was the film and the audience that suffered from overload.

Bearing this out, "Daredevil" gives us two villains where either one would have done. Michael Clarke Duncan is Kingpin and Colin Farrell is Bullseye (actually, when the film opens there is a third villain, a crooked fight manager who has young Daredevil's father, a boxer, killed, but it turns out he was working for Kingpin so let's say he counts for just half a villain, since his only function is to kick off the plot and give poor young Matt Murdock the occasion for the chemical blinding that turns him into Daredevil). Matt is played, of course, by Ben Affleck, handsome, blind young New York lawyer who is partners with the insecure but hustling Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau), and their scenes together are the best part of the film. Both actors know how to throw away lines and be real about it, and it's apparent this is the part of the movie they liked best. They share a running gag about urban legends (e.g., alligators in the sewers) that's so good you wish there were more so you could just watch them work together.

Unfortunately the plot keeps raising its ugly head. Kingpin wants Daredevil dead, he brings Bullseye over from Ireland to do the deed, Daredevil meets the beautiful Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who kicks his butt in a West Side playground, they fall in love (doomed, if you don't mind my giving it away, but where have you ever seen the beautiful love interest survive a superhero movie?), but she has to avenge her father's death at Kingpin's hands, and - well, you get the idea. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who's written both well ("Conspiracy Theory") and poorly ("The Postman") has stuffed the film tighter then a Christmas stocking, and made it just as lumpy.

Affleck, as always, has excellent screen presence, but he's been given so many pregnant pauses in which to just stand and be silent that the film stops dead at each one. And one final question: Daredevil always starts each sequence standing on the rooftop of a building in Hell's Kitchen, then leaping gracefully into the void to get down to the street. Could he not have taken the elevator?