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DAREDEVIL: DIRECTOR'S CUT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, David Keith
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 133 Minutes
Release Date: November 30, 2004

"Anything else?"

"Yeah…I want a f---ing costume."

Film ***1/2

Rarely have I seen a more effective Director's Cut than the newly altered version of Daredevil, one of my favorite recent comic book movies. This new edition takes the story in a whole new direction, and becomes a better movie in the process. It's weird saying that simply because I thought the original cut was an already accomplished comic book adventure brought perfectly to the screen.

This was the version that writer/director Mark Steven Johnson wanted to intentionally release to theaters. Two major setbacks prevented this from happening. First, the studio wanted a love story angle to be included. Secondly, and much more important, Johnson's original cut was considered too grim for even a PG-13 audience.

This cut received an R rating, and thanks to the miracle of DVD, it can be revealed audiences who may have thought the original was a weaker movie, or who want to experience a whole new take on the adventure of the man without fear. Nearly 30 minutes of new footage has been added, while scenes from the original movie have been removed in order to provide, I think, a much more effective, and perfectly dark, comic book hero adventure.

Our story begins with the telling of how our heroic character came to be. Matt Murdock, played by Ben Affleck in what I consider to be one of his strongest performances yet, known to the public as the blind lawyer from Hell's Kitchen, is a man that has been cursed ever since he was a young boy. The opening segment of the movie is enthralling in the way it provides two crucial conflicts in the story; Matt losing his sight in a toxic waste spilling accident, and the sudden murder of his father (David Keith) a former prize fighter.

Though he has lost his sight, Murdock gains something in return. Each of his remaining senses is given superhuman strength, or more like a radar-like power to be more precise. From the moment he takes control of his new found gift, he decides from this day forward that he will use it to protect those who aren’t given proper justice.

Working as a lawyer in Hell's Kitchen, and accepting the only honest and completely innocent of clients, Murdock serves lady justice in both forms; as a lawyer by day and masked avenger by night. His alter ego comes in handy when the corruptible justice system lets loose of those who are very much guilty of the crimes they commit.

As for the new content added to the movie, it mostly involves a new plot angle involving a client Murdock agrees to represent, played by rapper Coolio. It's a plot angle that connects to a crucial revelation in the story in a most surprising way. There are more humorous scenes between Murdock and his ever-so-hapless law associate, Franklin Nelson (Jon Favreau). And there is more bone crunching moments involving Kingpin, as well as his newly appointed cold hearted assassin, Bullseye (Colin Farrell).

What's been removed from the movie is the intense love story between Murdock and his tough-as-nails match, Elektra (Jennifer Garner). Although I didn't find the romance between them to take away from anything in the original, I did think it was something of a wise choice to make room for the new material that has been added. The decision to do such resulted in a much more satisfying and darker movie.

In short, Daredevil has never been a weak movie by any means, but I'd be lying if I said that this new Director's Cut wasn't one of the more effective and impressive alternative cuts I've seen of any movie.

BONUS TRIVIA: If you're desperate like myself for more of Jennifer Garner in the role of Elektra, your wish has been granted, as Ms. Garner will be reprising the role in Elektra, which hits theaters in January.

Video ****

While I didn't see much of a change from the original DVD release, Fox has just as an incredible job this time around. The anamorphic picture excels in every possible way, from color tones to picture clarity to all around detail. Having said that, I have can easily say that Daredevil remains a triumphant moment for Fox in the DVD market. The presentation is simply stunning.

Audio ****

Likewise, the powerful audio sound--while not that much difference from the previous release, still has amazing levels of dynamic range, which is perfect when dealing with a fast paced action adventure like this. Action, music playback, dialogue delivery and all the provided set pieces allow for a grand piece of powerful sound, courtesy of Fox.

Features **1/2

Although I may prefer this new cut of the movie, I wouldn't in any way suggest parting ways with the original, more loaded 2-disc release. Keep that around because of the features.

Though the extras are light on this disc, they do have a level of noteworthiness. Included is a new commentary with writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Avi Arad, a featurette titled "Giving the Devil His Due" which explains the purpose of the Director's Cut of the movie, and an Inside Look at other 20th Century Fox releases.

Summary:

Perfectly dubbed "A Daring New Vision", Daredevil has been given a much bolder reworking through this stunning and quite striking Director's Cut. It's one of the finest examples of a movie being told in a fresh new way, and elevating itself to a higher level in the process. Definitely worth checking out!

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