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Daredevil: Director's Cut

If, as Kevin Smith posits, Daredevil is essentially the Grateful Dead to Spider-Man's Beatles and Captain America's Elvis, then writer/director Mark Steven Johnson must be the zonked-out Deadhead who digs the band's groove but hasn't the requisite vocabulary, nor the musical expertise, to express why they're so exceptional. "He's just… Daredevil, man! Look at him, with his tragic childhood and his fiercely vengeful rage — he's the most, man!" For this reason, Daredevil (2003) feels like the single most expensive fan-film ever made. It's an awed disaster so in love with the source material that it confuses fidelity with inspiration. Now, it's available in a long-awaited-by-masochists, R-rated "Director's Cut" that brings the whole sorry endeavor to an excruciating new low. A case was made at the time of the film's release that a PG-13 Daredevil could never capture the grittiness of the comic book character as reinvented by Frank Miller. That may still be true, but don't expect Mark Steven Johnson's "daring new vision" (as it's trumpeted by the DVD package) to bring the heretofore-lacking pain, unless one is in the market for the straightforward, non-Method Man variety. In that case, "pain" barely begins to describe the horrors of this value-added monstrosity. Aside from more violence, which frankly seems terribly out of place in Johnson's CG-heavy universe no matter how close he thinks he's getting to Frank Miller's highly acclaimed reimagining of the character, the extra 30 minutes means more backstory and more Coolio, who was unceremoniously cut out of the theatrical release much to the chagrin of his remaining fan. Both additions are a mistake. What was once a tightly edited if unconvincing slab of exposition is now a bloated 20-minute slog that irrevocably stalls the film before its story attempts to kick into gear. Meanwhile, the Coolio subplot involves a murder case that imports an unnecessary twist into the narrative. (It should be noted that Coolio's acting has actually regressed since his star-making turn in the "Fantastic Voyage" video.) Essentially, every single addition serves only to exacerbate everything that was wrong about the theatrical version, while hamstringing with ineffective sequences the few likeable elements — e.g. Colin Farrell's Bullseye and Jon Favreau's Foggy Nelson — that kept the film from being uttered in the same breath as Albert Pyun's Captain America. Now… utter away. Fox presents Daredevil: Director's Cut in an excellent anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with outstanding Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The feature-length commentary by Johnson and Marvel chairman Avi Arad calls the film Daredevil 1.5, suggesting that this release is the detritus of what was intended to be a much larger set along the lines of what Fox has done with the X-Men franchise. Now, it's just a pump-primer for the Elektra spin-off, which Johnson isn't even directing. The featurette "Giving the Devil His Due" makes a very weak case for this version existing anywhere outside of an editing suite. Also on board are trailers for AVP and I, Robot. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks



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