Hollywood continues to work its way through the pages of popular superhero comic book titles, plundering the tall tales of men and women practising aeronautical acrobatics in colourful costumes. Making his big screen debut after the successes of X-Men and Spider-Man, however, Daredevil, the scarlet-leather clad blind hero with bat-like radar vision, disappoints. Where the other two films showed surprising fidelity to their source material, capturing the camp, knockabout essence of the comics, but offsetting that with a tough edge and self-depreciating humour (which neatly side-stepped them becoming laughable), Daredevil writer-director Mark Steven Johnson is at pains to have us take his superhero seriously, emphasising the tough edge over all else.

The resulting film is a series of violent melées, initially impressive but quickly becoming tedious, leaving little room for character and plot development. True, superhero comics generally - and simply - sketch in a hero’s ‘secret origin’, ditto the supervillain and then have them duke out on the rooftops of a major American city, but where Spider-Man also managed to illustrate the fun and fear of being a college kid with superhuman powers, Daredevil the movie gets its action-unfriendly backstory out of the way ASAP.

Thereafter, Daredevil (blandly played by bland Ben Affleck) does battle, variously, with New York City crime boss the Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan, black not white as in the comics but of the correct stature to play the man mountain), martial arts babe Electra (Jennifer Garner, the love interest here rather than the formidable assassin of the comic) and Bullseye (Colin Farrell, deadly marksman on the page here recast as an Irish thug who’s full of blarney).

And with its story of a man driven to the extremes of vigilantism by the murder of a parent, Daredevil plays like a pale imitation of the Tim Burton Batman films (in fact, those films were based on The Dark Knight Returns Batman graphic-novel created by Frank Miller, who also reinvented Daredevil as a dark and disturbing hero back in the 1980s). But the conflict between Daredevil’s two identities (by day he's Matt Murdock, attorney at law who helps the poor) which plagues him with mental health problems is barely touched upon.

The most enjoyable thing about Daredevil are the in-jokes. Marvel Comics guru (to some) Stan Lee has a walk-on part, filmmaker and comics scribe Kevin Smith also has a cameo (as Kirby, ie Jack Kirby, the real Marvel Comics guru to many) and a boxing arena canopy announces a fight between Matt’s dad, Jack, and one John Romita (much-loved Daredevil comic artist). That in-jokery is the best on offer here says a lot about the quality of the film. (Miles Fielder)

I General release from Fri 14 Feb.

At pains to be taken seriously


marriage. 80 too begins American narrative to narrative. it slowly

(12A) 114min COO.

Oscars contender

‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ So begins Virginia Woolf's 1925 modernist novel that used the events of a single day to tell the stay of a woman whose life has been socially defined and restricted by her

author Michael Cunningham's 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning postmodern novel. The H0urs. and so too begins Stephen (Billy Elliot) Daldry's film adaptation of it.

Already a serious contender for Best Director and Best Screenplay at this year's Oscars. The Hours takes Woolf's idea of a 'woman's whole life in a Single day' and extends it to three women from three different time periods. The first is Woolf herself (played by Nicole Kidman). who we meet in Richmond. Surrey. 1925. struggling with her inner demons to find that first sentence of her novel. Then we move to LA. 1959. where we find Laura Brown (Julianne Moore). a semi-comatosed housewife who's retreated from life into literature. and then on to present day New YOrk to discover lesbian single mother, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep). Using a series of common motifs to move effortlessly from

becomes clear that these very different InClIVldualS share in common the feeling that they have been living their lives for someone else.

Aside from the skill shown by screenwriter Davrd Hare and director Daldry in the seamless blend of three separate stories. The Hours is also remarkable in the perfOrmances of its actors. Kidman shines from beneath her pale make-up and prosthetic nose. MOOre and Streep deliver strong yet understated perfOrmances. while an impressive supporting cast includes Toni Collette playing Kitty. the made-up face of suppression. and John C Reilly yet again playing a doting. slightly doltish husband. Genumely moving. The Hours is one film you won't want to pass by.

(Catherine Bromleyl I General release from Fri 14 Feb. See prewew, page 24.




(15) 119min COO.

DehOunced b\ the Vatican and hOHOured bx the Venice Film Festnai. Peter Mullan's second feature as writer- direct0r is the cause of much controverSy Outraged by what he saw in the Channel ‘1 d0Cumentary. Sex in .2 CO/d Climate. Mullan has dramatised a regime represswe to women which the filmmaker likens to the Taliban's treatment of Afghan females,

These are the Magdalene laundiies. run by the IrISh Catholic Church from the 19505 to the late 903. In these cements the inappropriately named Sisters of Mercy enforced the slave labour of yOung women, who, thr0ugh the colIuSion of church. state and famin were imprisoned indefinitely for 'immoral crimes' ranging from being raped to givmg birth out of wedlock.

During the film's opening Mullan cannily shows how three girls. Margaret. Bernadette and Rose (Anne-Marie Duff, NOra-Jane Noone and Derothy Duffy. each excellent) are thus sent to a laundry. Thereafter. they are iornerl by the already-incarcerated Crispina (Eileen Walsh. likewise excellent). becoming what Mullan calls the 'four musketeers'. and apart from a brief coda the remainder of the film focuses in harrowmg detail on life in the laundry.

Cause of controversy

Overseeing the brutal treatment of the 'Sinners' is Sister Bridget. played With a chilling bemused look by tiny-framed Geraldine McEwan. Mullan's deClSIOll to have Bridget smile while she abuses (she's merely carrying out God’s wrll, see?) is one of several clever tricks which raise the film above straightforward prison-style drama. The girls' incarceration is mental as well as phySical. as illustrated in a tragic scene when Margaret escapes the convent. only to return of her own (no longer free) Will.

Tough as this is to watch, Mullan includes comic aSides. Such as a Christmas Day (the one day the girls don't work) screening The Bells of St Mary's. featuring Ingrid Bergman as a 'nice nun'. According to Mullan's interViews wrth Magdalene SUNlVOfS. his powerful film isn't as harrowmg as it 00uld be. but then he doesn't want to dISSUade peeple from seeing this important st0ry. He‘s right: it is important and everyone sh0uld see it.

(Miles Fielder) I GFE Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 21 Feb. See feature, page 20.

13—27 Feb 2003 THE LIST 25