Daredevil is a 2003 American superhero film written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film stars Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who fights for justice in the courtroom and out of the courtroom as the masked vigilante Daredevil. Jennifer Garner plays his love interest Elektra Natchios, Colin Farrell plays the merciless assassin Bullseye, David Keith as Battling Jack Murdock, a washed up fighter who is Matt’s father, and Michael Clarke Duncan plays Wilson Fisk, also known as the crime lord Kingpin.
The film began development in 1997 at 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, before New Regency acquired the rights in 2000. Johnson chose to shoot the film primarily in Downtown Los Angeles despite the Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan setting of the film and the comics. Rhythm and Hues Studios were hired to handle the film’s CGI needs. Graeme Revell composed the Daredevil score which was released on CD in March 2003, whereas the various artists soundtrack album, Daredevil: The Album, was released in February.
Reviews of the film were generally mixed or average. Despite this, the film still enjoyed a profitable theatrical run and became February’s second biggest release. The film was successful enough to allow a spin-off film, Elektra, which was released in 2005. Also in 2005, an R-rated director’s cut of the film was released, incorporating approximately thirty minutes back into the film, including an entire sub-plot involving a character played by Coolio. The director’s cut was praised by many as an improvement over the theatrical version.
Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is a blind lawyer who lives in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and runs a firm with his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Jon Favreau), which only defends innocent people and does not require payment.
As a child, Matt (Scott Terra) was blinded after toxic waste was spilled over his eyes while he was running away from home after discovering that his father, former boxer Jack “The Devil” Murdock (David Keith), had become an enforcer for a local mobster. The accident, however, also enhanced his other senses and gave him a sonar that allowed him to “see” through sonic vibrations. His father, blaming himself for his disability, stopped being an enforcer and went back to boxing. However, his new career was short-lived and he was murdered after refusing to turn in a fixed fight by the same mobster that had employed him earlier. In order to avenge his father’s death, Matt learned martial arts and used his abilities to become a crime-fighter known as “Daredevil”, who operates in Hell’s Kitchen, going after the criminals that escape the conventional means of justice.
One day, Matt meets and falls in love with Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), daughter of Nikolas Natchios (Erick Avari), a businessman that has dealings with Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan), a rich executive who is also the Kingpin of New York City’s Underworld. When Nikolas tries to bail on his dealings with Fisk, Fisk hires the Irish hitman Bullseye (Colin Farrell), who never misses a shot, to kill him. Daredevil tries to stop Bullseye, even causing him to miss a shot, but Bullseye ultimately succeeds in killing Nikolas and framing Daredevil in the process. As a result, Elektra swears to take revenge on him as reporter Ben Urich (Joe Pantoliano), who had been investigating Daredevil’s activities, discovers his secret identity. Believing Daredevil to have done good things for Hell’s Kitchen, he tells Matt that Bullseye will be going after Elektra next.
Daredevil goes after Bullseye, but is attacked by Elektra, who had trained herself into becoming a martial artist in order to avenge her father’s death by killing Daredevil. She only discovers the truth after wounding Matt. Forced to fight Bullseye alone, Elektra is overpowered and murdered by the hitman, who is forced to flee before killing Daredevil when the police arrives, tipped off by Urich. Matt, wounded, makes his way to a local church, where he is looked after by Father Everett (Derrick O’Connor), who knows his secret identity. After recovering for a while, Daredevil fights Bullseye, who had followed him to the church. After a violent battle, Bullseye discovers that loud noise is Daredevil’s weakness and prepares to kill him with a spiked piece of wood. Daredevil blocks the attack and hears an FBI sniper stationed on the neighbor building preparing to fire. As the bullet is fired, Daredevil moves out of the path of the bullet and pulls Bullseye’s hands in the way as the bullet bursts through his hands. Wounded, Bullseye pleads for mercy, but is overpowered by Daredevil and thrown from the church’s top floor. He lands on the hood of a car, wounded but alive.
Upon discovering that Fisk is the Kingpin and Bullseye’s employer, Daredevil makes his way to his office, where they fight. In the process, Matt discovers that Fisk was the thug that killed his father many years before. He finds the strength to overpower Fisk, but refrains from killing him, instead allowing him to be arrested by the police, who had discovered that he is the Kingpin. Before being taken away, Fisk – who had also discovered Daredevil’s secret identity – swears revenge on Matt, though Daredevil manages to taunt him with the fact that Kingpin was beaten down by a blind man.
Having taken down the Kingpin and gained some closure on his father’s murder, Matt goes back to his day-to-day routine, his strength renewed by the possibility that Elektra might still be alive, after he finds a locket belonging to her on the place they first met, modified to have its message in Braille. Matt meets Urich one last time, in which Urich assures that he will not publish his article about Matt’s true identity, and Daredevil dives into the night, forever a Man Without Fear.
During the credits, Bullseye, having been moved to a prison hospital and severely bandaged up after his confrontation with Daredevil, is shown to still have his perfect aim despite his injuries after he impales a fly on the wall with a nearby syringe needle.
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