Marvel’s long-awaited TV adaptation of the “Daredevil” comic book hit Netflix on Friday, and the title character makes one thing perfectly clear from the beginning: His methods are not pretty.
The show centers on Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer who dons a mask and stretchy outfit at night to sort out whatever problems his day job can’t touch.
Murdock is about as far from the traditional cookie-cutter superhero found on network TV as can be. He kills people – and not always by accident. His “plans” often deteriorate into clumsy brawls in which he is hurt more than the thugs he is attacking.
However, through great casting and a fantastic sense of story pace, the hours melt off the clock while watching a truly fantastic addition to Marvel’s unending adaptation stable take shape.
Cox (“Boardwalk Empire”) simply is Murdock/Daredevil. His commitment to the role of a blind man – never once even flinching when other actors perform strictly visual actions – is exceptional. His half-clumsy, half-acrobatic movements fit the spirit of the beloved character, and his slow, monotone delivery of each line gives the character a slightly sinister edge.
However, the lynchpin of the entire cast was the selection of Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin, Daredevil’s principle enemy. I don’t know what strange, independent movie set they peeled D’Onofrio from, but I hope they never let him go back. We all know he can produce “crazy guy” on a screen as well as anyone.
The “Daredevil” creative team chose to gently fold the Kingpin into the story – almost as if they were mixing the ingredients of a mass-murdering Chiffon cake. The buildup allows both the character’s loving and twisted sides to shock us even further.
“Daredevil” also maintains a wonderful sense of balance.
The writers put serious work into developing both of Murdock’s lives; we spend a good chunk of the first few episodes watching him give closing arguments in court and deal with office problems. This somewhat tedious time adds more punch to the fight scenes.
That’s where the true genius of this latest “Daredevil” adaptation shows through: The fight choreography.
The show’s many, many brawls walk a seemingly impossible line between appearing completely fake and being some of the most realistic fights in the entire genre. Murdock can somehow predict the movements of the eight guys he is taking on, but hitting someone’s leg with a pipe actually forces bone out of the skin.
This weird back-and-forth totally works. We expect at least a little bit of a fantastic suspension of reality from a superhero show. At the same time, the shock of exposed muscle and shattered bodies give us the pit in our stomach that we should have when watching mob violence.
Overall, “Daredevil” has an aggression that you simply can’t find in any other superhero franchise. It is an unapologetically dark tale of a flawed, but noble vigilante and an absolutely addictive streaming experience.