Born in Hell's Kitchen. Blinded age 12. Orphaned soon after. Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is a tortured soul. Dapper, public-spirited lawyer by day, Daredevil by night - a costumed, acrobatic martial artist dispensing summary justice upon New York's unsavories. Think Dirty Harry, in a burgundy bodysuit.
A rousing comic book adventure, "Daredevil" is a surprise success. The character may not be as well-known as the men of Super, Spider and Bat, but writer-director Mark Steven Johnson has fashioned a solid, enjoyable actioner, which should please fan and philistine alike.
The plot is pretty perfunctory, less concerned with spinning a compelling story, as spawning a franchise. Thus, we learn how Murdock lost his sight, yet gained supersenses, and how he was motivated to fight crime. Then we're introduced to underworld boss Kingpin (an underused Michael Clarke Duncan), his sharp-eyed henchman Bullseye (a gloriously OTT Colin Farrell), and the love interest: slinky rich girl Elektra (Jennifer Garner).
If this sounds a bit bitty, that's because it is. Spectacular set-piece shunts spectacular set-piece, without a strong narrative arc to hook the viewer. The picture partly proposes to examine the morality of the eponymous vigilante - "I'm not the bad guy," he tells a terrified kid - but there's a certain perversity in asking the audience to question Daredevil's decency, while revelling in his retribution.
And what retribution. For "Daredevil" is brutal, and it's in the action - whatever you think of its Daily Mail ethics - that the movie excels. Affleck is a surprisingly adept superhero, punching above his weight in a series of fantastic fights, making convincing computer-assisted leaps from building to building as he stalks the New York cityscape.
And at least Johnson recognises ambiguity. He even slips in a Christian subtext amid the mayhem - thorns pierce Murdock's hand, a villain suffers lead-inflicted stigmata, our hero wonders: "Can one man make a difference? There are days when I believe and others when I have lost all faith." See this. And believe.