Colin Farrell Drilled a Bullseye in 2003’s ‘Daredevil’

Feb 20, 2023

Among the many reasons that Netflix’s darker, grittier television series Daredevil was heralded by longtime fans is that it seemingly drew from the Frank Miller iteration of the character and ditched the campier tone of the 2003 film. 2003’s Daredevil, which was released 20 years ago today, was an odd product of its time. Instead of feeling like an auteur-driven passion project like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy or even Ang Lee’s Hulk, it simply felt like a collection of overly stylized action scenes, references to the comics, awkward humor, and disappointing performances. The only person who seemed to have any conscious desire to do something interesting was Colin Farrell, whose ridiculous performance as the hotshot assassin Bullseye is easily the best part of the movie.

One of the biggest issues with Daredevil is that it either miscasts or misuses each of its most important characters. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were completely wrong for a melodramatic, downbeat romance between Matt Murdock and Elektra, and their odd romantic sparring feeks distracting amidst the action scenes. While Michael Clarke Duncan is able to give a legitimately intimidating performance as Kingpin, his sense of menace doesn’t really work within the film’s PG-13 constraints. However, Farrell embraces the ludicrous nature of the role, adding a comic sense of absurdity to a film that isn’t taking itself very seriously.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Farrell is one of the best and most underrated actors of his generation. While he’s gained notoriety in recent years for his more subdued work in The Banshees of Inisherin and After Yang, he’s always had a comic edge to him. (It’s maybe most evident in Horrible Bosses.) During a time when Farrell was being poised as the next leading man, he chose to deliver a bonkers performance that he likely knew would bring him ridicule. Perhaps Farrell was simply thinking in advance, as he’s the only aspect of the film that seems to be remembered.

Bullseye Is Now Irish!
Daredevil plays fast and loose with the comic-book source material, and some of the changes to the characters’ origins are seemingly made to fit the actors portraying them. In a film that already feels like fan fiction, why not have a version of Bullseye that comes from Ireland? Instead of forcing Farrell to do an awkward American accent, he’s allowed to deliver the same sort of crass Irish insults that he delivers in In Bruges. It’s a fun revamp that doesn’t burden Farrell with any sort of tragic backstory; he’s simply a larger-than-life bad guy who you love to hate.

However, Farrell also understands that Bullseye has to be driven by ego in a way that Murdock isn’t. If Murdock feels both burdened and cursed by the abilities that he’s granted with and his desire to protect the city, Bullseye simply revels in his marksmanship and enjoys showing off his skills. This allows the audience to understand the fundamental differences between them, and in a way, Farrell makes Affleck’s performance more effective. His version of Murdock is a straight-laced lawyer who holds himself with dignity, and Bullseye is just a wild hooligan. Maybe Affleck’s depiction isn’t the most charismatic, but it’s hard not to root for him if it’ll just make Farrell shut his mouth for a few moments.

The Theatricality and Humor of Farrell’s Bullseye

Image via 20th Century Fox

Director Mark Steven Johnson embraced the hyper-stylized, rapidly edited style of early 2000s action movies. This ultimately made the set pieces feel weightless, as they lacked the precision and thematic depth of Spider-Man 2’s iconic train sequence or the invasion of the mansion in X2. This lack of specificity gave the actors very little room to innovate, and thus Farrell had to make the most of his brief moments. He does so by hilariously flicking paper clips at citizens on the street and choking old ladies on their own food. What else is a bored, highly-skilled assassin to do when he’s waiting in between jobs?

We get a bit more to Bullseye’s psychology during the sequence where he dresses up in the Daredevil suit to frame him for a murderous spree. As he wreaks havoc in the costume of his new nemesis, it feels as if Bullseye is mocking Matt and all his good intentions. While initially this is mostly just played for laughs, it does set up more tragic circumstances when Bullseye tracks down Elektra under Kingpin’s orders. In these moments, Matt truly feels helpless to do anything; Bullseye has bested him mentally and physically.

Daredevil’s Primary Villain Isn’t Its Best One
The final major action sequence in the church is easily the standout set piece in Daredevil, and shows the potential for what a more focused version of the film could have been. It’s a chance for Farrell to bring some legitimate menace to the role as he psychologically breaks down Matt’s identity. With Elektra’s blood on his hands and the knowledge that Kingpin murdered Jack Murdock (David Keith), Bullseye gets to torment Matt in a sacred place that has generally brought him comfort and sanctuary. Using the drumming of the church bells to shield Matt from his abilities is a particularly clever touch, and Farrell’s Bullseye is quick to note the irony.

It’s not surprising that in comparison, Matt’s confrontation with Kingpin is far less exciting. While the story tries to tell us that Kingpin should be the primary antagonist because of his involvement in Jack’s murder, Farrell actively shows what a villain looks like. It’s also not surprising that the few scenes in Daredevil that actually work are the ones between Farrell and Clark Duncan. They’re too few and far between, but they feel like two great actors at the height of their game making active choices about their interpretations.

There’s even more fun Farrell moments in the R-Rated director’s cut, including a more profanity-laden demand for a proper costume and an extended threat to Elektra during their final encounter. Daredevil had the potential to redeem itself with subsequent spinoffs, and it’s unfortunate that Marvel chose to pursue the Elektra project when a Farrell-led Bullseye film would have been far more interesting. However, the film’s ending reveals that Bullseye is still alive and just as ruthless as ever. Let’s hope that Kevin Feige hasn’t ruled out a multiverse cameo at some point.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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