Movie: "Punisher: War Zone"
Genre: Action / Adventure
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Writing credits: Nick Santora, Matt Holloway, Arthur Marcum
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Plot: During a raid on a mafia operation, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, accidentally shoots an undercover FBI agent. Now, he must come to grips with his feelings over the mistake while avoiding capture. Further complications arise when Jigsaw, a mobster he disfigured, emerges to pursue the slain FBI agent's family.
Review: After the painfully lame Punisher movie of 2004, I wasn’t expecting much from War Zone. On the one hand, it wasn’t encouraging to hear that Tom Jane bailed on the project because he didn’t like the script. On the other hand, apart from his gravelly voice, Jane wasn’t exactly Punisher material. Having seen the movie, I think it was for the best.
Frank Castle’s family is dead, and now he kills criminals for a living. This is pretty well-established. He’s been at it for a while now, but he hits a little snag when during a routine shootout, he accidentally wastes an undercover FBI agent. Now, wracked with guilt, he contemplates hanging up his shooting irons for good. Further complicating things is Jigsaw, a mobster who was grossly disfigured after Frank tossed him into a glass... grinding... thing. It looks mean and it breaks up glass bottles. For recycling, let’s say.
The rest of the movie is kind of a blur. Why? Because it’s god awful. The film opens up with an action sequence that prepares you for the sort of over-the-top violence you can expect throughout, but then there are these long sequences where everyone is... talking! Some movies can do scenes with dialogue in them, but Punisher: War Zone is not one of them. Some of the lines are laughably bad, but the rest are merely bad.
And part of that problem can be blamed on the actors themselves. The film suffers from a glut of irritating support characters, many of whom will not be killed by the Punisher during the course of the film. Highlights include Carlos, the former Latin Kings member whose exaggerated accent had the entire theater laughing at one point, and Budiansky, the by-the-book ham of an FBI agent who you know will be rooting for Castle by the end of the movie.
But none of these characters compare to Jigsaw’s psychotic brother, Loony Bin Jim, played by Doug Hutchinson. Funny story: IMDB listed Doug Hutchinson as an actor. This was an oversight on their part, as Mr. Hutchinson is not even an actual human being. Rather, he is a device built by the SFX team to deliver terrible lines like “Yummy yummy yummy in my tummy tummy tummy” (which did not sound any better in context, I assure you) in such a way that every. Word. Seems. Like. Its. Own. Sentence. I wanted him to be shot the moment he started talking, but no, he had to be a part of the plot.
But again, it’s not all his fault that the movie is so bad. Director Lexi Alexander is as much to blame as anyone else. Now, in a film where in the first ten minutes, the title character decapitates an old man and simultaneously breaks the necks of two people with his hands and feet, you can’t expect there to be a lot of subtlety. At the same time, though, shots framed during the slower parts of this movie are often intended to convey symbolism, as well as other crap you learn about in film school. Instead, they wind up being so overt and heavy-handed that you wonder if the director didn’t take notes from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
At one point, as Jigsaw is contemplating his new ugliness, he sees a big video billboard showing an animated jigsaw puzzle. We know he sees the billboard because they show it twice, and hold on it long enough for even densest viewer to see where they’re going with it. I half-expected him to say, “call me Jigsaw, like that billboard down there.” Then again, maybe the scene was supposed to show how he was debating between calling himself Jigsaw, from the billboard, or Scarface, from the “The World is Yours” sign just below it. Boy that would’ve been weird, huh?
But it’s not all bad news. Ray Stevenson does a fantastic job as the Punisher. He even manages to work around the terrible dialogue, and the “bonding” scenes between him and the girl whose dad he killed. He’s easily the best Punisher actor (sorry Dolph). Let’s just hope they can get him a better script for the next movie.
Apart from the terrible quality of the movie as a whole, the other complaint I’ve heard from people is that it’s too violent. First of all, heaven forbid there be a lot of violence in a movie about a man who does nothing but kill criminals. More importantly, though, the movie is based off of the Punisher MAX series. Those comics are packed, PACKED with blood and gore. Point-blank gunshots, vivisections, it’s all in there. And sure, there is an almost baffling amount of violence in War Zone, but most of the really outrageous scenes are humorously overdone. Ask yourself, did I laugh at Story of Ricky? Yes? Then the violence in this film won’t be a problem.
Is Punisher: War Zone a great superhero movie? No. Is it bad enough to seem like a straight comedy? Not quite. If you’re a fan of the character, I think you’ll enjoy Stevenson’s portrayal, but you’ll have to suffer through a lot of other crap. The violence, though, shouldn’t be much of a problem. For me, there was one exception to this: in one scene, develops a strange sniffle. Instead of blowing his nose, he grabs a pencil, shoves it up his nose, and... I’m not sure what exactly he does, but it involved a lot of wet crunching and ended with him withdrawing a bloody pencil. That was by far the most punishing scene in the movie.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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