#1  
Old 04-15-2011, 03:12 PM
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)

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PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)




DIRECTOR: Lexi Alexander
CAST: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Julie Benz, Wayne Knight, Colin Salmon, Dash Mihok


This is the third damn time that Hollywood has attempted a movie adaption of the Marvel Comics vigilante character (he's not really a 'superhero') The Punisher.

First there was the 1989 Dolph Lundgren version, which I admit I haven't seen in its entirety but based on the bits and pieces I have seen, looks pretty much like your average late '80s low-budget action flick except that the hero happens to be wearing the Punisher emblem on his shirt.

Then there was the 2004 version starring Thomas Jane, who was surprisingly effective in the role. To be fair, the Thomas Jane Punisher really wasn't bad....as a noir-ish revenge drama. The problem is, it wasn't much of a Punisher movie. It was hampered by too slow a pace, an incredibly non-threatening villain in John Travolta, and a complete lack of action. The Punisher didn't really get down to any "punishing" until the last 15 minutes of the movie, and by then it was too little too late.

Which brings us to 2008's Punisher: War Zone. So what's the verdict?
Well, the good news is this is definitely the balls-out Punisher flick that we didn't get in the Thomas Jane version. There's plenty of bone-crunching, blood-splattering action and carnage here. In fact, it almost rivals a slasher flick in terms of brutal violence.
The bad news is there's WAY too much emphasis on goofy comic relief, and it really ruins would could have been the first bonafide kick-ass Punisher movie.

First off, Ray Stevenson (HBO's "Rome", The Other Guys, The Book Of Eli, and most recently another Marvel adaption, Thor) is pretty good as Frank Castle/The Punisher. He doesn't give the character the pathos that Thomas Jane did, but he fits the bill just fine. It's not like this is a very demanding role or anything. Unlike the Jane version, The Punisher here is a gruff, one-note killing machine, which in fairness to Stevenson doesn't give him much opportunity to add much in the way of memorable touches. But he still gives his own spin on the character mainly through physical acting. I love how he just nonchalantly snaps his nose back into place after it's dislocated by a bad guy.

And the action and violence...MY LORD! There is LOADS of action in this flick, and I can honestly say without exaggeration or hyperbole, that Punisher: War Zone is the most ridiculously violent mainstream movie since Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop or Total Recall. Honestly, the Punisher puts Jason Voorhees to shame in this flick. Say what you will about War Zone, but nobody can complain that this Punisher isn't violent enough! Some of the onscreen carnage almost veers into jaw-dropping Troma territory. There's a scene where an old lady gets half her head blown off for God's sake!

So where does the movie go wrong? The villains, that's where. Dominic West as the disfigured gangster Jigsaw actually seems like a pretty cool baddie at first. In fact, when Jigsaw is first introduced, I was really psyched that on top of a decent Punisher and balls-to-the-wall action, this Punisher was also going to have a kick-ass bad guy.

But then something happens. Immediately after introducing Jigsaw, the movie then introduces another villain: Jigsaw's brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison; The Green Mile, The Burrowers). And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where War Zone completely derails and heads full-speed into goofball territory. From this point on, the movie begins spending way too much time on these two, and in every damn scene featuring the two of them, I swear West and Hutchison are literally competing with each other to see who can act more annoyingly over-the-top and mug for the camera more.

Imagine you're watching RoboCop and all of sudden two wacky villains from one of Joel Schumacher's Batman movies wander in and start yukking it up. That's exactly what this is like. And, sorry to say, it's enough to completely kill the vibe the movie previously had going, and ruins the whole thing.
There's one scene where Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim gather up all the city's criminals to rally against the Punisher, and I swear to God it felt like something from "Family Guy" or "Robot Chicken". Not cool.

As if the two of them weren't enough, there's also an eye-rollingly stupid comic-relief detective (Dash Mihok) to stink the place up even further.
Actually, the whole sub-plot with the detectives (Mihok as the 'funny' one and the cool Colin Salmon as the 'serious' one) is completely pointless, boring, and is obviously just here to pad-out the running time.
The detectives want to figure out who the Punisher is and what he'll do next. Who the fuck CARES?!? The audience already knows damn well who the Punisher is and what's going on, why the hell do we need to keep wasting time with these two guys?

Rounding out the cast are Julie Benz (Rambo) who is completely wasted as the damsel in distress, and Wayne Knight ("Seinfeld", Jurassic Park) who is surprisingly good as the Punisher's 'sidekick' of sorts Microchip.

In the end, Punisher: War Zone is another missed opportunity. It has it's good aspects but the negatives outweigh the positive. Director Lexi Alexander does a great job with the action scenes and there's some stylish shots here and there, but for God's sake figure out what kind of tone you want and stick to it next time. And for crying out loud if you ever work with Dominic West or Doug Hutchison again put a damn leash on 'em.

Last edited by Elgyn; 04-23-2011 at 12:14 AM..
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  #2  
Old 04-16-2011, 12:06 AM
I agree with a lot of the things you said here. Stevenson is perfect for the role. If you've read the comicbooks (I'm assuming you hadn't), you'd see the covers by Tim Bradstreet where his art of The Punisher resembles Stevenson. And his stoic tough guy character as opposed to Thomas Jane's partially grieving version, is a bit more accurate.

But what you refer to as the stupid comic relief detective played by Dash Mihok, is actually from the comicbook. That guy is supposed to be the unlucky detective assigned to the case nobody wants, and yes in the comicbook he's the funny cowardly type. So that is accurate. But Colin Salmon was severely miscast. The comicbook equivalent to his role would suggest someone like Danny Glover to play the part. Salmon is British, it's too obvious.

Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim are a tad too cartoonish to be taken seriously here. This was but one of the mistakes here, the others being too much focus on violence instead of a meatier plot.

I do agree with you on Benz and Knight, you're right on the money.

Overall, I was okay with this film. But Thomas Jane's version was a lot better in my opinion.
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  #3  
Old 04-16-2011, 02:54 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elgyn View Post
for God's sake figure out what kind of tone you want and stick to it next time. And for crying out loud if you ever work with Dominic West or Doug Hutchison again put a damn leash on 'em.
I'm a Marvel fan and even I hated this film. It didn't stop me from buying the DVD and listen to the director's commentary to see what exactly went wrong and without a doubt, it was a combination of a bad script and hiring Lexi. She seems like a nice woman but she kept saying how she wanted the over-the-top cheese and pushed Dominic West and company to give MORE. Honestly, she said they were uncomfortable with the level of cheese but she told them that they literally couldn't go too far. Don't blame Dominic West or Doug Hutchison.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acerky View Post
Overall, I was okay with this film. But Thomas Jane's version was a lot better in my opinion.
Yes, Thomas Jane's version is WAY better in my book.

I gave this thing a 4/10 and that was being kind.

It pains me to say it but this mess of a movie didnít know what it wanted to be. Itís so poorly written that Iím not sure it wouldíve mattered had they settled on a consistent tone. The villains are too cheesy to stomach and the extreme gore is simply unnecessary. I fully understand the grim and violent nature of the character. Blood spatter and excessive violence is one thing but the exploding heads grab bag of chaos on display serves no real purpose. Itís like taking the worst from torture horror flicks and mixing it with a heartless/mindless plot and adding just a dash of Dick Tracy level cheese. The mix simply doesnít work. Whatís worse, you donít finish the film feeling satisfied for fulfilled at all. Youíre left feeling dirty, insulted and, as a Marvel fan, frustrated. Frank Castle deserved so much better then this mess.
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  #4  
Old 04-16-2011, 07:30 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by acerky View Post
But what you refer to as the stupid comic relief detective played by Dash Mihok, is actually from the comicbook. That guy is supposed to be the unlucky detective assigned to the case nobody wants, and yes in the comicbook he's the funny cowardly type. So that is accurate. But Colin Salmon was severely miscast. The comicbook equivalent to his role would suggest someone like Danny Glover to play the part. Salmon is British, it's too obvious.

I really wouldn't have had a problem with Mihok as the character...IF he wasn't given so much screen time. I understand the detective characters are from the comics, but the movie just spends way too much time on them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeChar4321 View Post
I'm a Marvel fan and even I hated this film. It didn't stop me from buying the DVD and listen to the director's commentary to see what exactly went wrong and without a doubt, it was a combination of a bad script and hiring Lexi. She seems like a nice woman but she kept saying how she wanted the over-the-top cheese and pushed Dominic West and company to give MORE. Honestly, she said they were uncomfortable with the level of cheese but she told them that they literally couldn't go too far. Don't blame Dominic West or Doug Hutchison.

Wow...I guess that kind of puts things in perspective. Sounds like the studio should've kept HER on a leash.
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