Awfully Good #72

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Director: Lexi Alexander
Stars: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz


Is there a plot?

After his family was brutally murdered by the mob, Frank Castle has spent his time violently eradicating organized crime as The Punisher. But after he accidentally kills an undercover federal agent, the vigilante begins to listen to My Chemical Romance and question his existence.


What's the damage?

The Punisher hasn’t had much luck on the big screen. I love Dolph Lundgren, but the 1989 PUNISHER movie could've been any standard vigilante flick. I’m also a big Tom Jane advocate and thought he worked as Frank Castle in the 2004 adaptation, but the movie itself barely kept me awake. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, on the other hand….whew, this is how you make a Punisher movie!

I believed in Harvey Dent and all I got was this lousy facial reconstructive surgery.

It’s hard to judge a film that is so obviously ridiculous on purpose, with as much complete carnage and utter excess as a Punisher flick should have. This is a world of endless ammo and magically appearing guns, a land where henchmen love to randomly do acrobatics, and a society where The Punisher and horribly disfigured villain Jigsaw can both run down a busy sidewalk in New York City and nobody notices or cares. It might be a completely authentic comic book world, and kudos to director Lexi Alexander for getting that. Still, there is plenty of crappy acting, bizarre plot turns and genuinely bad moments that also let PUNISHER: WAR ZONE comfortably join the Awfully Good ranks. Huzzah!

The Adam’s Apple piercing; stings at first, but totally worth it.

The main area of concern is the treatment of the title character himself. Ray Stevenson is a perfect Punisher from a physical and visual standpoint. (And he’s actually a good actor to boot.) However, Frank Castle has two modes in this movie: unstoppable badass killing machine…and emo superhero fortified with the power of pouting. A good chunk of PUNISHER: WAR ZONE consists of the guy sulking in the rain about accidentally killing an innocent guy and then stalking his family. Seriously, he waits outside their home and then approaches the young girl to give her his flashlight. No, that’s not a euphemism for something.

“Hope. Change. Rape. Lower taxes. This is America. Vote for me, Jigsaw!”

And the Punisher isn’t the only emotastic guy in the film. Jigsaw, played to cheesy perfection by the great Dominic West, is mostly your average batshit crazy bad guy, except for the random moments where he cries like a little girl about how ugly he is. (See the second Best Parts clip.) That also brings us to the super creepy and potentially homoerotic relationship between Jigsaw and his wacky brother Loony Bin Jim. Mostly their relationship is played like a bad murderous sitcom, but then there are weird moments where they embrace or near-kiss enough to make me long for Emo Punisher.

Jerry Seinfeld collects another royalty check.

What else is horrible/great about PUNISHER: WAR ZONE? There’s a fight straight out of THEY LIVE. More to the point, there’s so much violence and gore in this movie that it’s truly glorious, STORY OF RICKY glorious. (So much blood is shed that I actually began to think about the poor janitorial engineers who would have to mop it all up. Seriously, whose job is it to clean up severed head from someone’s fence?) The story literally exists to build up potential victims for The Punisher, which is why the bad guys take time to conveniently build a (multi-ethnic) army before the final fight. And then there’s my personal favorite plot point: at one point the government actually makes a deal with a crazed serial killer to let him free in exchange for intel on the terrorists he’s working with. Then when it’s over they actually honor the deal and release him! 



"Best" Line

I couldn’t decide between these two, so you get them both.



"Best" Parts

1) A must-watch montage of all the most gloriously violent parts of PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. You gotta see it to believe it. If you have the stomach for it.


2) Our crazed psychopathic villain has an emo breakdown. And then things get really weird.


3) Does this extended alley fight between a white and black guy who are on the same side remind anybody else of THEY LIVE? Also, classic last line.


4) This intense dramatic exchange builds up to a suspenseful climax, which is then ruined by the dumbest icebreaker question ever. Also, why does the little girl not seem to care that her mom is holding up some dude at gunpoint?


Nudity Watch

Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight does a sexy striptease with silken scarves. Nah, I’m just kidding. That only happens in my dreams.


Enjoyableness Continuum:

Call Dolph Lundgren and Tom Jane pussies! Buy this movie here!


Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • The punisher should be reloading
  • An emo moment occurs
  • Someone looks in or breaks a mirror
  • There’s a great kill or money shot


Thanks to our own Ammon Gilbert for adamantly suggesting this week’s movie!



Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.



Source: DVD Clinic
Tags: awfully good



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