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Review: Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone
12.05.2008
4 10

PLOT: When a local Mob boss is set free due to a technicality, The Punisher takes out the trash, Punisher style. This soon brings out the wrath of a new villain named Jigsaw… not the one who makes torture devices. With the cops looking for every move the man of vengeance makes and a new group of evildoers to fight, he finds himself protecting a mother and her daughter from this new group of baddies. Meanwhile, every clichéd stereotype is explored. and the Punisher finds himself in a battle to save his city from Jigsaw and his merry band of villains.

REVIEW: Whether or not you are going to like PUNISHER: WAR ZONE depends on one simple thing. If you go in expecting a serious and brutally violent Punisher who is deep in sorrow with mucho pissed off anger management issues, you’ll be very disappointed. Now I’m not saying that it isn’t brutally violent or that the Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) isn’t pissed off. No, all of that is absolutely true. But what you actually get is an almost comedic version of over the top gore and ridiculously implausible set pieces, that won‘t even step foot in reality. Yes, I did say comedic? Oh yes I did. The dialogue is completely inane that it feels almost like a spoof on comic hero movies. Director Lexi Alexander seems to plant tongue firmly in cheek while directing dialogue that is laughable and action that is oftentimes hilarious. Especially notable is one character that is literally blown up, while doing some ninja flip from one building to another. I’ve rarely heard as many laughs in a theatre this year as I did when this moron explodes.

For me, I kind of appreciate this series in a less hokey format. While it would have been just as annoying to see another superhero movie trying to be dark and brooding, I still would have preferred less funny in my Punisher. But I will say that this story of a vigilante hero knocking off Mafioso types and whoever else gets in his way is gory in all the right ways… at least for my personal tastes. Whether it is a fist through somebody’s face or a man tossed in a bottle recycling facility, the special effects are pretty damn good for the most part. You want to see a bloody pulp? You will here. Heads are blown off, bodies are shot up and stabbed. Hell, even when Dominic West’s Billy Russoti turns into Jigsaw, it is pretty darn gruesome. Marvel Knights has made a nice, hard R super hero flick. But even though I appreciated the bloody aspects, I sometimes felt that someone spliced this film with a FRIDAY THE 13th sequel. Seriously, when Castle shoves his fist into someone’s face, you gotta wonder if he had some training with Jason Voorhees.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a serious element to the film. When an innocent character is killed by Castle, he has even more pain and guilt. So much so that he attends to the wife and child of this innocent man. While I always seem to like Julie Benz, I just didn’t feel that she was the right choice for this character. I also found the “connection” between her daughter and the Punisher a bit on the silly side. While everything around this storyline is so high octane, I felt like this didn’t quite work with the nature of the film. Especially since the rest of the film is so big, brash and loud. This was an unnecessary set of characters and sequences that the film could have done without. It made me question whether they knew exactly what type of film they were making.

As for the rest of this “epic“, sadly I was hoping for a less laughable romp filled action flick. We find Frank Castle laying low and looking to get rid of a nasty mob boss who the justice system failed to convict. The guy is old, and with the help of a carefully placed chandelier, the Punisher comes in kicking ass and taking names. But sadly, one of the names he doesn’t take is Russoti. Dominic West plays this character as if he were doing Warren Beatty’s DICK TRACY. Even before his accident (courtesy of Frank) turns him into Jigsaw, he is just a walking stereotype. Actually, all the bad guys are walking stereotypes. When Russoti begins recruiting a bunch of minorities to help him destroy his enemies, not a one of them is remotely interesting. These guys are purely a way to boost up the large body count, which is pretty damn high. And the rest of Russoti’s gang, including his criminally insane brother Jim (Doug Hutchinson), are all just a bunch of fodder waiting to die deserving deaths. But in a sense, this may just be the perfect comic book film for this character... after all, in the comics, he once had a gun that shot swords.

My initial reaction to the film was just disappointment. I was really ready to have a blast and I was hoping for the best. Thanks to Lexi and crew, the film is fairly well shot. The lighting design is fitting as it adds that extra touch of atmosphere giving each location its own special look. Yet even that seemed to be a bit obvious. And even though it is a surprisingly well made film and has a groovy gruesome quality, the script and the hammy acting kept me laughing to the point I forgot I was watching an action movie. Jason Voorhees seems to have a bit of competition thanks to this new and improved(?) Frank Castle. My biggest problem is the absolute lack of seriousness here. The charm wears thin after awhile and I just couldn’t wait for Jigsaw to die. His performance feels more like an “Saturday Night Live” sketch than a menacing bad guy. And he was by far the best of the villains. Will audiences like the bang ‘em over the head nature of War Zone? I’m not sure. But I also question whether this will be one of those movies where, after you get the joke, the second viewing may be more pleasurable. Sadly, the first time wasn’t a charm for me… I still prefer the Dolph Lundgren version. My rating 4.5/10 -- JimmyO

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Source: JoBlo.com

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