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Saturday, 6 December 2008

Punisher: War Zone, 2008 - Movie Review

Director: Lexi Alexander
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Wayne Knight
Running Time: 103 / 107 minutes
Score: 6 / 10

This review by Joestank15.

The Punisher - Frank Castle aka "The Punisher" (Ray Stevenson) continues his one man war against the scum of New York. I am unsure as to whether this is a reboot or a sequel to the 2004 Thomas Jane movie, and about ten minutes into this stopped caring. It's just the Punisher punishing criminals, beginning and end. You either like this sort of brainless action or you don't.

I'm a sucker for comic book films and loved Ray Stevenson on the amazing HBO mini-series "Rome". He's a big stocky brute of a man, and looks believable as a killer. I applaud his decent American accent.

Unfortunately Stevenson's got maybe 50 lines in the entire film. It's two action scenes into the film before he says anything. The Punisher has one scene where he visits his families' collective grave site, and one scene where he talks with a preacher about what the repercussions Frank's style of street justice might return to him. That's all the introspect we get.

It is nice to see Wayne Knight doing work again. Lets hope he picks some better movies in the future. Julie Benz plays a supporting part, which is fitting as what my friends kept saying of this year's "Rambo" (which she also co-starred in) kept running through my head. I love her in "Dexter" but she too needs to find better films. Ones that don't require an on off again New York accent. It's fascinating to see actors I like in a really stupid film.

It's about half of a good movie thanks partly to a script that cripples the proceedings every step of the way with characters named "Loony Bin Jim" and writers ("Prison Break" writer Nick Santora, and Art Marcum and Matt Halloway) that don't know how to make believable original villains or deal with what might be going on in Frank's head. The latter two guys helped write "Iron Man", so you'd think some greatness would've rubbed off on them from that venture. C'mon guys! Marvel kept The Punisher going for 40 years! You'd think somewhere down the line they had issues where he talked to people about what he was thinking, the effect killing has on a man's soul, and all of that.

The violence is ridiculous. Equal parts stupid, funny, and awesome. As such, it lends a "Grindhouse" air to the film. It's brutal, even if director Lexi Anderson doesn't always know how to film it. Speaking of "Rambo", Frank also kills a man with a punch to the head in this one. Yes horror movie physics are strangely in play here, where anything that can kill, does kill in increasingly silly ways.

I'd like to say that the film is self aware of the unintentional humor, but it starts off so somber. When we follow Frank around the film takes itself seriously, with gritty tones and grays and greens. When the villains (Dominic West and Doug Hitchison), and the general supporting cast for that matter, pop up the quality changes to some 80's Steven Seagal film. The villains are a plunge back to the guys who killed in comically easy ways, chewed scenery like there's no tomorrow, and laughed for absolutely no reason at all. Dominic West talks like a New Yorker from the 1930's and just leers at everything. Doug Hitcherson snickers like it's his job and is so far beyond the top it's not even funny. It actually is, but quite, I think, unintentionally. The damn near parodying of villainy in this film kind of makes Frank's burden and vendetta into a mockery. The film is impossible to take seriously, so Stevenson, the only one who seems to take it seriously, is left in the dust. Shame. He's such a fine actor. For what it's worth though, it is fun, and I kept watching.

For those who loved 2008's Rambo, Die-hard fans of The Punisher and action junkies. For everyone else, you could do better.

The word camp seems to be being used an awful lot to describe this film around the web. For a Punisher movie that is not a good word to use! Have you seen it? What did you think of it?

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Anonymous said...

thanks for the review. would actually like to watch it myself, just to see if its really that bad. you could tell from the trailer the action and violence would be goofy but i hoped that at least the villains were clearly refined. ah well....rentin the dvd mayyyybe.

Live for films said...

I'll be going to see it on the big screen if I have the time, but may well end up watching it on DVD. Shame that it's not the Punisher we all thought and hoped it would be.

Anonymous said...

Great review!

Anonymous said...

dang, too bad they didn't bring back Thomas Jane to be Frank Castle again