Punisher War Zone

Posted: July 13, 2009 in Movies
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First off let me say this movie bombed so bad at the box office, that not only didn’t come to Korean theaters, it’s not even on DVD in Korea. I actually watched this movie on VHS. Luckily a foreigner gave me a VCR last year before they left the country.

So anyway it starts off with the montage of Punisher comics leading to the Marvel Logo, but this time it’s the Marvel Knights Logo. I assume there were plans to make more adult themed Marvel movies under this banner, but that probrably won’t happen considering how much money was lost here.

Ok so really, now to the actual movie. First of all,  it takes place in New York, which is a huge improvement over the last one. (By the way there’s no connection to the last one. His origin here is about parrallel to the comics.) Here Punisher has been in action for 4 years now, and people know who he is, but he has a hideout under the subway.  The opening scene is what we all want to see, Frank slaughtering mobsters. In the process one of his targets falls into a machine that recyles glass, which Frank turns on for him. The villain survives, and become Jigsaw, the movies main villain. (This is a similar but much more over the top origin than the comics.) The movie almost has a plot about russian mobsters bringing a WMD to NY, but it’s really about the Punisher Jigsaw conflict. There’s  a very interesting scenario played out as Frank (The Punisher) unknowingly kills an FBI agent who was undercover as a mobster. Naturally he’s torn up about this and almost hangs up his skull vest.

What really kills this movie is it’s supporting cast, from the poor mans Godfather in the beginning, to the acrobatic dreadlocked thugs, to the cop assigned to find Frank whose a total dweeb. Jigsaw is ok, but to the average movie goer who might have watched this he probrably seemed like a Joker clone. Also suddenly Jigsaw has a brother in the nuthouse whose a poor man’s Hannibal Lecter with some ultraviolence. (Jigsaw has no crazy brother in the comics)

Another thing that hurt was that while it is brutal and violent, sometimes it’s goofy violent. Some parts have so much blood shooting out of people it looked silly, like a bad horror movie.

There’s also some humor here and there that occasionaly works but sometimes doesn’t. It’s hard to watch the part where Jigsaw recruits various local gangs. Also the very very last scene is very very bad. Finally there’s  tiny bit of talking and philosophising (though not by Frank thankfully) about what the Punisher is and what he means. We didn’t need that.

Ray Stevenson on the other hand, plays Frank dead on. Like Conan the Barbarian, he doesn’t speak a word until around 20 minutes into the movie. When he’s in action, you get the impression that he’s absolutely unstoppable.  Even in the heat of battle he knows exactly what he’s doing at all times, a juggernaut of unending violence. He shoots, stabs, brawls, even punches right through someones face.

One neat thing they used from the comics is  how Frank almost became a priest, throwing in a loose religious angle.  Back to the supporting cast Wayne Knight is in very briefly as Frank’s partner microchip, though he’s not shown as a computer whiz, more of a weapons man. The fallen FBI guys family is decent, as is another FBI guy trying to track Frank down. (Also something cool is the NYPD sort of help Frank in a round about way)

There are a few good funny parts, like when the FBI dude and Frank have a mobster captured. The G-man is about to make a call saying he’s bringing a gangster in, when Frank literally blows the gangsters face off, and the G-man totally flips his lid. I died laughing seeing that.

Despite the humor the tone is pretty correct. The world of this movie is dark and violent, a true War Zone as the title suggests. It’s just sometimes too over the top, and occasionally too hip and cool. The world of the Punisher is not hip and happening.

I feel bad for Frank. War Zone didn’t deserve to bomb so bad.  It’s better than say, Wolverine. When the last one came out I was so excited, and enjoyed it at the time. Looking back on it it wasn’t that good. The averge movie goer probably thought there was no reason to see this new movie. Given it’s dismal failure this may be the last time we see Frank on the big screen.

War Zone could have been the first Punisher movie.  It told you all you need to know. He doesn’t need an origin story. The 04 film didn’t have him in a big action/shooting scene until the end. War Zone opened with one, but didn’t have another till the end. If someone ever gave this character another shot, it would need to be like a Rambo movie, just an hour straight of nonstop carnage, keeping with a dark gritty tone, instead of something cool and hip. If that movie is made though, it may not be for another 10-20 years.

Oh well, here’s to you Frank. 3 and a half stars.

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