Guillaume de Sade Reviews: Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Okay, before getting into the movie, let’s go through some history. Frank Castle, a hardened Vietnam special forces vet is finally home and enjoying a picnic in the park with his family when they’re caught in the crossfire of a mob shoot out. He survived, his family didn’t. He went on to kill the fuck out anyone associated with their deaths, then continued killing the fuck out criminals in general. There was even a brief period where he became so psychotic (I call it dedicated, but whatever) that he was even killing the fuck out of people committing minor crimes like littering and jaywalking. If you want to get technical about it, he became the most prolific serial killer ever. No mask, no super powers…just an unending need to kill the fuck out of criminals.
Eventually he was captured by the authorities and executed. He then came back as a sort of angel of death type being with a magical trench coat from which he could pull out machine guns from Heaven. That shit didn’t last. Frank Castle quit that and got kicked out of Heaven and sent back to Earth as a mortal, where he quickly picked up where he left off…that’s right…killing the fuck out of criminals (and punching polar bears…you know he wouldn’t try that shit with a panda bear!!).
So there you have it…an extremely entertaining character that can only work when he is left as a one dimensional charter. Anytime that writers have tried to add much depth to the character, it failed miserably.
Punisher: War Zone is actually the third movie featuring this character, yet this is not a sequel. Each movie featured a different character with a different story…perhaps at a future date, I’ll review these as well. I’ll do my best to write the rest of this review without too many comparisons.
I was extremely excited for this movie when I heard that they were not afraid of getting an R rating for graphic violence. This could only mean that they were sticking close to the source material…then I heard that the main villain was Jigsaw! Phenomenal…now I KNEW they were sticking with the source material and there’s no way it could go wrong…
After witnessing Ray Stevenson in character for ten minutes, I was convinced that this man was The Punisher. No, not the character…I mean I think that he actually goes out at night on his own time, with a white skull painted on his chest and kills the fuck out of criminals. He is just THAT believable as The Punisher.
From there the movie goes down faster than Sabbath’s willpower at a chinese buffet. The script is weak…not awful, but weak. As I have said this is a character that works best as a one dimensional character, so you would think that a weak script would be okay, but there were only two other believable actors in the whole movie. Microchip’s comatose mother and his ex-gangbanger assistant. Wayne Knight might look the part, but saddled with shitty dialogue, he just didn’t seem that into it. Jigsaw, his cartoony accent and his brother Looney Bin Jim seemed like they were actively working to shit on Punisher fans. I was especially disappointed in Loony Bin Jim actor Doug Hutchinson. I had only seen him in one other role and that was as Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile and he was excellent in the role. So seeing him was like drowning and getting thrown a life line! Seeing him in character was like having that line covered in chum and razor blades.
So after all this, why do I still watch this movie repeatedly? Again, there is the fact that Ray Stevenson is ridiculously believable as the character. I have a friend who is a Marine and after seeing the movie verified that the tactics Stevenson had to study and perform in the movie were legitimate. There is another reason though…this movie was so well made you almost forget how bad it is. Every technical aspect of this movie was top notch. The filmmakers (Lexi Alexander, et al.) didn’t reinvent the wheel. They didn’t attempt high art…instead, they stuck to the basics and perfected it. Seriously…go back and watch this movie with that in mind. This movie, from a technical aspect, is fantastic and really should be studied by aspiring filmmakers.
Don’t believe me? I’ll leave you with a quote from Roger Ebert: “You used to be able to depend on a terrible film being poorly made. No longer. The Punisher: War Zone is one of the best-made bad movies I’ve seen.”
– Guillaume de Sade