Thanks for checking out our Punisher: War Zone review.
So earlier tonight I had just walked out of the screening of Punisher: War Zone and was standing around in the foyer of the theater… and Ray Stevenson (star of Punisher) comes walking up to me and asks me “So what did you think?” I paused for just a second, looked him right in the eyes and said:
“You know something Ray, I’m one of the guys who has been predicting that this movie was going to suck. I’m also one of the guys who has been saying that you were the wrong guy to cast as the Punisher. No offense against you, but I’m a Thomas Jane fan. But now I have to go home tonight and eat my words… caused I really liked it, and dude… you were pretty much perfect as Frank Castle”
And that’s the total truth. Don’t get me wrong, I never gave up ALL hope for this flick… there is always SOME hope, but my hope was SLIM. Very slim. Almost non-existent slim. But despite all of the weaknesses (and trust me, there is a lot wrong with this movie), by the time the credits rolled I had a great experience at the movie theater.
THE GENERAL IDEA
Infamous vigilante, anti-hero Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) is six years into his vengeance driven zeal as the Punisher when he brutally assaults a “beat the rap” party for notorious mob boss Gaitano Ceasar. During the course of the massacre, he hideously disfigures overeager gangster Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and murders a mafia lackey who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent.
Agent Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon), the ex-partner of the undercover Fed, joins the NYPD’s “Punisher Task Force” to help bring Castle to justice, once and for all. A facially mutilated Russoti recovers from his run-in with the Punisher with revenge on his mind and recruits a massive army of psychotic killers, gangbangers, and mobsters under his new alias “Jigsaw.” Distraught that he has now become the very evil he swore to battle, Castle is content to hang up his guns and quit the justice business for good. However, plans quickly change once he learns that Jigsaw has kidnapped the surviving wife and child of the dead federal agent. Forced back into the war, the Punisher now has to face off against Jigsaw’s formidable army in order to save the lives of an innocent family his actions put on firing line. “Clock’s ticking.”
I mentioned this at the beginning, but I’ll expand on it a bit here. Ray Stevenson was nothing short of absolutely perfect as Frank Castle (The Punisher). He was miles better than Thomas Jane (and I really liked Thomas Jane in the role). Come to think of it, I just can’t imagine the role being played any better. Many actors can play a “bad ass”. That’s not hard. But The Punisher is not just a bad ass. He’s far more complicated than that. He’s also hopeless. Filled with despair. Closed off from the world and the other people in it. Stevenson put it perfectly to me as we chatted. He said: “It was important to me that when people see him (Punisher), they in no way want to be him. People want to be Superman or Batman, but the must not want to be Frank, because to be Frank is a terrible thing. I think we got that across”. He’s right, they did.
Even though this is a reboot, I found myself hoping they wouldn’t waste a bunch of time re-telling an origin story that comic fans already know… and they handled it perfectly. Instead of using the first 30 minutes of the movie showing us Frank with his happy family… them getting killed… him getting pissed and becoming the Punisher, they instead wisely just start the movie with Frank having been The Punisher for 6 years already and then later use some short flashbacks to communicate to non-comic book fans how and why he became The Punisher. This approach was an excellent decision and handled really well.
The violence! Oh my sweet goodness the ultra gory, ultra high intensity, ultra wow-factored VIOLENCE! The movie doesn’t waste anytime at all jumping right into the action with Punisher dishing out hot platters of death to a mansion filled with mobsters. If you’ve ever thought there were only so many ways to show a guy getting his head blown off… this movie shows us there are at least 100 more ways than you might have thought. There was not only lots of action… it was QUALITY action. Very very very fun to watch.
Aside from Ray Stevenson, much of the acting in this flick was just horrible. Even the usually reliable Dominic West, who plays the main bad guy “Jigsaw”, was mind numbingly cheesy at times. He shifted gears between really frightening and menacing to just a slapstick joke that you couldn’t take seriously. Doug Hutchison as Jigsaw’s psycho brother was even worse. Instead of coming off of scary, he felt like a Saturday Night Live skit of a funny acting bad guy. Pathetic.
There was a prolonged scene in the film where Jigsaw is going around recruiting a new gang… and without giving away any details… it was painful to watch and broke with the tone much of the rest of the movie seemed to be working so hard establish.
Dialog. Thankfully Frank has next to no lines (the way it should be), but wow… all the other characters in the film consistently has some flat out brutal dialog. Even right down to the tired and overused line where one guy is dying on the floor and the hero comes over and says… “Don’t you die on me”. Really?!?! Did they really have to do that? Come on.
There is a lot wrong with Punisher: War Zone. Bad dialog, some terrible performances and some disjointed and poorly composed scenes. But at the same time it’s a film that knows what its audience was looking for, and delivered loads of it. High intensity action, brutal violence and some world class machismo served by a dark and complicated character like Frank Castle. This is not a “good” movie per se… but it is entertaining and I had a good time. Over all I give Punisher: War Zone a 7 out of 10.