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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Punisher: War Zone (*1/2)

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE

At a rating of one and a half stars, the best Punisher movie ever made. There was one gag I liked: a bunch of parkour gangsters were flippy-flopping across a rooftop, and then the one in the middle gets exploded by an RPG rocket. That was fun, cheered me up for a second. War Zone is violent, yes, but it goes for the Tom and Jerry level of violence. In this movie, the Punisher can punch his fist right through a man's face. Every male character and one female cop is shot, exploded, impaled, amputated, deformed, with as much blood splurting out as the budget would allow. I'd love to see squib budget for this picture. Ray Stevenson steps in for pouty Tom Jane as ol' Killy McSkull Chest. Stevenson was awesome as Titus Pullo in Rome, but here he has nothing to play. A few dumb one liners aside, he mostly has to be stoic and shoot people. By saying next to nothing and squeezing triggers on some big, fake looking guns, Stevenson manages to out-act everyone else. The rest of the cast decided to compete in the Bad Acting Triathlon and the Iron Man is Dominic West as preening peacock turned ugly mug Jigsaw. Holy shit, was West terrible, swaggering around in a grating Italian New Yawk accent. Getting two fine actors from Rome and The Wire together in the same movie and making them perform at the caliber of 13 year olds playing the Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game was a mean feat. Numerous scenes and moments are outright stolen from other superhero movies; primarily Batman (1989), including the famous "the mirror!" scene when the Joker removes his bandages. Jigsaw's clothes and demeanor are textbook Harvey Two-Face from Batman Forever. They even swiped "The World Is Yours!" from Scarface. The simple and depressing origin of The Punisher is of course touched on: Frank Castle sees his family brutally murdered during a picnic in a park for witnessing a mob hit. Castle goes insane, yet comes up with a wildly marketable skull design to wear on his chest, decides to call himself The Punisher, and declares war on the New York mob and other bad people. That's it. Apparently, this story is so powerful and important it was worth adapting three separate times into three unrelated motion pictures. (Except it really isn't.) War Zone more or less stays close to the details of the comic book; the 2004 Tom Jane starrer changed the details and moved the battleground from New York to Tampa. War Zone disavows its predecessors the same way The Incredible Hulk did the 2004 Hulk directed by Ang Lee. One doesn't need to see any prior Punisher movie to see War Zone. Also, eliminate every word after "see" and before "war" in the previous sentence.

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