The Punisher: War Zone (Movie Review)

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The Punisher: War Zone

I've always been bothered by comic book movies. Every time a new super hero gets a feature film treatment, I find it difficult to look past the stink of desperation that surrounds the project, especially when it's a second or third attempt to turn it into a marketable franchise. All the big names have been covered, so now Hollywood is scrounging around their toy box looking for something new to wring a few hundred million dollars out of. This year has already seen Batman (again), Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk (again), so it's hard not to feel claustrophobic from all the make-believe awesome already occupying the scene. The market's already crowded, so where exactly is The Punisher supposed to fit in all of this?

The Punisher: War Zone spins the yarn of Frank Castle, an ultra violent vigilante who closely resembles a shaved bear* with an arsenal large enough to start a small war. His formative story is told entirely in flashbacks to keep with the totally uninspired and hackneyed narrative: his family is murdered after witnessing a mob hit, and Frank, spurred on by vengeance, becomes The Punisher. War Zone deals with Frank's battle against a disfigured mobster who dubs himself Jigsaw, his criminally insane brother called Loony Bin Jim, and a motley handful of gangs who want The Punisher dead.

The inherent problem with The Punisher is immediately evident after the initial graphic violence eases up enough for a character to form a sentence without the risk of getting his face punched in; he's not a very good character, and it's doubtful that even the most skilful writers and directors can remedy this. Not unlike The Incredible Hulk, The Punisher is just angry and rage-filled, and while it does make for some wonderfully grotesque action (no effort was made to knock the hard R rating to a more profitable PG13) the bits between are irreversibly boring and flawed. For the most part, The Punisher is aware of this fact and often just runs with it in an attempt to be at least a sophisticated gore fest, but the irony is that the people who are into the sort of thing are too young to procure a ticket for it.

image

The Punisher would've been more compelling if he didn't speak.

More time is spent characterizing the audience instead of making anyone in this film likable. New York is the setting of the movie, and it appears that everyone who occupies it is a colossal dickhead of Italian descent (so I suppose that's not an inaccurate depiction). Ray Stevenson has the hulking frame required to wear The Punisher's cloths without being crushed to death inside of it, and while a character like The Punisher is suppose to be relentless and cold-hearted, Stevenson is just bland. I believe Julie Benz (clearly not taking her acting career very seriously) is supposed to be some sort of love interest, but I'm not entirely sure since she's just a massive bitch. Wayne Knight comes out of hiding to play Microchip (The Punisher's Sidekick) presumably only to crawl back under a rock since his character doesn't survive for the sequel they certainly won't be making, and Dominic West is completely forgettable as far as villains go.

The Punisher: War Zone is a B-Movie with an A-Movie's budget and effects. In stark contrast to the more high brow action films of recent memory (Quantum of Solace in particular), War Zone has action sequences you can actually comprehend. It doesn't matter if it's a rocket to the torso or a point blank shotgun blast, the camera does not flinch. If you're into the sort of stuff, you'll applaud as people are eviscerated, and probably watch it again after turning it into a drinking game. For the rest of the world, notably those spoiled by the excellent Iron Man, there's nothing here that will be missed.

* This is a conscious quote from Zero Punctuation (Painkiller). I try to avoid these, but it really is the best way to describe him.

What I find is really weird about this is that the art direction has so many random colors in the background. It's like Joel Schumacher directed it.

Pseudonym2:
What I find is really weird about this is that the art direction has so many random colors in the background. It's like Joel Schumacher directed it.

That actually stuck out like a sore thumb in the scenes at the church. Odd hues tend to stand out when everything is mostly drenched in blood and dust.

Pseudonym2:
What I find is really weird about this is that the art direction has so many random colors in the background. It's like Joel Schumacher directed it.

Yeah, but then there would have been the extreme lack of sausage in Punisher...

Honestly, I just got done watching the Thomas Jane Punisher movie and it's so much better than Warzone

I've seen the 70's Punisher movie and it was shite. I'm about to watch the Thomas Jane one because it does look pretty good. I doubt I'll bother with War Zone. It seems that the Punisher will just me remade over and over.

I guess the main problem is that the Punisher was always meant as a comic book tribute to action B-movies, so turning it back into a movie just seems a little pointless. To be honest, other than the Dark Knight, there hasn't been a great comic adaptation since 2005 (Sin City and V For Vendetta)

scnj:
To be honest, other than the Dark Knight, there hasn't been a great comic adaptation since 2005 (Sin City and V For Vendetta)

Marvel doesn't really have as strong a track record with comic movies as one might think. The only two great comic book movies they've done have been Iron Man (2008) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). The rest ranges from "meh..." to "pretty alright, I guess..."

Maet:

scnj:
To be honest, other than the Dark Knight, there hasn't been a great comic adaptation since 2005 (Sin City and V For Vendetta)

Marvel doesn't really have as strong a track record with comic movies as one might think. The only two great comic book movies they've done have been Iron Man (2008) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). The rest ranges from "meh..." to "pretty alright, I guess..."

I preferred The Incredible Hulk (2008) to Iron Man to be honest. I'm in the definite minority.

scnj:

Maet:

scnj:
To be honest, other than the Dark Knight, there hasn't been a great comic adaptation since 2005 (Sin City and V For Vendetta)

Marvel doesn't really have as strong a track record with comic movies as one might think. The only two great comic book movies they've done have been Iron Man (2008) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). The rest ranges from "meh..." to "pretty alright, I guess..."

I preferred The Incredible Hulk (2008) to Iron Man to be honest. I'm in the definite minority.

I personally found Iron man to be average at best. Was as cliche filled, overbudget & needlessly crammed with CGI & obvious sponsorship as any other action hero movie

Cousin_IT:
I personally found Iron man to be average at best. Was as cliche filled, overbudget & needlessly crammed with CGI & obvious sponsorship as any other action hero movie

The CGI in Iron Man was actually pretty sparse in comparison to most other big name comic book films (*cough*Spider-Man 3*/cough*). Largely due to the fact that they actually spent a fair bit of time characterizing Tony Stark as opposed to just tossing him into a super suit and having him kick ass for two hours.

Iron Man elevates "cliche filled, overbudget & needlessly crammed with CGI & obvious sponsorship" into something above and beyond the mere sum of its parts. Respectfully disagreeing with your opinion, but I found Iron Man to be absolutely legendary.

Iron Man was fun, funny and had a lot of charm, but the vast majority of it was down to Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark. If t hadn't been for him, the whole movie would have failed.

scnj:
Iron Man was fun, funny and had a lot of charm, but the vast majority of it was down to Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark. If t hadn't been for him, the whole movie would have failed.

You speak the truth, and his breif appearence at the end of The Incredible Hulk (2008) brought that movie back from being boring, I liked him in Tropic Thunder too. Yeah I know its a spoiler but I dont care.

scnj:
Iron Man was fun, funny and had a lot of charm, but the vast majority of it was down to Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark. If t hadn't been for him, the whole movie would have failed.

I totally agree. Overall, though Iron Man was really good.

I have to admit, I kind of want to see this; I saw the 2004 version starring Thomas Jane and it was actually pretty good.

Also, nice work on the review; well written.

scnj:
I've seen the 70's Punisher movie and it was shite. I'm about to watch the Thomas Jane one because it does look pretty good. I doubt I'll bother with War Zone. It seems that the Punisher will just me remade over and over.

I guess the main problem is that the Punisher was always meant as a comic book tribute to action B-movies, so turning it back into a movie just seems a little pointless. To be honest, other than the Dark Knight, there hasn't been a great comic adaptation since 2005 (Sin City and V For Vendetta)

I totally agree with the B-move tribute to comic, back to movie statement. There are some things that just work how they do.

I personally don't get why they have gone with the Punisher over and over and over. I mean there are other great Marvel characters to make movies of this caliber about. Like Cable(Cable from the future, not Mutant Techno Jesus Cable), or Dead Pool, or ... well even bring back Domino. Those characters would still give you all the sexy violence but be much more interesting to watch because of their powers or quirky personalities.

I was waiting for this movie and didn't even relise it had come out. Sounds bad, oh well.

 

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