Thursday, December 4, 2008
Author: Bill Ramey

RELEASE DATE: December 5, 2008
STUDIO: Lionsgate
DIRECTOR: Lexi Alexander
SCREENPLAY: Matthew Holloway, Art Marcum, Nick Santora, Kurt Sutter, Lexi Alexander
CAST: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, et al.

This review must come with the following disclaimer: I’m a “DC Guy” and not a “Marvel Guy" and while not a fan of The Punisher and know very little about the character, I do love me some superhero/comic book films.

So please keep that in mind as you read my review of THE PUNISHER: WAR ZONE -- I don’t want to be labeled a “Punisher Hater.”

As I’m sure you all know, this is actually the third film based on the character. There was that one from the 80s starring Dolph Lundgren which was a total piece of garbage. In 2004, Thomas Jane portrayed Frank Castle in a film that while better than the previous effort, still was awfully “meh.” Now, Ray Stevenson suits up as the gun-totin’, bad guy killin’ vigilante.

First, the good…

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is better than either of the previous two films (which isn't saying a lot). It’s also violent as hell. I’m talking nasty, bloody, make-you-close-your-eyes violent. (That’s not really a positive for me, but if that is what fans of this character have been clamoring for, they certainly got their wish.) And finally, the film doesn’t waste your time rehashing the origin of The Punisher which is clichéd and boring anyway.

And that’s it, really.

Now with the bad…

For one thing, I just didn’t like Stevenson as The Punisher. While I didn’t care much for the 2004 flick, I did like Thomas Jane better in the title role. I really can’t put my finger on it, but Stevenson just strikes me as someone who belongs in a Guy Ritchie British gangster flick, not in a comic book film -- albeit a exceedingly violent one.

Another problem I had with this film is the script as there’s virtually no story here -- at least one that’s interesting. Not once could I muster up an ounce of care for the main character -- despite the fact that I know his tragic past and the reason he’s doing what he’s doing. It’s basically, “OK, some guy goes around and kills bad guys. And why am I supposed to care about him?”

With all that said, I could live with this incarnation of The Punisher -- but what I can’t live with is this film’s supervillain, Jigsaw. For a film that’s supposed to be grounded in reality to a certain extent, this dude comes off as an amalgamation of Jack Nicholson’s Joker and Tommy Lee Jones’ in BATMAN and BATMAN FOREVER respectively. Really, it’s an over the top, campy performance by Dominic West. But don’t blame the actor here, blame the script and direction.

To make matters worse, the film is lit with all these neon-esque colors giving it a "DICK TRACY meets Schumacher’s Gotham City” vibe. I have no idea why director Lexi Alexander opted for this weird color scheme other than it was to give what is supposed to be a gritty, (*ahem*) realistic setting a “comic book feel.” Whatever the reason may be, it doesn’t work.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Whatever dude, you’re a self-proclaimed ‘DC Guy.’” Well, that I am, but as I said in my disclaimer, I dig comic book films. I want all of them to be good because it’s good for the genre as a whole. Hey, I wasn’t hoping for THE DARK KNIGHT here -- or IRON MAN for that matter -- but I sure as heck wasn’t expecting "BATMAN AND ROBIN meets KILL BILL" either.

Maybe this is a case of THE PUNISHER: WAR ZONE simply not being my cup of tea. Or perhaps my standards for this genre is unrealistically high.

Nah. It’s just not very good.

I don’t doubt one bit that a lot of people are going to like this film and think I’m nuts, and that’s cool. But hey, if a gory slasher film disguised and a revenge movie disguised as super hero flick with bad writing and acting is up your alley, you’re in for a treat. To each his own, you know?

Look, this is the third film in this franchise. You know that saying “The third time’s the charm?” Well it doesn’t apply here. What does is the old baseball analogy “Three strikes and you’re out!”

I think it’s time to sit Frank Castle on the bench.


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