Monday, 9 February 2009

Movie review - Punisher: War Zone




Ask any Marvel fan about the Punisher's movie history, and you'll be told that the 2004 effort starring Thomas Jane, while enjoyable, failed to deliver the blend of over the top violence that the Punisher name evokes (unless you ask them about Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher, in which case they'll usually drop to the ground dribbling or start trying to attack you with a spoon).


Apparently Frank Castle became a homosexual for a period of three weeks in the 1980s.



Anybody familiar with the comic series, particularly the Punisher Max series, will tell you that it's not quite the Punisher unless Frank Castle is punching somebody's face to pieces or shooting explosives with reckless abandon for man or beast in his way. If this is the Frank Castle you wish to see, then rest assured that Punisher: War Zone will deliver this for you. However, it comes at a price.

Let's get the basics out of the way first. In Punisher: War Zone, we find Frank Castle (portrayed this time by
Rome's Ray Stephenson) taking care of a mafia family at a dinner party held for Cesare, a Mafia boss in charge of a significant crime syndicate. When first we join the film, Cesare is in the midst of an argument with Billy Russoti (played by Dominic West) over taking on a shipment of biological weapons.

Enter Frank Castle, with plenty of weaponry and a desire to punish the corrupt and evil. After a pretty violent and brutal series of executions on the members of the Cesare faction (including a fairly swift dispatch of Cesare himself), Castle tracks Billy to his hideout and attacks, leaving Russoti for dead in a glass bottle grinder. Russoti, however, survives and after extensive reconstructive surgery is reborn as Jigsaw.

However, during the course of his attack, Castle inadvertently kills an undercover FBI agent, and goes into a spiral of doubt over his role as The Punisher. With the help of his friend Microchip (Wayne Knight - not to be confused with Wayne Manor, where Batman lives), as well as the agent's widow and daughter, Castle has to rediscover what drives the Punisher and stop Jigsaw's new criminal syndicate before it's too late.

First, I'll start with what I didn't like. Frankly, it may be that I've been spoiled by movies like
Iron Man and The Dark Knight, but the dialogue in this film can be downright terrible at times. You've already doubtlessly seen the line "Sometimes I'd like to get my hands on God" from the trailer above, but believe it or not, there are lines which will make you physically wince in this film. Some lines, also, are just confusing. Jigsaw's brother, introduced in a largely effective tease, represents a convincing psychopath in that often you cannot fathom what he could possibly mean.

On the positive side, Frank Castle kills a LOT of people in this movie using a lot of cool-looking weaponry. With arms ranging from basic crossbows all the way to rocket launchers and a rather tasty looking revolver, Castle definitely has the arsenal of a vigilante. Stephenson, in this regard, plays the role of Castle well, even in the little touches of reloading all his guns when between firefights. Stuff like that sells me on a character, and in this regard the movie does particularly well.

The Emotionally 14 Rating:
Violence: Maybe I haven't made this clear, but Frank Castle kills a fuckton of people in this film, offing about ten to twelve people in the film's first action sequence. The kills are gruesome, some are ludicrously over the top on a par with an 80s Arnie movie (sadly the dialogue is also comparable). 10/10

Swearing: There's plenty here to keep the swearing fan happy, plenty of uses of the words 'fuck' and 'shit'. 8/10

Sex/Nudity: Absolutely none. Unless you get off on brief flashes of Castle's dead wife and young daughter, in which case you can make this number a 10. Personally, I'll say a 4. 4/10

Other points in favour:
This movie stars Colin Salmon as an FBI agent who tries to take Castle down in a fistfight. That alone is awesome.
At one point, the Punisher looks like becoming a self-pitying emo pansy, but then snaps out of it like all emos should.

There are three parcour acrobats. The scene involving them and The Punisher is awesome. 8/10

Total: I'm going to give this movie an 8 out of 10 purely due to the fact that the death count in this film is about ten times more than the 2004 Punisher movie starring the also-awesome Thomas Jane. Add to that the fact that the movie finally includes Microchip and Jigsaw, and despite its flaws I will happily say that I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to anyone. Just don't expect an Oscar winning movie. Unless the category is "best Punisher adaptation", which should be an Oscar category. 8/10

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