Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: December 5th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Lexi Alexander Actors: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Stephanie Janusauskas

 


 

I

f “Saw” were an action movie, it would be “Punisher: War Zone.” The latest incarnation of the heavily-armed vigilante goes so overboard with excessive violence and vulgarities that the incredibly bad dialogue almost comes as a relief at times. Nearly all of the elaborate set-ups and character introductions serve only as a fulcrum to unleash further brutal slaughter, while the slightest hints of realism are overshadowed by ludicrous villains and laughable excuses for additional bloodletting. At least, no one can say that greater punishing transpired in previous efforts at bringing the Marvel gunslinger to life.

After losing his wife and two kids at the hands of the mob, Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) becomes the “Punisher,” hellbent on mercilessly meting out vigilante justice to the criminal underworld. Killing his way to the top of all the major crime families, Castle accidentally shoots an undercover FBI Agent during an attempt to eradicate Billy Russoti (Dominic West). Though he vows to finally leave the life of violence behind, Frank must first finish what he started by dispatching Russoti – before the mutilated madman, now donning the moniker “Jigsaw,” can murder the wife and child of the slain agent.

Vile and literally ugly (from the filthy streets, sewers, and alleys, to the hideously scarred villains) “Punisher: War Zone” is certainly not a lively movie – though perhaps its tone more appropriately recalls the source material. Unquestionable punishing constantly takes place, but it’s questionable whether or not the characters on screen are receiving as much punishment as the audience. Despicably bloody carnage begets even more wretched butchery, which seems to be inserted in every scene just for the sake of extremes. When it’s done right, violence can be entertaining, humorous, or even awe-inspiring. But here, it serves no purpose other than to disgust and to gloat at how disproportionate it can be. Almost completely devoid of slow-motion and with little wit, the action sequences are never appropriately flourished with the shocking brutality; instead, they exist just to make use of the “R” rating to its fullest extent.

If the quality of antagonists was measured positively by their terribly trite dialogue, “Punisher: War Zone” would have the greatest cinematic bad guys of all time. Not a single utterance is original or clever, while a major percentage of it is flat out unnecessary. This year’s “Hell Ride” is possibly the only other movie in history to fail this badly at crafting dialogue to loosely tie together action sequences and a virtually nonexistent story. The atrocious script plagues the heroes as well, frequently creating ridiculous “emotional” scenes between Frank and the daughter of the FBI agent he accidentally killed. If there’s anything positive to be said about this new cinematic take on an enduring fiction character, it’s that Marvel and Lionsgate didn’t shy away from the harsh violence that made the most recent versions of the comic books strictly adults only – which is usually what limits proper adaptations of dark source materials.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10