PUNISHER: WAR ZONE Movie Review
While not absolutely, spectacularly fantastic by many means, this Punisher gets by on being a bad-ass, super-fun, straight-up action film.
The last two Punisher films were weak, lacking the excitement and overall fun of the Marvel comics thanks to cheesy acting and awkward comedy to "help" take a breather from the hardcore violence (especially from the Tom Jane one). Fast-forward a couple years to the kinda-kinda sequel to The Punisher, and it's called Punisher: War Zone, so they dropped the "The", what's next? So they replaced Tom Jane... great choice, all-around. Ray Stevenson definitely has the exact look of Frank Castle down, but his attitude throughout this film is awesome: KILL THE BAD GUYS. It's really fun watching this guy tick and, when he's dishing out the punishment, he gets the job done nicely.
Lexi Alexander directs this underrated action picture, and her background in combat seems to come into play A LOT in this film, which is really quite refreshing. Where the other Punishers were really slow and sluggish in their pacing, this one keeps the momentum going (and congrats to Lionsgate for continuing to keep the Punisher R-rated, as opposed to a dumbed-down PG-rated one... like that TV series they were planning on actually MAKING). By doing that, it allows the villains to remain threatening (even though sometimes they are a bit ridiculous and weird) and it lets Ray Stevenson have enough time to actually ACT rather then just shoot bad guys, so it gives a heart to all of the mindless violence in the process.
Judging from this review so far, this film doesn't sound at all bad. Too bad some of the characters don't really work, Detective Martin Soap, for instance, was a good idea for them to put into the movie, but the actor playing him is absolutely horrible (one of the non-performances that I've seen from one-too-many pictures as of late). Not a lot of personality to this guy, other than the fact that he helps the Punisher while running the Punisher task-force that is literally laughed at early on in the film, and his dialogue is nauseating to listen to; plus the film ends on a lesser note thanks to him! No matter though, back to the good stuff, and that good stuff includes (like previously mentioned) a decent story to keep things interesting, and a villain (or villains) who is (or are) actually threatening. Instead of having his henchmen do his evil doings for him, our main villain Jigsaw is usually right then and there whenever it happens. A scene that was a little terrifying comes later-on in the film where the four villains of the picture invade a dead undercover cop's house in search of their missing money. The sequence is quite funny, playing almost like a Road Runner cartoon at times, but the villains make it seem so frightening and it brings back memories of A Clockwork Orange and even Batman where the villains prance around, breaking things while cheering themselves on.
Violence, blood, gore, this film has it all. It often times reminded me of the Saw series, but in a very good way, in the way that they portrayed the violence, obviously making it look very real and bizarre (like it should). The violence in this film is definitely BIZARRE, characters like Loony Bin Jim (played by the idiot from Green Mile) show up to cause some havoc and it's often his presence that makes the violence stand out more than in a usual action picture. Probably in the way he handles it all with his loud cackles and random outbursts ("Did you know that the tongue stretches further than..." well, you get the picture), it makes the violence that the villains commit more brutal and scary because they are just such random crimes. It's great.
Overall, this film was highly entertaining, way better than the overrated Tom Jane Punisher, awesome, and it kicks serious ass to boot. Every single scene that the Punisher is in (with the armour on) is exciting, bloody, and very effective filmmaking. Most of the talking scenes not involving the main villains or Frank Castle aren't that particularly interesting, but thankfully those two forces dominate the majority of the movie. One quieter scene that I really enjoyed was the part where Frank visits the family of the dead undercover agent, he's got a big bag of money for them, and his daughter's out on the porch drawing, she says "You're in my light" and Frank slowly crouches down with a simple smile on his face as he looks calmly at the girl (thinking, of course, of his own dead daughter). Simple moments like that equal a fantastic performance from Ray Stevenson, and it's a subtle performance that definitely makes this very violent, gruesome film a pleasure to sit through.
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
+Ray Stevenson, for being very convincing as both Frank Castle and the Punisher, he makes this film worth watching (plus Wayne Knight's in it)
+Threatening villains (good performances, as well, especially from Dominic West as Jigsaw)
+Good story involving the dead undercover agent, allows the Punisher more of an emotional turn
+Fantastic action sequences (most notably the opening one and most definitely the one near the end)
+Solid direction, cinematography, great effects as well (Jigsaw looks really creepy in his earlier scenes with his plastic surgeon)
+Detective Martin Soap is ruined by the actor playing him, who's name I don't quite care to know or mention
+Some of the violence is a little bizarre and may take some viewers out of the experience
+Basic character choices are sometimes pretty stupid, like leaving a family behind in your hideout with an ex-banger to protect them and your trusted ally missing as well really rings a bell
+The ending is pretty bland (like the last minute or two with Detective Soap, the rest before then was good), leaving you a bit underwhelmed in the process
+Plus, the supporting characters in the film have a lot of information to share with others, but the majority of them come off as non-personalities, or just straight characterchures, which makes the film seem like a random cop movie from the 80s or 90s
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