100 Days of Superheroes- Day 75: The Punisher War Zone
More dark, more brutal, more dumb.
“Who punishes you?”
The first two Punisher films where met with less than enthusiastic response. With two strikes out, the third one went into production, again a complete reboot of the character. Yet once again the makers took their eye off the ball. Considering how straightforward the character is. It’s kind of sad that no one seems able to get him right.
The movie opens similar to the first Punisher film, with the main protagonist Frank Castle already shooting up the mobs of the city and the police under orders to arrest him. One of the Punisher’s busts goes wrong when he accidentally shoots a cop and the mob leader gets chopped up and pieced back together as Jigsaw, a wanna-be joker with and eerily similar origin to Tim Burton’s film. When I say similar I mean EXACTLY THE SAME!
The rest of the plot pretty much consists of Jigsaw running around while Castle takes pot shots at him. That’s about it in terms of narrative complexity.
The major positive thing I have to say about the film right off the bat is the look of it. The visual style is much more appealing and in pace with the tone of the character. The music score is also pretty damn good. But besides those two things there isn’t much left to like.
The major problem with the film is an over reliance on gangster film cliché. It like the writer scripted it so every character talks like they are from The Godfather, which only makes for very cheesy dialogue and one-dimensional characters based off stereotypes.
Dominic West is particularly awful with some of the worst lines in the film. He really does play the role like a weird hybrid/ripoff of Vito Corleone and the Joker. As I say write that, it actually sounds pretty cool. But don’t be deceived. It’s hard to feel threatened by a villain that may look scary but starts crying every five minutes because he is no longer beautiful.
Ray Stevenson however makes a damn fine Punisher. He’s definitely a better actor than zero talent Dolph Lungren and certainly less pretty boyish than Thomas Jane. The problem is that they gave him almost nothing to do besides kill people. Hell, he doesn’t even say a single word of dialogue until about a third of the way through the film (and that is NOT an exaggeration).
This makes the Punishers character development and arc seem almost microscopic and almost a second thought in the script. It seems to be a movie about everyone BUT the Punisher, instead it tries to explore other characters to present Frank Castle as a more mysterious figure. Unfortunately the last movie had only come out a couple years earlier and the “mystery” angle isn’t going to work as well.
Unlike the previous film in 2003 which barely felt R, this one works too hard for the rating and randomly tosses in F bombs every few minutes to remind you that it is. It tries way to hard to be a gritty R rated comic book film that the gore in it is so over the top that it’s boarder line comical.
The movie also introduces a few new character like Wayne Knight as Microchip. Much like Spider-Man 3 and Topher Grace (on That 70’s Show), every time he comes on screen I think I’ve accidentally tuned into Seinfeld. Then I get sad because I’m not watching that instead. Yet at least he gives some life and naturalness to his role, even if he doesn’t fit the tone of the film…which can only be described as dry.
They also introduced detective Soap (Dash Mihok) who is actually pretty interesting and the performance is well done, even if his comedy feels a little forced in places (more the fault of the writing than the actor). In fact this character was interesting enough that I almost wanted the film to follow him instead of the Punisher. It certainly would have been more interesting that way.
So once again the ball is fumbled on a relatively easy and simplistic character. The film is a series of poorly connected action sequences that build up to a climax that plays out like a first person shooter. Where Castle runs around with absolutely no cover as all the enemies miss him and he shoots them in the head. On the off chance he is hit, he shakes off bullet wounds like an inconvenient scratch.
The movie is ridiculous, preposterous, corny and gory to the point of being silly. Not exactly defining qualities you look for in a Punisher Film…or is it?
FINAL RATING: 2/10- (20%)
Previous DAY 74- The Dark Knight
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