Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Punisher: War Zone


Review by Matthew Frendo

After the excellent Iron Man and the above-average Incredible Hulk, both released this past summer, the Marvel film studio had a record of 2-for-2 in by book. So when I saw the red band trailer for Punisher: War Zone, I was immediately excited.  Not only was the Marvel name attached, but the trailer was crazy and hardcore as hell, looking like a montage of the best and most brutal action scenes from a number of movies put together into one.  Of course, after those scenes are counted and done, what we are left with is...

Well, actually, that’s it.  There wasn't much of a story, or, for that matter, any character development.  Ray Stevenson plays the Punisher, replacing Thomas Jane (who reportedly turned down the role after reading the man).  With very little speaking time (I actually took note in the theater...the Punisher does not speak AT ALL for the first 25 minutes of the film), he basically walked around pissed-off and killed people, a fact that sounds way cooler than it plays on the screen.  Dominic West (from HBO's The Wire), an actor who has proven himself in the past, brings down his reputation by playing the cheesy-as-all-hell villain, Jigsaw, with Doug Hutchinson playing his brother, known as Loony Bin Jim. 

The plot is basically thus: Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) is mad that his family was killed (which happened in the first movie), so he goes around killing anyone involved with crime at any level, killing them more brutally than the killers themselves do.  He mangles one guy’s face so bad that he needs a bad plastic surgery job, turning said man into Jigsaw.  He then goes to kill Jigsaw, who also tries to kill him.

Lexi Alexander, who's previous screen credits include Green Street Hooligans, is responsible for this disasterpiece.  The dialogue, or what there is of it, is horribly written and cheesier than a supermarket’s dairy secton.  The villains aren't scary as much as they are stupid, the cinematography is too dark and muddled, and the plot is nonexistent.  The worst travesty, however, is the lack of character development.  It doesn't make you understand the Punisher character, or the weight he carries.  In fact, I left the theater thinking that Frank was a baby throwing a tantrum over his loss, which people go through daily without trying to kill everything that moves.  Hasn't this guy heard of grief therapy before?

The action scenes are pretty brutal for a mainstream film, but there aren't many of those beyond what can be seen by the red band trailer.  In fact, when I watched the trailer on YouTube, I thought that it was a bad recording, which would account for the crappy look it had.  Nope, that's just how the movie looked, and I can only assume that they made it look this muddled and cheap on purpose.  Worst of all, I was BORED.  When a movie is brutal and action based, there is no bigger death sentence than boredom.

So Marvel failed on only their third film.  It's like they decided to take away all the intelligence and cinematic value of Iron Man, and tried to recreate Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher movie from 1989, failing to even achieve that level of cinematic mediocrity. 

Don’t watch this film. Don't even rent it.  Watch the red band'll give you all that's worth seeing in 2 1/2 minutes.

1 / 5 stars

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