Editor’s Note: As with many of our Ten and Five articles, this article does contain spoilers. Consider yourself warned.
Lately you’ve probably noticed a great deal of activity amongst us Rejects involving the simultaneously anticipated and dreaded release of Punisher: War Zone. In the third attempt at bringing the ultimate bad-ass vigilante to the big screen, a third actor took up the assault rifle, joining the ranks of Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane. In this incarnation, Castle is in New York, an ex-Special Forces instructor, punishing those who have done evil in the world. His foes – the deformed Jigsaw and his insane brother, aptly named Looney Bin Jim. What follows is a bloody mess of carnage, but did it impress? From the title, you already know it didn’t.
Ten Things I Didn’t Like
10. Frank Castle, Gymnast. There is no doubt in my mind Frank Castle is a fine human specimen and an athlete. However, The Punisher is not known for running and sliding around on the ground or jumping 20 foot spans to crash through small, boarded up windows.
9. Fake Accents. Listen, the movie is supposed to take place in New York, but if you’ve hired a bunch of non-New Yorkers (and a bunch of Non-Americans, even), please don’t make them try to sound like they’re New York mobsters. They just end up sounding like piss poor cartoon characters.
8. Pittsy is a Pussy. In War Zone, Pittsy is just some old, fat henchmen. In the MAX comics, he is a salty mother who fights the Punisher very hard and takes an unbelievable amount of damage before finally being killed. From hard-ass to lard-ass.
7. Free Runners. Number one, I’m not sure why the Jamaican looking fella was Irish, but Free Running criminals is stupid, I hate it, I loathe it. It was basically in the film for one sight gag, which was worth a chuckle, but not in a good way.
6. Dominic West. This guy is awesome. Lexi Alexander should have pulled him back though, as right from his first appearance on screen he is so far over the top he turns into a caricature. He is to New York mobsters what Mario is to Italians.
5. Campy Humor. There is some humor in the Punisher books, notably the Marvel Knights series (starting with Welcome Back, Frank, which coincidentally inspired much of the 2004 film), but I felt that campy humor doesn’t work well when you’re killing 185 people brutally. Not only was it campy, it was flat out bad. Dash Mihok absolutely nailed Detective Soap, but that sad-sap-loser version of him has no place in a serious Punisher film.
4. Un-Punisher Like Moves. I’ve constantly stressed how the MAX line is the definitive book on The Punisher and that it is so well received because it is realistic. The Punisher would not slide around on the floor. He would not stand menacingly on the dining room table for 15 seconds with a flare. He would not jump onto a chandelier and spin around firing willy-nilly with two automatics. Leave that to Shoot ‘Em Up.
3. Looney Bin Jim. They made this guy up for the movie and he sucks. Terrible accent, over the top acting, and he knows like, crazy wall-flipping kung fu and has an extensive medical background or something.
2. Jigsaw’s Recruitment Drive. Seriously? First some gang-bangers are watching a projected image of the American flag (hoodlums are patriots!) and then Jigsaw delivers his Patton speech (as Editor Neil pointed out) and goes high-stepping around town. What the hell.
1. Uneven Tone. The movie was uneven to me. There was a lot of brutal, bloody violence right out of the pages of MAX and the subtle Punisher of Ray Stevenson. Good stuff. But then switch over to the over the top cheese-fest that is Jigsaw and the villains? For the love of all that is Holy, no thank you. The Punisher is a serious character. It is the hardcore version of Death Wish. A movie like this should have dark humor, not cheese ball moments. A movie about The Punisher should be dark and scary and horrible, for the most part.
Dishonorable Hatred: Micro. I was excited at first, but hearing a grown man called “Micro” seemed very 1980s (Gee, I wonder why?). If they were going to use Micro, I would have preferred seeing him survive this installment and then do his MAX storyline ending which was awesome.
Five Things I Liked
5. Brunette Julie Benz. Julie Benz is everywhere and she is hot all over. I like her with dark hair.
4. The Cinematography. I wasn’t sold on the neon look of the film from the trailers, but on screen the films color choices and tone looked good. It was dark and gritty and ugly, like Castle’s New York should be.
3. The Guns. The Punisher loves guns. He should have a lot of them and he does. I was happy to see an extensive armory. Castle also reloaded a lot, which is realistic, considering most handguns hold 15 or fewer rounds and his assault rifle likely held 30 rounds.
2. Comic References. This is good and bad. By having Pittsy in the movie, they give a shout out to the comic but ruin the character. Most of the other stuff was great though. Bradstreet hotel, after Punisher Cover Artist Tim Bradstreet, the line “Welcome Back” said to Frank, as in the “Welcome Back, Frank” storyline, and all the little nods like that were a nice touch.
1. The Violence. This is a pretty violent film with a good deal of blood and gore, which is exactly what a Punisher movie needs. That half of the film was great. I liked the violence. It was appropriate.
Honorable Like: Ray Stevenson. I wasn’t blown away by Ray and he might not even be my favorite Frank Castle, but if he is excited to continue the character and we can get a good, dark sequel with him starring, I would be very happy.
There it is. My 10 Dislikes and 5 Likes. Now, I’m being hard on this movie because I love The Punisher. I wanted something great. This movie gave me 50% appropriate action violence and 50% utter shit corn ball comedy. That I can not forgive, so it gets 10 dislikes. That isn’t to say I ‘hated’ the movie, that I definitely didn’t love it. I’m going to watch it again and will probably buy it on DVD. I just need Castle and his righteous journey. But this was a pretty weak movie, great for its level of violence, but utterly horrible due to dialog and the cheesy villains. Better luck next time (and I so want there to be a next time).
What did you think of Punisher: War Zone?