Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Friday, April 03, 2009

Punisher: War Zone

Once again, I'm going to stubbornly contradict the arbiters of cinematic taste – and the terrible box office grosses – and say that I thought Punisher: War Zone was a terrific, 80's-styled action film. In fact, although I'm a Thomas Jane fan, I thought that War Zone was a considerably better film adaptation of the Marvel Comics character than than 2004 version of The Punisher.

For one thing, Ray Stevenson – who I don't believe I've ever seen in anything before – looked a lot more like the way I picture Frank Castle. He's not a pretty boy, but instead has a weathered, rugged face with some maturity on it. And he played the part well, too, even if his British accent occasionally slipped through.

For another, the main heavy, the hideously disfigured Jigsaw (Dominic Green), was an appropriately bigger-than-life villain and not just another smarmy crime boss – though he starts out that way. Some critics/reviewers complained that the part was played too broadly and campy, but again, I thought it complemented the comic book tone of the film.

It was set in New York and not Tampa, so it was much darker and grittier, and has some very noir-ish scenes.

The violence in the movie was really amped up and very comic book-ish. I could have done with less CG gouts of gore (I would have preferred old school Karo syrup + red dye, personally), but the outrageously gruesome "kills" were kinda cool and fun.

Finally, War Zone demonstrates the absolute best use of a rocket launcher ever. (Rent the film, and you'll see what I mean.)

Now, bear in mind that I actually like the much-maligned 1989 version with Dolph Lundgren. And I liked the Thom Jane version, too. In fact, I think all three Punisher films are enjoyable action flicks. And I kinda dig that each flick has a different lead and that each one stands alone with its own continuity and "universe." (The flashbacks to Frank's past in War Zone match the comic, not the 2004 film, so it's clearly not really a sequel.) But then, we all know that my taste in films is questionable.

I rented this from Netflix, but I'll definitely be picking it up for my collection eventually. It's not a superhero film, but it is definitely a comic book of a movie and manages to accomplish all I want from a Punisher flick – it has Frank Castle kill lots of mobsters in violent and graphic ways. And he wears the skull.

I liked it a lot – of course, your mileage may vary.


Charles Gramlich said...

I had pretty much written this one off, but after your review I'll definitely check it out when it hits PPV

Martin Powell said...

Never been much of a PUNISHER fan, either in comics or movies, but I'll likely get this from NetFlix eventually. He's sort of a dull, one-note character to me.

Of course, I feel the same way about GHOST-RIDER, too. There just isn't enough meat to him, no pun intended. Probably explains why I've yet to see Nick Cage's film version, too.

I will, of these days.

Christopher Mills said...

If you're not a Punisher fan, there's no reason to check out the film. Even if you are, you might have problems with it. I, as I said above, liked it anyway because I had low expectations, and I don't demand much from an action movie except to be entertained with lots of bang bang boom...

Craig Zablo said...

Sounds like something I'd like... at least that's what I kind of thought until I read your review... now I'm sure I'll enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Punisher fanboy.
I thought killing the "innocent" was a terrible mistake. It's Frank Castle's PRIME directive ferpetessakes, but other than that, I thought it was a HELL of a lotta fun.
Woulda preferred a more serious take but the campiness worked very well. West was great, far as I was concerned.
I liked the little girl storyline, have to admit. Needless to say, Stevenson RULED the picture. The rest of the actors, unfortunately (apart Pittsy, who was excellent) were CRAP. Benz, Hutchinson, Salmon and Mihok were AWFUL imo.
But the mayhem? Almost as glorious as Commando.
But it slowed down in the middle...then picked up like gangbusters at the end!

Dragon said...

I had my reservations after the 2004 but warzone makes it look like bambi. Its more gun ho less nicey nicey and more ruthless from the outset.

A good action film. I enjoyed it. Glad I didnt listen to the critics.

Badelaire said...

By the by, Ray Stevenson was one of the two main characters on HBO's ROME. That's where his big claim to fame right now comes from. As far as I can tell before that, it was mostly bit parts (he was in that crappy "realistic" King Arthur movie a couple of years ago where the Knights of the Round Table are Sarmatian cavalrymen.

And yes, in ROME, Stevenson RULED.