Having mildly enjoyed The Punisher restart four years ago (try and forget the original Dolph Lundgren debacle), I was interested to see how Hollywood was going to grow the character of Frank Castle further in Punisher: War Zone. Inexplicably, the franchise has regressed into a form that defies conventional words.
Okay, maybe there is a description for it: a super gore entrenched joke seems to sum it up rather nicely — certainly not the thriller/drama it has the audacity to call itself.
The only dramatic piece Punisher: War Zone offers up is the forlorn look from the film’s hero, Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) as he tries to come to grips with the death of his family and with his accidental killing of an undercover FBI agent. Everyone else it seems, plays their roles like ridiculous caricatures. Take for example the role of criminal mastermind and The Punisher’s nemesis, Billy Russoti, a.k.a. Jigsaw (Dominic West). He basically embraces the role as a ramped up parody of Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face from Batman Forever. Same goes for Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison). The name alone should be enough to demonstrate the kind of character he is and how he is enacted. Having these comical characters on their own isn’t such a bad thing but when they’re superimposed with the more serious roles, the film loses its identity and becomes confusing to the viewer who is trying to determine what to make of it all.
What the movie does revel in, is the mountains of glorified brutal violence and gore. I don’t believe there is a scene that lasts longer than 30 seconds that doesn’t have someone getting shot or stabbed or eviscerated or having their neck snapped. My personal favorite was when some random perp’s face was caved in with a wicked punch from The Punisher. What I found as a nice add on to it all was the “squish” and “splat” sounds that accompanied each of these scenes — a most delightful treat for the ears!
But of course, I’m joking. Punisher: War Zone is a schizophrenic mess. Had there been some semblance of direction — any direction — it may not have been so bad. Any accolades Lexi Alexander got for her past body of directorial work has been erased — completely. Hell, I think any good work done by anyone who even walked by the set of this movie has lost any good will that they’ve amassed.
As a final thought, towards the end of the film, The Punisher steadfastly states, “This is just the beginning.” In my gut, I know he’s telling the truth — another installment is being concocted as we speak. But maybe, just maybe, if enough people pray against this reality, the napkin the script is being written on will burst into flames. Start the prayer sessions now. Please.