So I just got back from seeing The Punisher: War Zone and it’s kind of hard to pinpoint the mixed bag that the film delivers. Was it good? At times. Did it invoke a feeling of empathy for the title character and anger and hate towards the people he is so bent upon acting out his vengeance on? Pretty much. But that’s how the whole movie goes. It’s like half good and half, well…less than stellar.
Was it the follow-up or “reboot” I was hoping for after the last Punisher film? Not really. But then again, you’re reading the review of someone who thought that Tom Jane’s version of The Punisher was one of the most underrated comic book adaptations put on film. I thought it was wrongly judged and that most critics and fan boys couldn’t have possibly seen the same movie I did. That movie made you truly feel Frank Castle’s pain and agony at losing his family. It made you understand (I didn’t say agree with) why he did what he did in exacting his one man war on crime. It established supporting characters you really began to care about.
War Zone spends a little bit of time reflecting on Castle’s reasoning behind his mission and more or less gives the character some quick depth, if you haven’t seen any of the other films or read the comic books. It basically just starts with The Punisher continuing to exact his brand of justice on the mob bosses and scum that have overrun the city. Ray Stevenson’s handling of the character of Frank Castle is pretty convincing and he plays the part with conviction.
The real problem with the film comes in the character development or de-evolution, as I am tempted to call it. Billy Rusotti / Jigsaw (played by Dominic West) switches from one moment being strong and smart to the next minute being a kind of parody of a street pimp and taking it to a level of camp I don’t think he should have gone to. His brother, Loony Bin Jim (played by Doug Hutchison), is at first very convincing and disturbing as a complete nut job, but very quickly begins to become a comedy version of himself. He basically takes the crazy a little too far and starts to overact.
Besides her accent, Julie Benz does a great job at portraying the grieving widow of a CIA agent that Castle gunned down while he was working undercover. This part of the film plays out quite well and you do truly believe in the relationship and chemistry forming between Frank, Angela Donatelli (Benz), and her daughter Grace (played by Stephanie Janusauskas). The daughter pulls off her terrified and compassionate scenes quite nicely.
It seemed like EVERY character in this film had the heaviest Brooklyn accent I’ve ever heard. It just seemed to be a little overdone and strained. It was like the director was trying to REALLY convince us that these are the tough streets of Brooklyn or something. It was like the stereotypical view of what criminals and crime bosses are “supposed” to be in movies that take place in New York.
Was the movie every bit as brutal and graphic as everyone is saying and director Lexi Alexander promised us it would be? Very much so. You see half blown off heads more than once and a couple of times entire bodies explode with flesh flying everywhere. It’s total carnage and gore. Fun for some and others may want to steer clear.
Is The Punisher: War Zone worth seeing if you’re a fan of the comic book? Absolutely. Just don’t go in expecting The Dark Knight or Iron Man caliber quality. If you’re looking for a good revenge picture with possibly the same kind of raw feel as Death Wish, Dirty Harry, or it’s predecessors, then go for it.