By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
In celebration of the full-fledged onset of summer blockbuster season, we’re doing a superhero month here at MovieBoozer. As I’m the kinda guy who rarely misses quality escapist fare in the summer, I had to dig a little deep to find a superhero film watch for the first time.
Not this deep
I hadn’t thought about this recast and ignored quasi-sequel to 2004’s Thomas Jane-starring The Punisher in years until I happened across a quote by director Lexi Alexander saying she wanted this to be a statement film. Women can make muscular, violent action films, too. I’d say Katherine Bigelow proved that years ago, like it needed proving, but let’s see how she did.
Punisher: War Zone finds Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) in the middle of a vendetta against the New York City mafia, and winning handily. This all changes when he accidentally executes an undercover police officer, putting a no-nonsense detective on his tail to add to the threat of Jigsaw (Dominic West), a monster he created when he failed to finish him off properly, and his deranged brother, Looney Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison).
First off, this isn’t another goddam reboot/origin story. That right there deserves a toast. Also, I have to tip my cap to the casting of Stevenson. While Thomas Jane did a fine job, Stevenson is more believable as the human wrecking ball that The Punisher is.
I’ll give Lexi Alexander this- she can bring the skull-cracking, blood-geysering uberviolence as well as anybody. This movie, much like the comics it’s based on, is truly nasty, and if there was an ounce of justice in the world, would have carried a much more severe rating than, say, Shame. As generous as Michael Fassbenders… assets… are, heads exploding like watermelons are much more scarring.
Not that this wasn’t scarring, either.
This film feels bizarrely dated, almost like it should’ve come out in the mid-90s, Joel Schumacher era of superhero films. The humor is broad and campy as hell and the villains are straight out of a Dick Tracy comic strip. There’s even a bunch of rear-projection scenes, which makes the decision to use cut-rate CGI instead of practical effects occasionally that much more of a head-scratcher.
You don’t come to these things for the acting, but you’ll need a drink in hand to turn to for the bad line-delivery, although the lines themselves do the actors no favors.
Perhaps the oddest choice made on this production was to try to layer on political… subtext? I’m not sure you can call it subtext, because the War on Terror and Death Penalty polemic is about as unsubtle as it gets, culminating in an utterly hilarious final scene, which somebody somewhere obviously thought served as an argument for capital punishment, yet achieves the opposite effect.
This is an odd, Frankensteined entry into the comic-book movie canon, but it’s staggeringly violent and compulsively watchable all the same.
Take a Drink: whenever someone alludes to 9/11 or terrorism
Take a Drink: whenever The Punisher stomps someone to death
Take a Drink: for every over-the-top (and awesome) kill
Do a Shot: every time Looney Bin Jim tosses out a factoid or horrible pun