Let's get one thing straight; Marvel Knight's comic series "The Punisher" isn't exactly a grand piece of comic book ingenuity. The comic was gritty, brutal, violent and full of blood and gore. Upon seeing this latest film based on the popular comic character, I wasn't expecting much. Lexi Alexander's "PUNISHER WARZONE" isn't a sequel to the wimpy rendition with Thomas Jane, this one's a reboot; so any continuity issues is not a mistake. The two films are totally different in formula and feel. So is this the best Punisher movie to date? Well, it is--better than the recent film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and it grinds Dolph Lundgren's film to powder. This isn't really saying much, but the movie was a little better than I expected.
Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson, Rome) is the Punisher, a vigilante who executes criminals as his own brand of justice. Now he sets his sights on a crime boss named Billy Russoti ( Dominic West). When a gunfight goes awry, and an undercover F.B.I. agent is killed, Frank is left to ponder his purpose. However, this encounter also left Russoti a little insane, as he is left disfigured after being left in the glass grinder now calls himself "Jigsaw". Now re-birthed as Jigsaw, the crime boss sets his sights on the undercover agent's widow, Angela (Julie Benz) and his kid and plots vengeance on Castle with the aid of his insane brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison). Castle has no choice but to protect the widow--and an obsessed F.B.I. agent (played by Colin Salmon) closing in for the arrest…
"Punisher Warzone" is light years away from truly groundbreaking cinema, but it is a lot better than the other films based on the character. Irish actor Ray Stevenson resembles the artistic renditions of some of the covers in the legendary comic book and I found the actor very fit for the role. Stevenson does have the necessary grit and personality for the role--a single-minded purpose that is supposed to be unstoppable and very determined. Now, that I've gotten that out of the way, the film's screenplay just moves along like a comic book, or rather what most folks think how comic book movie should play out. The film's acting, cinematography, and atmosphere just exudes "comic book" and seemed to have forgotten that it is now a film. The direction by Lexi Alexander is actually decent but spends too much effort in playing into the impulse to prove that it is adapted from a comic book. This may not be a bad thing, but what resulted is a less than stellar script, obligatory dialogue and cardboard characters with hardly any emotion and quite one-dimensional.
The acting of the supporting cast are pretty weak, aside from Dominic West who plays the over-the-top villain, and the accents actually did bother me a little bit. I thought certain elements in the script by Nick Santura and Art Marcum lacked coherency and full of inconsistency, one moment the film reveals its darkly inspired motifs, throws in some scenes for emotion and then one minute it is so comical; I really thought the recruitment scenes of Jigsaw was well out of place. I do think the film missed its potentials for dramatic impact as the film's emotions lacked exposition. All in all the film is pretty routine, the script isn't horrible but it wasn't polished and offers nothing memorable or any surprises.
So what made me like this film a whole lot better than its predecessors? The film is immensely violent and brutal--and may I say quite BLOODY AND GORY. The Punisher is a character without powers (unlike Spider-man), nor does have high-tech resources (unlike Iron Man), and while his reasons may be similar to a certain Dark Knight, as to the lost of his family--he lacks the time to properly train and channel his anger. So, Castle does what he does best--to maim, intimidate and kill. Director Alexander (oh, wow! She's female) gives us all the gory details. I was also pleased that the CGI visual effects are kept to a minimum, and the director cleverly relies on the use of puppets, prosthetics and red ink to deliver the gore EFX . Criminals are beheaded, impaled, blown up to pieces with ruthless indignation. The gunfights are pretty fast and nicely placed, but of course it does lack realism in some aspects.
Ultimately, "Punisher Warzone" isn't a good film, actually it is pretty bad--but it does qualify as being so bad that it is GOOD. I still think that the Punisher being a character who has no super-powers, who deals with the criminal underworld, to be more grounded and more closely linked to realism--Castle is NOT a superhero but a very human vigilante. While the film should have scaled back on the comic-bookish feel that relied on fans of the comic to fill in the plot gaps and instead concentrated on character developments to inspire the humanity of Castle's character then this film would've been really great.
Still, considering the quality of the past "Punisher" films, this movie is a lot better. It is wildly entertaining, that allowed me to look pass the weaknesses of the script and the perfunctory elements by allowing for a lot of blood, GORE and "campy" mayhem to take over. So do I recommend the film? It is brainless entertainment and while "Punisher: Warzone" could have been a lot better, thankfully it wasn't a whole lot worst. Scale back on your expectations and you may like it.
RENT it! [ 2 ½+Stars]
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