Notes On A DVD: Punisher War Zone

From good Punisher to not-so-good Punisher, which is ironic considering how much this film took from the Ennis Punisher run …

I’m amazed that they made a sequel to the underwhelming (and missing the point) Thomas Jane-starring version, especially as they seemed to have ignored it completely, returning to the original ‘origin’ for Frank Castle of a former Special Forces husband and father whose family is killed by the Mafia.

The film starts out like an issue of Garth Ennis’ Punisher comic book, which is a good thing – the Punisher kills a load of mobsters in a house – but then the film gets it wrong by deciding to ‘create’ Jigsaw as a villain for Punisher to fight. Dominic West hams it up as Jigsaw, which seems at odds with the tone of the rest of the film. Ray Stevenson looks exactly like the Punisher of a Timothy Bradstreet cover, and acts like a man who has had everything taken from him, devoid of emotion. This is appropriate, but it highlights the fact that the Punisher himself is not supposed to be an interesting character; it’s got to be the story around him that has to be intriguing (e.g. see Ennis Punisher stories).

The film takes a lot from the Ennis run (the IMDb Punisher War Zone trivia page for the film lists all the characters who were taken from various Ennis arcs and other connection) – we even get Detective Soap – but unfortunately Punisher War Zone turns into a 1980s action film, with two damsels in distress to rescue, a villain with a personal vendetta against Frank, a large building full of faceless criminals for Frank to kill (and what a stupid and pointless bit of plotting to collect a large group of homogeneous henchmen to be slaughtered), and some ’emotional resonance’ for the story (oh dear). The only differences are the CGI blood – there is a lot of it; the best way to describe the film is ‘squelchy’ – and the excessive levels of violence (Frank stabs men in the head, breaks the neck of a Mafioso’s wife after beheading the Mafioso in question, shoots off a leg of a faceless henchman – you get the picture). I guess the Punisher doesn’t work in a standard three-story arc Hollywood film; I wish they’d actually read the Ennis stories rather than just taking the surface aspect of extreme violence.

Rating: DA

[See here for my film rating system]

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