By Jeremy Azevedo
|You know, after hearing all the rumors about the studio wrestling for control of this picture with director Lexi Alexander, I half expected the final product to be somewhat of a mess.|
Lucky for Punisher fans that Alexander, a former world-class karate and kickboxing champion, held firm and produced the Punisher film that fans really wanted to see.
Punisher: War Zone is the first Marvel film to be branded with the “Marvel Knights” tag, one that designates it as a comic movie catered to an adult audience. The film is rated R, and I’m sure it barely avoided an NC-17 because it is tremendously violent. Like, new Rambo violent. Like Takashi Miike violent. Some people will no doubt take offense at this, as they are under the mistaken impression that comic books are for kids, and likewise, all comic book movies must also be for kids. There are two major problems with this line of thinking:
1. I don’t know a single kid that reads comic books. The only people with even a passing familiarity with the Punisher are adults in their late 20s, early 30s. Ask around if you don’t believe me. I’ll wait.
2. The Punisher is a comic book about a pissed off, crazed vigilante that f**king murders criminals with guns. Take a moment to let that sink in. The book is currently being illustrated by Steve Dillon, a guy that specializes in drawing people with their faces blown off. Please do not even bother to pretend to be surprised when the same thing is depicted in a movie about the character, because everyone will know that your head is planted firmly up your ass.
Thomas Jane may as well be Lorenzo Lamas, compared to Ray Stevenson.
Now that we’ve cleared that little bit of unpleasantness up, let’s talk about the actual film itself. First off, Ray Stevenson was a perfect fit for the role of Frank Castle, such that he appears dead-eyed and wooden most of the time, but moves like a goddamn cheetah whenever the need arises. Some might take issue with his acting, but seriously, there are only like ten lines of dialogue in the whole movie, so who gives a crap.
When the character of the Punisher was originally conceived, it was as a dark opposite of characters like Spider-Man, who valued responsibility, family and friendship. The Punisher never sat at home drinking wine and talking about his problems with his little girlfriends, he was always more like a comic book version of a shell-shocked reactionist, stubbornly pursuing a one-man war that would never end and would almost certainly result in death, as if he was already dead to begin with.
Dominic West was also great as one of the better comic book villains I’ve seen in awhile, Jigsaw. His origin in the film was so heinous, it makes the Joker look like a pussy. His entourage of lackeys were also great, like characters from the Sopranos. Each had their own distinct personality that made seeing them get their ass ripped by the Punisher more meaningful.
Holy crap, are you telling me that people get shot in this movie?
The darkness of this film makes the moments of levity so much more unexpected, and thusly more enjoyable. In fact, unexpectedness is what makes Punisher: War Zone a great film. Just when you think the bar cannot be pushed any further, it gets pushed. Action movies are supposed to be violent and kinetic, and Punisher: War Zone takes note of that better than any adult comic film since The Crow (which even shares some stylistic and musical similarities). It’s as if they hired "Gallagher" as the special effects supervisor. Melons splattering everywhere.
While I obviously wouldn’t recommend Punisher: War Zone to families, any comic book reader and Punisher fan will be happy to see a proper representation of a character that doesn’t go around saying one-liners and over-explaining everything he does. Which is a nice change of pace after three Spider-Man movies. Obviously this isn’t on par with the big, grand production of Iron Man or the Dark Knight, but as a smaller film with more of a niche audience, it definitely does not disappoint.
CraveOnline Rating: 8.5 out of 10
1 if you are a Guns & Ammo subscriber
-3 if you are a bed-wetting gun control advocate
Don’t believe me when I tell you that this film is more violent then a Tijuana cock fight on trucker meth during a full moon? Then watch this trailer and see for yourself: