Skip to main content

Punisher: Laugh Zone

Movie title: Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Grade:
D+ (1 1/2 star)

Rated:
R

Summation:
Vigilante Frank Castle (The Punisher) takes on the mob and the infamous Jigsaw.

Spoilers ahead:
No

---

Punisher: War Zone is a gory, violent, and manically ridiculous film. Let’s get that straight from the word “go.” But watching it takes you back, back to the mindlessness of 1980s action films. I’m ashamed to admit it, but a small part of me actually liked this slop. The plot is nothing special, the acting is nothing special, and the story is, well, nothing special, but it had a carefree decrepit-ness to it that made me hate it less than I otherwise would have.

In a creepy way, it was sort of appealing. It made me feel like I didn’t have to care about anyone or anything. I was being beckoned to jump into a grim world of darkness and death. All it wanted me to do was enjoy the mayhem. I liked that!

It’s no big credit to the movie, but I thought it was funny. It’s called War Zone, but it’s more like Laugh Zone. I was in stitches during parts of this film, which is the reason it goes from getting an F to getting a D+. I was almost entertained!

You know your movie is going to have problems when rollerblading street punks stay high on meth and gut convenience store clerks for the hell of it. Remember those cheesy 80s martial arts flicks where everyone fought to the death for no reason? Well, those wastes of tape were arguably a tad worse than this, but not much. Here, we are given glimpses of a post-apocalyptic society (where violence and thuggery are the norm), but in a non-apocalyptic world. The villains seem to be evil for evil’s sake!

And by the way, rollerblading junkies who wear dreadlocks and stay high on crystal meth do not master acrobatic fighting maneuvers! They just don’t. No, junkies stay in their houses made from empty Huggies boxes under bridges and waste away. They don’t spend their days killing for the sake of killing and then laughing about it.

But as the story goes, Frank Castle has off-ed most of the bad guys in town. One obstacle remains, however; an insane Billy Rossoti “Jigsaw” (Dominic West) and his way more insane brother “Looney Bin Jim” (Doug Harrison) want Punisher dead in a big way. This leads to a citywide war, as per the “War Zone” part of the title.

Now Looney Bin Jim is the next major item of consideration because he too is an acrobatic karate expert like those rollerbladers, and he is every bit a match for Castle on Castle’s best day. Jim is a cackling crazy man who doesn’t just kill; he somehow instantly rips open fat men and eats their kidneys as they are dying while his sicko brother stands by and just watches with laughter. My thinking is, the writers could have cut down on the caffeine and realized that you don’t have to have a character actually EATING another character Hannibal Lecter-style to convey insanity. How many nutcases do you know who eat someone? Ok, there was Dahmer and Shawcross, but I bet you can’t think of too many others.

This is a riot, isn’t it? I’m laughing as I write!

The vandalism in Punisher is notable. That old Looney Bin Jim breaks mirrors so that his hideous-looking brother who calls himself Jigsaw won’t see himself and feel bad about his marred appearance, and he throws plates and brakes glass while pillaging houses – even when he knows he won’t find anything in doing so – all while maintaining a mafia-mixed-with-madness image.

Am I the only one who finds this despicably funny?

Okay, so what. The movie is cheap and chummy, reminding us of that wonderful-but-embarrassing decade known as the 80s. It’s a bad flick, but it’s tolerable for some, and may I say, it took a lot of shamelessness to put something like this out. What is not tolerable is that director Lexi Alexander botched the character of the Punisher, just as was done in the 2004 movie under the direction of Jonathan Hensleigh.

In the comics, the Punisher doesn’t care if some good guys get killed. The real Punisher would open fire on a crowd of women and children if he needed to get to the wrongdoers badly enough, and he’d chalk their loss up to casualties of war. He certainly wouldn’t be mourning the loss of dead FBI agents as he does here. But this Punisher shows little girls the merry-go-round of his slain daughter. Aw, how sweet!

This guy isn’t the Punisher. He’s just a tough guy. The real punisher is broken-in, too far-gone to have emotional regrets. The real punisher would scare the crap out of the audience. There’d be no taking hostages to back him off. He’s a bad good guy, but almost more bad than not.

The hand-to-hand fight scenes I liked. They could be seen and appreciated for what they were. The gunfights were lame. Next to the fact that the camera wasn’t on anyone long enough to enjoy the shots, it’s not a good idea to have an experienced gunfighter in a shoot-out hanging upside-down and spinning from a chandelier—that means you’re a stationery target, and if you miss your targets, it’s going to be a while before you spin back around again to hit anything! The excessive gore only made things crazier; cutting an old woman in two, villain’s heads exploding from gunshots…it was all too much.

Colin Salmon, as “Paul Budiansky,” played a good FBI agent who worked with the police taskforce as Castle’s semi-opposition. He exhibits good screen charisma and is one of the few characters with any dignity in the whole film. The police force have to oppose Castle, but they respect him as a powerful vigilante. That’s part of the story they get right. And if the film had not been such a miserable failure otherwise, this would mean something.

I’m just sorry to see yet another failure in efforts to make a good Punisher. The 2004 Punisher wasn’t ashamed to have a guy in a Popeye-looking sailor outfit beat the tar out of Castle. Plus, all we got from that one was cheesy humor and little devastation. The 2008 Punisher at least isn’t ashamed in its implicit message: Yeah, this is a base level, brainless action film. Death and violence is the way it’s going to be. If you don’t like it, quit watching.

(JH)

Director: Lexi Alexander

Starring: Ray Stevenson “Frank Castle,” Dominic West “Billy Russoti / Jigsaw,” Doug Hutchison “Loony Bin Jim,” Colin Salmon “Paul Budiansky,” Wayne Knight “Micro,” Dash Mihok “Martin Soap,” Julie Benz “Angela Donatelli”

Genre:
Action/Crime/Drama/Thriller

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

When Jesus Turns Down the Glory: 10 Worst Ever Christian Songs

It’s a sad testimony when even the creator of a thing realizes that the product isn’t what it was intended to be. Well, actually it’s a good thing. It just doesn’t happen often enough. The Christian music industry is, shall we say, not up to par with where its admirers (and even creators and ardent well-wishers) would hope it would be. And when even the average believer realizes that their music is not market-cornering stuff, all should know that there is a problem.

Now not all Christian music sucks (you might even find a few rock songs from artists like Petra on Joe Holman’s ipod that he still sometimes listens to and enjoys), but what makes the stuff that does suck suck is that what sucks sucks for a number of different reasons. We begin the countdown going from best of the worst to absolute worst...

The Top 5 Most Powerful Beings in Sci-fi (Part I of II)

It’s a subject that is rarely tackled in any form outside of random questions on a message board, but here we will devote a sensible examination of it. Who – what – is the most powerful being anywhere in every realm of sci-fi or fantasy ever dreamt up by a finite human being? I’ve been contemplating this subject since I was 8 years old. At 39, it hasn’t left my mind. That means several things; (1) I’m a fucking geek. (2) I’ve invested enough of my life pondering this for it to qualify as an obsession.

As with all “Most” anything lists, we are faced with several problems, one of them being limited source material. A couple of these only made one or two brief appearances somewhere and that is all we have to go by. But sometimes, those situations let our imaginations go into overdrive and give us even more creative fun. The mystery tends to add to the experience of contemplation.

The Top 5 Most Powerful Beings in Sci-fi (Part II of II)

#1) The Douwds – From Star Trek The Next Generation

Claim to fame: This Douwd went from pacifist to mass murderer of 50 billion in a single moment of anger. He appears to hold the record for most murders in all of sci-fi.
Abilities: Just about unlimited.
Nature: True immortals.

Our winner, debatably edging out number #2, is a mysterious race of beings called the Douwds. We only get to meet one of their kind in a single episode (#51, season 3 - see the condensed version here) called “The Survivors.” It was one of the very best of any season. What little we know of this illusive race “of disguises and false surroundings” only adds to our fascination with them.

When the Enterprise gets an urgent distress call from a federation colony on Delta Rana IV about an attacking alien warship, they head over as fast as they can, but they are days away. By the time they arrive, it is too late. All are dead and the planet has been literally leveled…with the sole exception of one house and the small pa…