Monday, 24 October 2011

Reviews@24 Panels: PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)

The few times I read Punisher comics in my youth I thought, "Gee, that Newman from Seinfeld would make a great Microchip." And y'know what? He does. Casting Wayne Knight as Microchip - the Punisher's friend/ally/technology whiz - is one of the few things the third attempt at a Punisher film gets right. 

Lexi Alexander's Punisher: War Zone would have been great had it been made somewhere between, oh, let's say 1988 and 1993; the script is equal parts action-melodrama and comic book camp. Had it been made in the late-80s/early-90s heyday of low-budget action films, it could have achieved that sort of good-bad type of entertainment (hey, kinda like the original 1989 Punisher film starring Dolph Lundgren!). However, this film is too busy being as absolutely gruesome as it possibly can. I mean, I enjoy watching a bad guy's face getting punched in (literally) as much as the next guy, but when it comes after 100 exploding gunshot wounds and the like, it's just, well, gross.
Director Alexander has a difficult time balancing the tone of the film, as well. She elicits a solid, serious performance from Ray Stevenson, who is overall a better Punisher than Lundgren or Thomas "I just want my kids back" Jane. Stevenson's quiet, brooding, and stoic Frank Castle is the polar opposite to Dominic West, who hams up Jigsaw as a low-rent version of Jack Nicholson's Joker (actually, Alexander liberally borrows from Burton's Batman quite often). Though there are some redeeming qualities (Knight, Colin Salmon's performance, the cinematography), ultimately the film is an uneven mess. Coming in to Punisher: War Zone, I wasn't expecting  a "good" Punisher movie, just one that was mildly entertaining. Who would've thought that this was such a difficult task?

Punisher: War Zone (2008, USA/Canada/Germany, 103 mins). Directed by Lexi Alexander. Written by Nick Santora, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway. Starring Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to heartily recommend a recent episode of How Did This Get Made? (search for it in iTunes), where they interview director Lexi Alexander and talk about this film. It definitely made me want to rewatch it soon.