Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone (2008) — You know when just about everyone from the not-great-but-okay previous Punisher film (the 2004 one, not the 1989 one) jumped ship I decided not to get my hopes up for this pseudo-sequel/possible reboot.  But really if you shut your brain off and just go with it… then this movie still sucks. What both films try to do, much to their detriment, is try to humanize Frank Castle.  True, he does have a tragic origin story but Frank Castle is not a sympathetic character. The point made in many a comic book is that the Punisher is just as dangerously psychotic as the criminals he mows downs. It is only through the wickedness of his chosen victims that we root for him at all. He’s really got to the point where he’s more of a serial killer than a vigilante. But that’s okay because the comics (especially the ones by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon) have a wicked and sick sense of humor. Punisher: War Zone does not have a sense of humor, sick or otherwise. It has blood and guts but a tone that renders these things unenjoyable. It has the Punisher suffering from guilt. If there’s one thing the Punisher NEVER has, it’s feelings of guilt. This movie decides to use two of Castle’s foes from the comic: Jigsaw and Looney Bin Jim (unrelated in the comics, brothers in the movie). Casting Dominic West from the brilliant HBO series The Wire as Jigsaw should have been great.  It’s not.  He does an over-the-top and excruciatingly bad New York mobster accent and plays the character as a cartoon (and this really shouldn’t be that type of movie). Doug Hutchinson apparently thinks playing an insane person just consists of giggling a lot (and also doing the same shitty accent as West). The secondary plots involving the family and former partner of a murdered undercover FBI agent don’t do anything for the story. Ray Stevenson does nothing in the title role, which has previously been played by Thomas Jane (a solid, if un-Punisher-like performance) and Dolph Lundgren (playing basically Dolph Lundgren).  I hear that the film rights for the Punisher have lapsed back to Marvel, who have since Iron Man been making their own movies (quite well so far). I hope this means the next (fourth) Punisher will be overseen by people who actually know a thing or two about the character.

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