Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone

If you didn’t think the first Punisher was violent enough, have no fear, Punisher: War Zone is here. Picking up four years after Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) began his vigilante mission, the Punisher has wiped out most crime families in the city. When he goes after the next one, he makes the mistake of killing […]

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If you didn’t think the first Punisher was violent enough, have no fear, Punisher: War Zone is here.

Picking up four years after Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) began his vigilante mission, the Punisher has wiped out most crime families in the city. When he goes after the next one, he makes the mistake of killing an undercover agent and failing to exterminate the head bad guy. Thus, Billy the Brute (Dominic West) becomes Jigsaw and gathers his brother James a.k.a. Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) from the asylum to help eradicate the Punisher. Now, with the “Punisher Task Force” on his trail and the FBI unable to takedown Jigsaw, Castle must put his guilt aside to protect the dead agent’s wife (Julie Benz) and daughter (Stephanie Janusauskas) from Jigsaw’s revenge.

Studios appear to have taken the same approach to creating a Punisher sequel as they did the Hulk: less drama, more action. There is definitely no lack of blood spill this time around. But it is the drama and oddball characters that endeared me to the Thomas Jane version. In the new imagining, the Punisher may as well be faceless. His ruthless method of dispatching criminals is, however, firmly in tact. Bodies are exploded mid-air, heads are used as springboards, and lots and lots of blood splatters the set. Furthermore, the look is very gritty, providing a visceral and authentic adaptation of the Garth Ennis comic.

The effort to show Castle still has a heart despite recent acts comes in the form of his attachment to the young girl, but she seems too sweet and trusting while he is rigid. The inept attempts at infusing the story with emotion are marred by the dialogue as much as the performances. The death scene of a new ally is particularly poor, as they exchange too familiar lines.

On the other hand, the villains are outstanding. As Billy, West appears to be lacking something, but when he is transformed into Jigsaw his persona is a perfect fit. Additionally, Hutchison portrays just the right kind of crazy for LBJ. When he is finally unleashed near the close, his performance surprisingly reaches another level through illogical physicality. Further pushing the physical limits, filmmakers integrate free-runners into the bad guy army. Widely known as parcour, free-running is an extreme sport with practitioners performing acrobatic stunts in urban environments.

This adaptation is much closer to a comic book version of the story than its predecessor. The fantastic acts of violence and colourful villains make the distinction quite clear. But the stiffness of Punisher’s brooding attitude leaves the dark, layered character wanting.


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