Thursday, December 11, 2008

Punishment for Punisher Fans

How bad is Punisher: War Zone? Bad. Really bad. And this from somebody that liked the Daredevil movie. It’s not just bad. . . it’s punishment. . . (Couldn’t resist).

The Thomas Jane movie was flawed, but it tried. PWZ doesn’t try. In the earlier movie, Castle is at least kind of developed as a character. PWZ just plops him on the screen.

So, the Punisher creates Jigsaw and accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent. Jigsaw tries for revenge with the dead FBI agent’s family as bait. You’d think a simple plot like that would be hard to screw up.

You’d think. PWZ needs an editor to attack all the odd extra minutes of getting out of cars and staring blankly at other characters. Jigsaw is played for laughs, but his face is well done though seemingly similar to the wheelchair bound billionaire bad guy from Hannibal. Seriously, he’s personally searching a house for $200K, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and giving Patton-like speeches to gang members. Looney Bin Jim is as interesting as a drying paint, and just runs around hurting himself and quoting medical trivia. Furthermore, their entire criminal empire seems to be made up of four guys. And the Russian mob boss they anger? He’s got a dozen guys that show up and then he basically disappears from the film. But wait, there’s a possible terror angle, right? Wrong, any terrorism talk is a complete red herring.

The cops are morons, which is only offset by the idea that they are all protecting Frank Castle during his rampage. But would they really not care that the Punisher killed a fed? Microchip doesn’t do anything remotely interesting, except introduce a throwaway character that has nothing to do with anything. Everything that’s not melodrama is cartoonish. Yes, cartoonish—in a bad way.

That brings us to the Punisher himself. He looks right. The acting, especially the voice, isn’t bad. The skull symbol is down played, which we can live with. He fights okay. But his dialogue, hardcore-ness, and brains are unacceptable. Take a gander at this little exchange:

“What’s the plan?"
"The plan is I go in and get them."
"That’s the plan?!"
"That’s all the plan I need.”
And apparently all the work the script needs, too. Seriously, did they film this over a long weekend?

And he jogs. What? Jigsaw is after the widow and her kid? I better take off at a medium trot across Manhattan. Somehow this Punisher can hit a cartwheeling meth-head in the air with a rocket launcher, but watching him slowly reload is important for the realism. Gee, maybe if he’s such a bad dude he could reload without constantly looking down to fumble with his battle-rattle?

The Punisher does do some things right: mercy killings (which the audience is envious of), abrupt shotgun blasts to the head, and some creative kills. But where are the claymores? Where are the flame throwers and heavy machine guns?

Now, you have to say the final scene is reasonably like the Punisher comic: an abandoned building full of armed gang members who barricaded the windows but forgot to build up any cover to fight behind in the squeaky clean hallways. They just hide in the rooms waiting to be killed video game style. And Jigsaw does do a good job with the whole “final showdown thing.” But, really, the best action you saw in the previews.

Why can’t we get a good Punisher movie? It’s not hard. Frank Castle kills a bunch of criminals and makes Jigsaw. Jigsaw pulls some twist like kidnapping his cop conspirator’s family. Castle saves them and then learns that the big bad guy is really like the Police Chief or the FBI big whig. Before anybody can kill Frank the cops and media show up. He goes to jail, and while being brought into a courtroom Jigsaw attacks letting all the jailed criminals loose into the building. Big battle ensues, showdown on the roof, Frank kills everyone and maybe saves the judge for a little irony—maybe his buddy cop blows away the crooked cop and helps him escape. There, was that sooooo hard?

Punisher is about blowing away the bad guys. Hasn’t anybody seen a Deathwish movie? If we want some chuckles we’ll watch the Catwoman movie. You know what the Punisher really is? Ultimate Punisher plus Welcome Back Frank. A serial killer of criminals and a military trained warrior using special forces warfare against the scum that the law can’t seem to deal with. The Punisher is a soldier, a murderer, a grim but fun anti-hero that outsmarts the bad guys and shocks the audience with his brutal tactics. Somebody buy a copy of The Dark Knight DVD for the people that made this and let them know they just can’t crap out a loser comic book movie anymore!

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