.............................................................TRAPPED INSIDE A WORLD UNDER LEAGUES OF OCEAN........................................................

Sunday, February 26, 2012

movies: punisher: war zone (2008)

After a recent rewatch of Punisher: War Zone, I did some cursory review scans, only to find incredulously that I am in the minority who LOVED this adaptation of one of Marvel's baddest bad-asses. Yes, P:WZ is not the definitive take on the comics antihero, but is the by far the best adaptation yet. And no, that's NOT just like saying that Faces of Death VI is "the best one yet", or my recent flareup of herpes is the "best one yet"; there is quite a bit to like in this newest flick...

The Punisher was always one of favourite comic characters as a kid, because he actually scared me, and it seemed like he could kick anyone's ass even though he had no super-powers. That made him more real to me. He's very simply a vengeance-driven killing machine, a sort of good serial killer. Like a shark. The comic offshoots and mini-series and one-offs that the Punisher character has been involved in over the years are many and varied, and I won't go over them here, as they aren't incredibly important to the enjoyment of the film. Here, though, they've thankfully done away with the white boots and gloves and outfitted our Punisher-du-jour with quasi-realistic uber-S.W.A.T. gear and a vast armory. Reprising their roles from the comics are Punisher's weapons supplier/verbal conscience Micro (played with an understated fatalism by Seinfeld's Wayne Knight...? NEWMAN!) and arguably Punisher's greatest foe (along with Kingpin), Billy Rusotti, or Jigsaw (The Wire's Dominic West), who ranges from cartoonishly bombastic to terrifyingly unhinged. A cast of side characters fill in the plot holes, but that's not what we're here for...is it? The Punisher himself is played by icy-exteriored Ray Stevenson, who does the most credible job yet of him, campy Dolph Lundgren and surly fuck Tom Jane.

I'm not one of those fan-boys that's all "wahhh, they did away with Punisher's white boots and gloves" (this ain't Quadrophenia kiddies) - in fact, I don't even give a fuck that this is a Punisher film at all. They could have just called it Vigilante or Taken, except those are already used...hell, just call it Guy in Black Fux Shyt Up or even Untitled, with Gun. I don't care, what matters is that this is the most rip-snorting, coolly nihilistic, and brutally violent (sometimes shockingly so, in the best way) action films I have seen since Rambo. I need about one of these a year, and just when my adrenaline levels were starting to sink back to normal, this comes along. Perfect. However, this film is between a cock and a hard place in that it can't win with the fans, and it's really not the type of film to get critically lauded in any circles. 'Cept here.

When Frank Castle literally puts his fist through a mob henchman's face (seriously), and starts laconically tossing out lines like "It's eye for an eye" (when justifying his actions to a cop) and - the best - "Let me put you out of my misery" (right before he tosses a skewered Jigsaw into a fire), I though to myself, "man, this is CATHARSIS: BORN".  Honestly, though, if someone decides to do another filmic take on Punisher, I truly hope it's the Born storyline, which deals with Frank Castle's Vietnam-era metamorphosis into Punisher. Dark stuff for dark times.

Not that it matters to most out there, but in any case, if you dig brutally violent action films, broodingly vengeful antiheroes and/or paintball, I say Punisher: War Zone - WIN.

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