Published Dec 05, 2008Punisher: Warzone is Hollywood's third attempt at bringing Marvel's most brutal hero to the silver screen; the first being the best forgotten 1988 film starring action movie also ran Dolph Lundgren and the second the watered down 2004 film starring Thomas Jane. This time around, Ray Stevenson (Rome) takes on the role of Frank Castle (aka the Punisher), kicking some serious ass while being assailed on all sides by very bad men and even worse dialogue.
In this Rated-R return to the violent New York of old we are spared the paint-by-numbers origin story of the Punisher and dropped into the action five years after the Castle family was brutally murdered by mob hit-men. The Punisher is well on his way to ridding New York of organized crime but, during a raid on the hideout of mobster Billy the Beaut (Dominic West), he accidentally murders an undercover FBI agent and leaves the crime boss horribly maimed instead of brutally murdered. Billy, of course, returns as the horribly disfigured Jigsaw, seeking revenge against the Punisher and the undercover agent who swindled him out of a lot of money. Jigsaw targets the agent's wife (Julie Benz) and child (Stephanie Janusauskas), using the Punisher's sense of honour to draw the vigilante/hero into a dangerous and deadly game of cat-and-mouse.
Punisher: Warzone see-saws between unflinchingly brutal violence and unforgivably clichéd writing. Fans will recognize the hallmarks of pre-Batman Beginscomic book adaptations, including broadly drawn, stereotypical characters, a simplistic story and groan-worthy one-liners. If it were not for director Lexi Alexander's exceptionally entertaining action sequences Punisher: Warzone would drown in a tub of cheesiness. But the action is so well filmed and the violence so decadently grotesque that fans of the comic book will have to begrudgingly enjoy what they are witnessing even while they are cursing the frivolous approach to the material.
The third time might not be the charm for the Punisher's big screen appearance but it is entertaining despite its many flaws. Though most of the characters who populate Frank Castle's demented world are little more than caricatures, the Punisher himself is as brutal as any sociopathic vigilante who has graced the silver screen. Hopefully Ray Stevenson will get a chance to reprise his role in a darker, more serious sequel. (Maple)