“The Punisher War Zone”: Welcome Back, Frank

Dark? Yes.  A Knight?  Not so much.

Dark? Yes. A Knight? Not so much.

Now this is how you’re supposed to do The Punisher. 

Brutality?  Check.  Splattered brains and bashed in faces?  Check.   Big freakin’ guns and a totally badass Frank Castle literally stomping the hell out of criminals.  CHECK!

It would be stretching the boundries of what’s good to call The Punisher War Zone a good movie.  It’s not.  Certainly not Iron Man or The Dark Knight good.    The Dark Knight was a great movie, but it wasn’t any fun.  This movie is fun.    Big, dumb and stupid, but sometimes that’s just how I want my entertainment. 

It’s also waaaaay over the top.  But we’re talking about a guy who goes around slaughering Mafiaos, street thugs, gang bangers and pretty much anyone that bugs him.    Any time you’ve got a “hero” who says stuff like, “Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God,” you’re talking about a guy who spends the majority of his time in a permanent state of pissed off.

It took three times before someone finally made a movie that  “got” the character of The Punisher and what makes him so damn cool.    In 1989 Marvel made it on the cheap with a budget of about $100 in Australia starring the then-hot Dolph Lundgren.    It’s a unwatchable mess so don’t punish yourself watching it.  It’s bad and not so bad it’s good.  Marvel tried a second time with a bigger budget, but a even worse script as it hired a male model (Thomas Jane) and relocated a  character who basically smells like New York City to Tampa.  WTF???   Throw in a bloated and bored John Travolta going through the motions as a bad guy and voila!  Instant stink bomb!

I don’t have HBO so I’ve never seen Ray Stevenson in Rome,  but he makes a pretty cool Frank Castle.  He’s old enough, big enough and more importantly he’s mean enough to be The Punisher.   Major props to director Lexi Alexander and the screenwriters who didn’t disrespect the source material. 

This is the kind of movie critics hate.  They sharpen their knives and just rip these kind of movies to hell.   Screw ’em!   Let ’em wait for whatever Woody Allen whacks off next or Meryl Streep’s lastest accent.  I won’t begrude them for enjoying high art.   I like art too.  Sometimes though I just want something that makes no pretense to being anything more than what it is.   PWZ is a ultraviolent throwback to big, dumb action flicks.  It’s a body counter, not a brain twister.   

I had high expectations for Quantum of Solace and walked out disappointed.  I had no expectations for Punisher War Zone and came out with a smile on my face.   It won’t break any records at the box office, but so what?    The bullets and splatter are completely ridiculous.   The plot is ridiculous.   The Punisher IS a ridiculous character.

I don’t care what the New York Times or anybody else thinks  about this movie.   I totally dug the hell out Punisher War Zone.  It’s “R” rating is well-deserved.    It’s not for the kiddies—AT ALL.   Send them over to watch Bolt or something. 

Punisher War Zone is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything expect what it is:  a totally violent and over the top,  in your face and smash your head against the wall splatterfest.   When it goes to DVD with  the extra “director’s cut” bells and whistles, I can’t wait to hear Alexander explain why she went totally nuts with this concept.  

Is PWZ a guilty pleasure?  Oh hell yes!  There’s so much inside information that only Punisher comic book fans will get (paging Detective Budansky), but that’s what makes it work so well for me.  I AM a Punisher comic book fan and I was totally disgusted with the cheap and lame previous stabs at the character.  This is not a complicated guy.   He kills criminals by filling them with bullet holes.  That’s it!

Sometimes I want a junk food movie that doesn’t set out to do anything but entertain.  This movie does that.  That’s all I wanted and that’s what I got.    This is junk food for the head and I just might go back for seconds.

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