Saturday, December 13, 2008

Punisher: War Zone - A Four-Sentence Movie Review

With revenge stories such a popular film genre (there were two of them last year with The Brave One and Death Sentence), I find it kind of baffling that, in three different attempts, Hollywood somehow can't figure out how to make a decent movie with Marvel Comics' gun-toting crusader, the Punisher.

Maybe it's that filmmakers think they have to do something different, otherwise they've just made yet another revenge movie, or that they think the lead character must be super-heroic since he comes from the comic books, or that they feel Frank Castle has to show a glimpse of humanity to placate a mainstream audience, whereas comic book readers don't care if he just pops into the story, blows off a half-dozen heads, throws out a one-liner, and moves on to the next criminal slaughter.

As someone who grew up reading some Punisher comics (and greatly enjoyed Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's darkly humorous take of a few years ago), I think what makes the Punisher so appealing to comics fans is that they're used to seeing a hero who's content to put the villain in jail because he has to do the right thing and doesn't want to kill, so to see someone whose version of justice is to spray the bad guys' brains all over the wall brings an entirely different sense of wish fulfillment.

Punisher: War Zone definitely gets that right (as you can see here), yet beyond the extreme blood and gore, there isn't any "art" to the violence - none of the slow-motion fetishizing of gunfire or balletically choreographed fight scenes that we've become accustomed to - which reminded me of an interview I read with Ray Stevenson, where he said he wanted to make sure no one left the theater wanting to be the Punisher, and while that might be noble, such a sentiment may have resulted in a movie much less gratuitously entertaining than it could've been.