Movie News & Reviews

Too little script, too much gore in latest 'Punisher'

The only "punishing" going on in the new Punisher: War Zone isthe "punishment" inflicted on those of us who have to watch it.

Ha! Heh. OK, with that out of the way, let's get serious. I'm hereto talk today about the grave irreality of characters such as thePunisher, a man who can walk into a room guns blazing, and withouteven thinking about taking cover, is able to gun down a dozen menshooting back at him without getting grazed.

Nonsense of the highest degree. As someone who's almost beatenMedal of Honor 2, I can tell you that when the bullets startflying, you get shot just by poking your head out from behind a crate.You get shot just by thinking about shooting back. And you knowwhat? Since we're all so "boo to human cloning," in the real world,there's no such thing as an extra guy or limitless continues.

I worry about the message this sends to our children. When they getgeared up and bust in to massacre a room full of dangerous criminals,I don't want them thinking "Hey, the Punisher just stood out in theopen like a stud, and he turned out all right." That's going tosend them home full of two things, disappointment and bullet holes.Let's get on this, people.

Ever since his family was killed after witnessing a mob execution, RayStevenson (as the Punisher) has been violently eliminating organizedcrime families from New York City. Latest on his list: Dominic West, acareer scumbag who's been acquitted of his scumbaggery once again.

Stevenson goes in guns blazing. The ensuing bloodbath leaves the bossdead, West's face horribly mangled, and an undercover agent dead byStevenson's hands.

Consumed by guilt, he considers retirement -- yet not only is Westlooking to smuggle biological weapons into the city, but he's also bustedhis psychotic brother out of the mental ward and put together aPunisher-hunting posse.

Do you enjoy heads exploding? Wait, better question: Just how much doyou enjoy heads exploding? Tons? More than tons? So much you sometimesthink your own head might explode from thinking about it so much?Really? We should totally hang out some time.

Also, that's about how much you'd need to like skulls kerploding toget anything out of Punisher: War Zone, a widely incompetentmurderfest that can't even find any style in its bloody-but-genericscenes of mass slaughter. Come on! All it takes to make violence lookacceptably arty is some flying doves or anime-style neck spurts! Isthat so much to ask?

Maybe this gruesome display is director Lexi Alexander's way ofstaying true to the comic, but I'd say he does that well enough withhis broad, exaggerated characters, from man-of-no-words Stevenson toultra-sleazeball West, whose wiseguy accent is actually thicker thanthe horsehide stitched across his shredded face. The recent success ofcomic book movies has been due in large part to inspired casting -- andStevenson and West, refugees from ended HBO series, certainly have thechops to bring something to the role -- but the script's just got nothingthere for them.

Worse yet, War Zone actually seems convinced that an imperfectjustice system can only be redeemed by mass vigilante murder.Stevenson feels bad about accidentally killing a cop, yeah, but withinminutes he's back out on the streets and suddenly the bad guys' headsall look like grapefruits smashed with hammers.

Insane ideas don't by themselves make movies bad. Frequently, it's just theopposite, as in Wanted, the Loom of Fate that wove the destiniesof those who must be killed made that movie, oh, 800 timesbetter than it deserved. But idiot ideas require an idiot energy tokeep them humming along, and while War Zone's story isn'tsluggish, it's far from lively enough to make its X-Treme capitalpunishment!! stance anything but foolish.

Then again, asking a Punisher movie for a thoughtful take onvigilantism is akin to asking a dog to do your dishes: not only doeseverything end up broken and slobbered on, but you also look stupid forthinking it was a good idea in the first place.

By the end of WarZone, if I hadn't already seen the Punisher in his other crappymovies, I'm not sure I would have even known who he was. I certainlywouldn't have cared.

Grade: C-