The Punisher is Frank Castle, a Marvel Comics character who kills bad guys as vengeance for the murders of his wife and children by mobsters.
The body count in Punisher: War Zone starts early. The Punisher goes after members of the mob. A dozen or so die in creative scenes that include Castle hanging upside down from a chandelier and spraying the room with bullets.
Then, Castle moves to New York City docks where he accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent. Castle also drops the mob’s leader, and a villain who never saw a mirror he didn’t love, Billy Russoti into a grinder full of glass bottles and turns it on. Russoti doesn’t die but his face ends up a pulpy mess.
He wants revenge.
Punisher: War Zone is fraught with flaws -- and the biggest is how less-than-creatively director Lexi Alexander kills off the bad guys. Other than the chandelier scene, bad guys pop out, get popped, move to the next bad guy. And on it goes for just under two hours.
That leaves Ray Stevenson’s Punisher to mope through the movie like a lost puppy. He mourns the death of the agent and feels sorry for the guy’s widow and child who he ends up protecting.
Stevenson gets no help from second-banana character actor Dominic West (300, Mona Lisa Smile) or from veteran weirdo Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park). The only person remotely having fun is Doug Hutchinson, who plays Jigsaw’s brother, Loony Bin Jim. If everyone else had that good a time, War Zone would have been a great movie.
This is the third attempt to make The Punisher into a successful movie franchise. Saying it is the best of the bunch may be misleading. Though it isn’t as awful as 2004’s Thomas Jane, John Travolta or the Dolph Lundgren 1989 disasters, Punisher: War Zone isn’t going to win any Oscars.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated R for language, extreme violence, mature themes. It opens Dec. 5 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild 12 Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.