We’re all familiar with mediocre films
having their dicks sucked by the
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Movies like AVATAR, SCHINDLER’S LIST, and STEP UP 2: SMOKEY IS THE BANDIT are almost universally beloved, thanks to prestigious directors coasting on name alone, not to mention a heaping helping of Hollywood’s Hype Machine. I’m not saying James Cameron and Steven Spielberg aren’t talented – their respective filmographies speak for themselves – but they are human, and quite capable of making crap. The films may be technically sound, emotionally manipulative, and visually dazzling – but they are nonetheless crap.
Chow Yun-Fat? I fucked him.
Then you hit the other side of the spectrum. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE also had a bout with the Hollywood Hype Machine, but on its sphincter end. Reports clamored of problems onset. The director (and big studio newcomer), Lexi Alexander, was supposedly fired. Executives were pulling out their hair, beating their wives, and banging the maid. Yakov Smirnoff walked out on the production at the last second due to a lack of faith in the script. In other words, a bunch of TMZ bullshit.
Speculation or not, when WAR ZONE finally dropped, it landed with a resounding wet plop. Critics hated it. Fans hated it. Even the short-haired brunette from Bananarama hated it. The flick grossed about $10 at the box office, and that was from a drunk hobo with a dirty Hamilton sticking out of his waistband who accidentally passed out in the fifteen-seat auditorium PUNISHER was playing in.
Streisand has never looked better.
In all honesty, if people pulled their heads out of their asses and gave the flick half a chance, they would discover that WAR ZONE is a fun movie.
Ray Stevenson plays Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, aka Sugar Britches. For the three Bastards who don’t read comic books, Frank’s family is killed in cold blood by various ne’er-do-wells. Losing his faith in the justice system (it also doesn’t hurt that he’s slightly off his rocker), Frank now lives underground, armed to the teeth, looking for any and every reason to kill all the scum that runs rampant in his city – no catch lines, no masks, and no Boy Wonder.
As far as pertinent plot goes, that’s about it. We could get into the intricacies of the film’s narrative, but who cares? Gangsters, drugs, murder, video tapes returned to Blockbuster with an utter disregard for late fees – it’s the same ole dance routine.
The real question: Does the film work?
Though the character doesn’t require a lot of dialogue, Ray Stevenson embodies a man pushed to the edge, looking to exact justice by any means necessary. He’s tough, looks convincing handling various guns and cutlery, and is (almost) able to pull off sporting a Hot Topic t-shirt with a skull prominently emblazoned across the front.
More importantly, The Punisher is all about violence, and WAR ZONE delivers in spades: Old ladies getting their necks broke, chair legs shoved into orbital sockets, a plethora of broken limbs, parkour assholes exploding, countless jackasses ruthlessly gunned down, old ladies having the majority of their heads blown off, cannibalism, axe fu, a guy being pushed into a glass grinder…I mean, what more could you possibly want?
In hindsight, what the fuck does this movie have against old ladies?
At any rate, if I had to bitch, I would say the villains in WAR ZONE are bit too over-the-top. Dominic West’s Jigsaw is pretty fucking ridiculous. Alexander claims the performance was completely her idea. That’s all well and good, but regardless of its originator, the idea was a bad one. Granted, the bliss of WAR ZONE is found in its excessive exaggeration, but Jigsaw, at least for this Bastard, just didn’t work. A villain with a thick New York accent who looks like Barbara Streisand may click on paper, but not so much on the big screen.
Long story short, if you haven’t checked out PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, it deserves a day in court. It’s well-made, balls-to-the-wall, and a lot of fun. Until they do a MULTIPLICITY-style mash-up starring Ray Stevenson, Thomas Jane, and Dolph Lundgren, I’m gonna consider WAR ZONE to be the ultimate Punisher film.
Finally, check out this podcast regarding the making of the film. Really fascinating stuff.
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