version of The Punisher and that same year, I also did a piece on all three movies for The Agony Booth. I won't be covering the 2004 version here since I really said all I have to say in the Agony Booth piece but I do feel the 2008 film is worth getting into a little deeper.
Ray Stevenson is Frank Castle this time out and at the start of the film, he slaughters an entire house full of gangsters, one of whom happens to be an undercover cop. Wracked with guilt (as one would expect), he tries to protect the man's widow (Julie Benz) and daughter from Jigsaw (Dominic West), a deformed psycho who Frank mangles in the beginning action sequence and his even more insane brother Looney Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson).
That's pretty much all the plot you get (and really all you need) as we are pummelled with some of the most hilariously over the top, brutal action sequences ever. Director Lexi Alexander (I love that one of the most violent action films in recent years is directed by a pretty, demure German woman) keeps the pace nice and tight and really goes for the jugular with the action.
Heads are lopped off, faces are blasted in with shotguns (and in one case, punched in with a simple fist) and best of all, a parkour practicing baddie is taken with a rocket launcher. It's all so hilariously over the top that it's a little hard to get too offended by it.
That being said, the film is still pretty damned vicious as pretty much no one except for the main three or four good guys are safe as supporting characters are offed with an amazing lack of regard for good taste. Put it this way, most films tend to avoid having a senile old woman get brutally murdered. This one? Not so much.
Performances are pretty good for what they need to be. Stevenson is solid as Frank, West is hilariously hammy as Jigsaw (with one of the worst New York accents I have ever heard, even funnier is when he's sharing scenes with actual New Yorkers) and Hutchinson is...Well, he's a damned freak. Apparently in real life too, strangely enough. One of his best scenes is an oddly touching moment where he breaks a bunch of mirrors so his brother (who has a real hangup about his looks) won't have to see himself.
Punisher: War Zone is one of the most enjoyably bad movies of the last few years. It's sick, twisted and completely insane in the best possible way. It's rather amusing that it failed at the theater since it did exactly what die hard fans of the comics wanted the earlier two versions to do. It brought the Punisher comic books to life...And that is both a good thing and a very bad thing. If you have a strong stomach and a sense of humor, check it out.