Punisher: War Zone (2008)

To be frank, this was way better than it has any right to be. Somehow the movie is able to reach a sphere of existence where it’s at the same time absolutely laughable, corny to a point of being stupid and yet, really, really delightful to watch. It truly is the first time they’ve ever managed to do live action Punisher right, and the inner comics fan in me is immensely pleased by this. There is still room for improvement, but they come incredibly close to nailing just about every aspect of the character right. It’s able to talk the talk and walk the walk, instead of being ashamed of itself like the Dolph Lundgren version was, nor does it trip itself by going way overboard while mining the source material like a frantic fanboy, something which was the main problem with the Thomas Jane movie.

War Zone basically does a delicate trapeze act of balancing between being serious (Frank’s inner turmoil and guilt for killing an innocent man) and comedic (just about every scene with Jigsaw and his brother) and it’s that weird mix of the two that makes the movie work. The ridiculous violence and morbid humor compliment each other well and they give the movie that classic Grindhouse feel. The plot itself is admittedly very one note, and perhaps a tiny bit too melodramatic, but what it lacks in depth and character development, it more than evens out in good action sequences and acting. The entire third act of Frank going through the building filled with criminals waiting to ambush him was intense and exciting, and it’s a pity it didn’t go on longer. It’s that type of heavy action and merciless dispensary of death that really show the makers knew what a Punisher movie ought to be like when it’s time to deliver some punishment. Ray Stevenson might not be the most charismatic lead in the world, but he does manage to convey deep vulnerability and even instill a touch of humanity to his character with amazing subtlety. Dominic West is also brilliant, hamming it up so much as possible as Jigsaw.While it does feel a bit pointless to bring along Jigsaw’s an even goofier psychopath brother, when Jigsaw on his own already is pretty outlandish character, but the two do share an incredible chemistry and really spice up every scene where they are together, so you can’t really say Loony Bin Jim drags the movie down.

It is pleasing to know that despite being a box office flop, it has since managed to find itself a cult following. Gems like this are few and far between. and it’s nice to know that there are still people out there who appreciate small, gritty action movies done right.

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