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The Punisher: War Zone

The Punisher: War Zone

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

THE Punisher is one comic book character that Marvel just can’t seem to get right.

Dolph Lundgren’s original was a ham-fisted attempt to set the ball rolling in 1989 that was deservedly met with critical contempt, but Thomas Jane’s version, in 2004, was far better than some people would have you believe.

Owing to the fact that it was still perceived as a critical and box office failure, however, we now have Ray Stevenson attempting a third reboot and failing just as dysmally.

The Punisher: War Zone is a sickeningly violent film that’s designed as a throwback to the plot-light style of the ’80s. Former stuntwoman Lexi Alexander directs proceedings at breakneck pace, barely allowing the film to stop for plot details or character development.

What passes for a screenplay finds ex-Special Forces specialist, and family man, Frank Castle (Stevenson) attempting to bring down a disfigured crime lord, Jigsaw (Dominic West) and his deranged brother, “Loony Bin” Jim (Doug Hutchison), while coming to terms with a mistake that led to the death of an FBI undercover officer.

But any attempts to explore Castle’s torment or psychology are largely blown away (along with heads, limbs and various other body parts) at every opportunity.

The violence is unremitting and almost always unpleasant, no matter how OTT and blackly comic Alexander intends it to be, while the performances are excruciatingly bad.

Yes, there are guilty laughs (such as the site of an acrobatic assassin being blown to pieces, mid-air), but they’re not enough to justify paying the money to see it, especially given the lamentable state of the script and the woeful performances that veer from excruciating (Colin Salmon and Dash Mihok) to hideously OTT (West and Hutchison).

The Punisher: War Zone is an ultimately punishing experience that deserves audiences to punish it in the most emphatic way possible – by refusing to see it and preventing yet another attempt at reviving this moribund franchise.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 106mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 22, 2009