A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 457 – Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone – May 31st, 2011

After last night’s depressing and tiresome gore-fest I was a little leery of putting this in. I mean, we had to according to the project rules and all, but I wasn’t sure I could handle another movie like last night’s. Thankfully, this movie has very little in common with last night’s! Okay, it’s still got Frank Castle, vigilante who takes down mobs. And it’s all gritty and urban and Castle’s got a skull on his chest and a whole lot of guns. But it’s definitely embraced its over-the-top nature and gone storming in with said guns blazing.

The cheese factor here is high enough that it makes things a heck of a lot more fun. Also making things more fun? No brutal backstory lead-up to the action. We get it all in a couple of vague flashbacks from Castle and a bit of exposition from a secondary character. In this one he and his family apparently witnessed a mob hit while having a picnic in a park, so the mob gunned them down too and Castle’s made it his mission to take down as many mobsters as he can. Nice and quick and simple and not at all part of the movie’s plot so we don’t have to care about it aside from motivation! That does a lot to keep the tone of the movie from being so painfully dour as the other one was. This is just pure action cheese, no sympathy for the main character necessary. He’s just a badass with a bunch of weapons and some body armor.

In fact, the main character doesn’t talk for like, twenty minutes. I hadn’t twigged to it but Andy did and it is pretty impressive. He’s just not much of a character and the movie knows that and seems to be a-ok with it. His character development consists of the backstory, two or three moments where he seems conflicted about continuing his bloody mission and some interactions he has with the widow and child of an undercover agent he killed by accident. And as character development for a cheesy action movie goes, that’s pretty good. It’s not too complicated. It’s not too deep. It doesn’t take us anywhere unexpected or more unpleasant than the movie already was. And that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

Really, this is a pretty mindless movie. You don’t have to think too hard to follow it. Castle goes after a mobster and accidentally kills an undercover agent in the process. Mobster gets all cut up in a bin full of broken glass and renames himself Jigsaw when he gets out. Mobster goes after the family of the downed agent, seeking revenge for losing money, being set up, whatever. Castle, having a soft spot for families and all, tries to protect them even though the widow is justifiably pissed off that he killed her husband. It’s a simple plot really. There’s some stuff with the mobster’s brother, who’s been in an asylum locked in a pretty ridiculous version of four point restraints. He’s a cannibal, it seems, so as one might expect there’s some chewing, and not just of scenery. And then Jigsaw gives a big speech to like, every gang in New York (I seriously expected the Baseball Furies to show up) in front of a projected image of the American flag, inspiring them all to join him to take Castle down.

Yes, I am totally serious. I mean, that’s the sort of movie this is. It’s sort of serious? Except it’s really not. It’s crossed that fine line into cheese and it’s a lot more enjoyable to watch because of it. Ray Stevenson isn’t a bundle of personality as Castle, but he doesn’t need to be. He needs to glower and shoot people. Dominic West isn’t playing a truly tragic villain as Jigsaw and Doug Hutchinson isn’t playing Hannibal Lecter as Jigsaw’s brother, Loony Bin Jim. I mean, look at those names right there. This? This is a comic book movie. No mistake about it. It’s even got a sidekick for the hero. A couple, actually, if you count both his intel and gun provider, Microchip (played by Wayne Knight, who does not get eaten by a dinosaur here but still doesn’t make it out alive) and the cop who’s sort of the Punisher version of Fox Mulder, keeping files on him in the basement of the police station.

It’s all just so silly. There’s a whole lot that seems to have been tossed in just to look cool and give Castle someone to kill, like the three meth junkies who go vaulting off rooftops after making deals with Jigsaw. There’s the ex-banger who works for Microchip, buying back guns from gangs and passing them on to Castle. There’s the army of various gangs who are way too easily dispatched by Castle once the Russians show up and start gunning people down. Oh, they have a reason but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s all done big. There’s not nearly the same amount of chunks slamming each other into walls as last night’s movie had. The action is quick and varied and it moves the movie at a good clip. Which is the way it ought to be.

I can’t say that this is a cinematic masterpiece or anything so fancy. It was never going to win any awards. It’s got some decent eye candy and it’s not horribly acted, if one accepts that it’s meant to be cheesy. But it’s nothing brilliant. The thing is, it’s not trying to be brilliant. It’s taking some comic book characters and a comic book plot and tossing them onto the screen with plenty of guns and ammo and just enough backstory and plot to keep things going. And that’s all it needs to be. Sure, I could have done without some of the so-called comic relief, but it’s not as grating as it could be and given the overall tone of the movie it doesn’t feel completely out of place. It’s a movie that knows its niche and works well inside of it. It’s unrealistic and it knows it and it doesn’t care and that’s fine with me.

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May 31, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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