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IN SHORT: Body parts fly like winter snow . . . [Rated R for pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use. 107 minutes]
The Punisher is a Marvel comics character created by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru although this version is closer to the work done in the more adult flavored "Marvel Knights" line. We can't say if it resembles the Punisher: War Zone series that was published from 1992 to 1995 since we don't have 'em in our longboxes. We can say that it does its best to recreate the feel of the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon run. Different characters from their run, including the beloved shlump detective, Martin Soap (Dash Mihok) fill this film and add texture.
There was a different Punisher movie about four years, and a thousand reviews, back (Thomas Jane as the man in black) and whether the origin in this version matches the last film note for note is beyond the capabilities of our feeble brain. The basics of the Punisher origin are present in this film and that's all you really need before you get to the important parts. . . Insert the words "flying body" between "important" and "parts" and you're all set for Punisher War Zone.
We were of two thoughts about Punisher: War Zone. First, that it took three unknown writers to try and ape what Garth Ennis hath wrote. Second, that it would just be like Garth Ennis to have slopped together a script with some friends and a lot of beer somewhere where ever in Scotland the man lives. Punisher: War Zone has some impressive brain splatter special effects (not just brain splatter. There are surprise decapitations and other limb removals; guts spew all over the place; bodies exploded with some impressive ‘ooos’ from our audience and so forth). Ok, that's enough fanboy stuff.
The story ties up what was probably left over from the last film, with Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) taking out a mob dinner party/meeting while eavesdropping detectives listen in. Purpose of the meeting was to arrange for the "importation" (that means smuggling) some kind of biological weapon in a deal that will partner organized crime types from La Cosa Nostra and the Russian mob. Having failed to kill all the mobsters, Castle tracks down the remaining wiseguy, one Billy Russoti (Dominic West) in a recycling plant. Bullets fly. Russoti gets dumped in a glass crushing machine and gets cut up real good. The plastic surgery to fix the guys face leaves him looking like, well, a Jigsaw puzzle, and so goes the origin story for this episode's super villain, renamed Jigsaw. (Not to make too much of the comparison but this Jigsaw struck us more as a combination of Batman movie villains -- the prancing about Joker of Jack Nicholson and the makeup heavy mugging of Tommy Lee Jones).
The twist is that, even as The Punisher brings down the bad guys, the Feds cut a deal with "Jigsaw" to bring down the bio-assassins. Bad guys go to jail. Jigsaw gets to keep the money and gets the Fed file on The Punisher. Yeah, it's all slapped together but it keeps the story moving, even as Castle has to rescue the kidnapped wife and daughter of an undercover Fed he blew away in the first act of the film . . .
ah the heck with it. Body parts fly everywhere. Some really did get big "oos" from our audience.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Punisher: War Zone, he would have paid . . .
Were we still twentysomething, Punisher War Zone would be the top ticket buy of the week. . .
or da bomb, if that idiot term is still in vogue . . .
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