Sunday, 28 March 2010

Film Review: PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)

Director: Lexi Alexander
Running time: 99 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 18

UK Release Date: 6th February 2009

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 28th March 2010.


Set in New York and following on from the 2004 film, The Punisher, this film continues the violent story of vigilante Frank Castle. Now, as I remember, I wasn’t all that impressed with the first film in this franchise, but I thought I’d give the second one a go anyway. This one, although flawed, was a distinct improvement on the first, it’s rare, I know, but a sequel can sometimes be better than the original.

Frank Castle is stalking members of gangs involved in organised crime. He holds them responsible for the deaths of his wife and two children and has been wreaking his revenge for over three years. After taking out one particular gang, he is told that some of them have escaped and he takes off after them. Unfortunately, one of the escapees is an undercover FBI agent that Castle inadvertently kills. He is devastated by this and tries to make amends to the agent’s wife Angela and daughter, Grace. They want nothing to do with him and he is left with his guilt. One of the other escapees, Billy, is badly disfigured during Castle’s attack and, after plastic surgery fails, he becomes known as Jigsaw. Together with his two henchmen he goes and frees his psychotic brother Looney Bin Jim in order to kill Frank. The gang go to Angela’s house and hold her hostage while looking for money that her husband is supposed to have stolen from them, until Frank turns up that is. There is a lot more to the plot and several more characters are introduced, but I’ll leave my little synopsis here as I don’t want to give too many spoilers away.

This is a very dark and extremely violent film. They certainly don’t hold back on the graphic scenes of violence. Having said that, there is a coherent plot and the characters are pretty well developed. Some pretty good performances too, honourable mentioned go to Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle, Dominic West (from TV’s ‘The Wire’) as Billy/Jigsaw, Doug Hutchison as Looney Bin Jim, Colin Salmon as Paul Budiansky, Wayne Knight as Micro, Dash Mihok as Martin Soap, Julie Benz as Angela and Stephanie Janusauskas as Grace.

Although it’s never going to win any prizes, I did quite enjoy this film. Partly because the characters were well developed, and partly because the filmmakers didn’t sanitise the violence too much in order to get a lower certificate. Yes, it’s very violent and there aren’t any stand-out performances, although it was good to see Dominic West as a bad guy, but it is, by far, not the worst of its genre. I can’t give it a very high score because of it’s flaws, but I do recommend it to you.

My score: 6.4/10

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