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The Punisher : War Zone

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By Captain Cumquat

Frank Castle gets the reboot treatment in a deliciously brutal new interpretation of the classic Marvel comic – and by golly, it ain’t that bad!

Nixing the customary origin story altogether, the action-first plot-second superhero film (of sorts) sees terminal sad-sack Frank Castle (you’ll recall from the two previous films plus the comics that his wife and kid were kid in a mob hit) well-and-truly comfortable in his new skin (or is that ‘Skull’ T-Shirt?) as a big city vigilante whose soul purpose is to take out the crime families. And he does – with some big-ass guns and zero remorse.

Castle’s now set his sights on overeager mob boss Billy Russoti. But after Russoti is left horribly disfigured by Castle, the Predator becomes the hunted and Russoti sets out for vengeance under his new alias: Jigsaw.

Considering I had as good as expected to give this movie a negative star rating (hadn’t heard anything good about it, had we now?), I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the production and, shoot me silly, a lot of the acting – yep, acting.

Ray Stevenson takes over the role of Frank Castle/The Punisher from Thomas Jane in the 2004 iteration. Mr. Stevenson plays the laconic role stoically but has moments that reveal some regret and humanity. Stevenson does more than an adequate job with the tortured character and has a rugged look that fits the character nicely. Unfortunately, and for no fault of the studio or Mr. Stevenson, the lack of a marquee name does seem to have an effect in attracting the fickle movie audience (you only to check out the returns on the film to see what I mean by that).

By far the most gripping performance in the movie was delivered by Julie Benz (“Dexter”) who plays the recently widowed Angela Donatelli. She gives a heart wrenchingly real portrayal of a woman grappling with her husband’s death by the hand of a friend. Ms. Benz has always shown her talent to rise above the material she is playing. Beautiful, yet consistently rooted in reality. She brings much more to the role than – dare I say it – it probably needed, but the movie is better for it.

Dominic West plays Jigsaw with such strut and panache, it almost makes the evil and hideous looking villain adorable. His relationship with his crazy brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) adds another depth of humanity to a character that could easily be characterized as one dimensional as written. The key to a good shoot-em-up actioner like this one is to have a delicious bad guy, and West give us oh-so-much to love to hate.

If you only have 103 minutes left on this earth, I’d recommend you have sex with a complete stranger rather than watching this piece of fluff. However, if you’re looking to burn the same amount of time to fill the otherwise void space in your life till the next big thing, you could do worse than ”Punisher: War Zone”. Lock’ em and Load ‘em!

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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