As loyal Kicking It Old School readers might remember, a few months ago I declared Wanted as my third favorite comic movie of 2008 behind Dark Knight and Iron Man and miles ahead of Hellboy 2 and Incredible Hulk. Well, Wanted has been ousted by Lionsgate’s Punisher War Zone which I watched last week and have been telling my friends about ever since (in real life, that is).
This flick is awesome. It’s great in the same way that I thought it would be when I started seeing previews for it before it came out. This is like Crank or Shoot ‘Em Up or any number of Jean Claude Van-Damme or Steven Seagal movies from the late 80s or early 90s. It’s balls to the wall crazy for most of its 103 minutes, which is exactly what a Punisher movie should be in my opinion (for the record I really like Dolph’s Punisher and barely remember Tom Jane’s).
To put things in perspective, by the 8 minute mark, The Punisher had killed an entire party full of mobsters (including decapitation AND shoving a chair through a guy’s face) before heading off to another creation when the man who will become Jigsaw gets one of the more gruesome villain origins in comic book movie history.
Joining Jigsaw in his murderous rampage is his brother known as Loony Bin Jim, who Lost fans may or may not recognize as Horace (I had no idea, this dude is a chameleon). Sure, both villains are way over the top and it’s nearly impossible not to compare their versions of crazy to the amazing Heath Ledger’s Joker performance, but I still found their brand of crazy enjoyable.
I understand it’s kind of crazy to lump Punisher: War Zone in with two of the greatest comic book movies ever made (hey, we comic fans had a good year last year), but I had more fun watching P:WZ than I did Incredible Hulk and Hellboy 2, both of which suffered, in my opinion, for various reasons (I’d have to see both movies again to really remember why, but I just don’t feel like putting myself through that again).
Speaking of comic fans, even though it’s your basic “dude shooting and killing his way through a bunch of bad guys” story, there are still some nods to the comics. You get Detective Soap and Microchip (played by Newman himself, Wayne Knight), plus some other characters that I wouldn’t have known about if IMDb hadn’t told me about them in the trivia page. Plus, anyone can enjoy the awesome final showdown scene in an old hotel with tons of gangs each trying to kill The Punisher.
All in all, Ray Stevenson did a bang up job as Frank Castle (though, even he couldn’t save himself from the sappy-ish parts of the script that should probably have been scrapped). Dominic West’s Jigsaw and Dough Hutchinson’s Loony Bin Jim were over-the-top crazy and director Lexi Alexander made me excited to see whatever her next project will be. And hopefully it will be another awesome action movie, because there really aren’t enough female action directors out there. Actually I can’t think of any others, can you?