Punisher War Zone Takes the Bronze!

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?

Fourth Blood: A Rambo Review

6:19:36 am

So, yeah, a movie from 2008 might not exactly be considered “kicking it old school,” but I figured, since it’s the fourth in a series of rad action movies from the ’80s, it can count. Also, I watched First Blood a couple of weeks ago and was completely weirded out by the fact that it didn’t take place in a jungle, but a town in the U.S. Crazy, right? Who knew? Probably the rest of you, but I didn’t. Anyway, here’s how things went down with the new (?) and improved (?) Rambo.

Rambo (2008)

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Written by Sylvester Stallone & Art Monterastelli

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz and a bunch of dudes who either get blown up or beaten close to death

Averages 2.59 killings per minute. Has a kill count of 236, the most for any Rambo film.

Okay, so I had a couple of beers and decided to watch Rambo and man, what a great choice (the movie, not the beer, though I find beer to be a great choice often enough). Here’s a couple of facts I learned from IMDB.com that will give a pretty great idea of how the movie stacks up against its predecessors: there are 236 kills on screen, which average out to 2.59 deaths per minute. Awesome. Seriously.

So, here’s the plot. Rambo’s living in a jungle (or something) near Burma (which is called something else now). Julie Benz plays a missionary who asks for Rambo’s help to go to a different part of the jungle which he eventually agrees to. She and the other missionaries get attacked while Rambo sleeps on the boat. A military guy shows up and asks Rambo to ferry a bunch of other army dudes to help find Julie Benz (who, I forgot to mention got captured by the Burma guys). He agrees and they head into the jungle.

As a quick side note, I don’t actually know anything about Burma except for what I saw in the Kardashian’s PSA (YouTube that if you haven’t seen it), but the Burmans (?) in this flick are so repulsive that they just might be the new Nazis, you know, cannon fodder type characters you don’t mind seeing get their limbs and heads blown off (more on that later).

Back to the story, the scene where the Burmese attack the missionary camp is absolutely insane. They storm in there and kill anything that moves (including kids, but excluding Julie Benz). It’s a pretty rough scene to watch (the beer helped). So once Rambo hooks up with the army dudes, he ferries them to the camp site, but their leader insists on leaving him there, but don’t worry, he doesn’t. Which is great because Rambo shows up to shoot arrows into the heads and necks of the bad guys as they roll up on the decimated camp.

Later, they run an attack on the Burman soldier camp at night (which is awesome). Things (including people) get blown up in the process, but Rambo saves Julie Benz, even though the other army dudes make a run back to the boat after rescuing a few of the other missionaries. Now Rambo’s on the run with Julie and the army guys’ sniper who stuck around to help out.

So, they’re running through the jungle trying to get back to the boat. Rambo tells sniper and Julie to head to the boat and he sets up a claymore mine to explode some dudes. And wow, does he explode some dudes. It looked like a nuke went off. I have no idea how realistic this was, but it looked crazy.

All of this leads to Rambo coming up on the army dudes being held by the Burmese jerks. He jumps on the back of a truck and starts blasting away with some kind of gatling gun or something that absolutely tears the bad guys into pieces. It’s one of the bloodiest 10-15 minutes of film I’ve ever seen and, again, it’s awesome. Have I mentioned that I liked movie violence? Cause I do. And Rambo gives it up in spades.

I gotta give it to Stallone. The dude was 62 when Rambo came out and he looks rad and haggard, just like Rambo would. Call me easily-entertained, but an hour and a half of Stallone running around a jungle, making mince meat out of jerk-holes is a great way to spend part of an evening. If you liked any of the other Rambo movies or like seeing older dudes kick some ass (like Willis in the latest Die Hard or Harrison Ford in Indy 4 or even Stallone in Rocky Balboa, which I haven’t seen yet) or just crazy action movies where the good guy wins and the bad guy dies horribly, then you’ll definitely enjoy Rambo.

One more quick thing. Something I really liked about Rambo is that there isn’t one specific villain. It’s not like Rambo’s matching wits with one guy, he’s facing an entire army of evil jerks. There is a guy later on (the guy getting stabbed in the guts above) who leads the guys beating up on the army guys towards the end of the movie, but it’s not an arch-villain type of thing. It’s a nice difference of story from the previous installments and a lot of the other movies out there that took a page or 90 from the Rambo scriptbook.