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"Punisher: War Zone"

Directed by Lexi Alexander.
Written by Nick Santora, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.
Starring Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison and Julie Benz.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  12/7/08


Let me, for once, be honest and direct.  (Yeah, that's a new one for me!)  I went to see "Punisher: War Zone" this morning purely to add fodder to the Hard Vice category.  Let me say this--I don't know if I have ever been this completely wrong about a movie ever, because I thought this movie was actually pretty good.

Now, let's make sure that we're looking at an apples-to-apples comparison here:  I also thought that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a $9.50 Show, but they are what they are for very different reasons.  Following up on a so-so "Punisher" film in 2004, "War Zone" is not a sequel, but a restart to the franchise...great idea number one.  Great idea number two: dump a good actor who looks nothing like the Punisher (Thomas Jane) for a so-so actor who looks exactly like the Punisher (Ray Stevenson, from the HBO series "Rome").

Great idea number three: make this film unbelievably, gratuitously, "Rambo" 2008-like-violent.  To quote the review in the San Francisco Chronicle:  "...this is truth in advertising at its best.  People get punished.  In a war zone."  "Punisher: War Zone" has some of the nastiest killing you will see in a movie this or any other year, but it works given that all you entered the theater to do was watch the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, kill a shitload of bad guys.  And, boy, do you get a ton of that during this movie.

Adding to the strengths of this film:

  • The film's director has been nominated for an Oscar and is a former karate champion.  Uh, and she's a woman!

  • The film's writers have worked on "Law and Order", "Prison Break" and this year's "Iron Man."

  • Co-stars include Dominic West, who is our man McNulty from The Greatest TV Show Ever, "The Wire."

  • The film doesn't bother giving us Frank Castle's home life, a big mistake from the 2004 version.

  • Dolph Lundgren does not appear in this film.

  • The action scenes don't feature the newest fad in fight scenes, making camerawork so shaky that I get motion sickness; the shootouts are well shot, too.

  • The movie has one of those low-budget metal soundtracks, like a B-level version of the soundtrack from "The Crow."

No, no, no, the film's not perfect.  However, it is very enjoyable given that I thought it would be guaranteed dogshit AND the simple fact is that this year, a lot of the big films that I was excited about really disappointed me.  That's good enough for me, friends!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09