… I know the sentiment is all around out there, but after seeing the new Punisher flick, I’ve just gotta say:
IT’S ABOUT FUCKING TIME!!!
Really, how hard, in an age when Spideman, X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, oh, well maybe not DD but come on, they can make a believable Hulk movie but not a good Punisher? Really? Recently I rewatched the ’04 version and god damn is it awful. Not one redeeming quality. I mean, I don’t want to dis Thomas Jane because I don’t think it’s necessarily his fault, but in contrast in WAR ZONE Ray Stevenson IS Frank Castle. He looks just like those Tim Bradstreet covers, and everything about him is dead on, as opposed to Jane’s (again, I doubt it was his fault) utter hero-ization of the classic marvel anti-hero. To loosely quote Garth Ennis back around the time his Punisher book went MAX ‘The Punisher is a serial murderer, a psychopath. It’s time to treat him as such’. Well, that’s definitely the way the character came off in this new film and it was marvelous because of it. Obviously very inspired by the Ennis characterization, one thing I definitely LOVED about this movie was that to us long time fans, there was definitely some influence from Stephen Grant’s Limited series in 1986 and even the classic Mike Baron stuff from the original unlimited series. I grew up with the Baron stuff – it was my first introduction to the character and damn I still love it today. Where Ennis really went above and beyond, bringing the book the kind of characterization we love him for from his Hellblazer and of course Preacher runs, and without ever really straying too far from that aforementioned directive of the psychopath in Frank’s heart, Baron’s stuff was, in a way, grittier and more methodological. Issues 1-9 of that series were very concise – rarely would a story exceed the twenty-two pages allowed to it (with my favorite, ‘Garbage’ spilling from issue number 6* directly into 7 being the only partial exception to that). And the violence and crime had that cold, cruel Reagan-era vibe that made so many great street level books at the time (well maybe not so many, but things like Watchmen and Miller’s Dark Knight to name a few).
Lion’s Gate really did a number here. It’s easy to see they were looking for a bit more of the dark stuff here, and they got it. One reason may be that one of the screen writers was Nick Santora from The Sopranos and Prison Break. I’m not familiar with PB at all, but Sopranos is, to me, second only to GOODFELLAS as far as ultimate mob story. Sure there are a lot of exaggerated Italian accents here, but anytime something seemed too underlined I kind of eased my eyes back and looked at the framing – THE FREAKIN’ THING IS EVEN FRAMED LIKE A COMIC BOOK. Seriously, keep this in mind when viewing and if you’re familiar with comics you’ll see it and it will take the edge off some of the less subtle moments.
Another thing, accents included WAR ZONE is funny as fuck. There were quite a few times I laughed out loud. And I mean good, hearty laughs, not just chuckles. Not to give anything away, but keep your eyes on the gymnastic trio of baddies – one of them meets a hilarious end. And none of the levity was that stupid attempt at humor we got in ’04. Yeah, I know Bumpo and Spacker Dave were Ennis characters, don’t get me wrong, they worked in an ongoing book. But thrown into the Punisher’s on-screen origin that whole subplot (if it could be called that) was a stupid waste of time and a lame attempt at making that Hollywood comedy connection that seems to sneak into a lot of action movies (esp. their sequels, like Pesci in the Lethal Weapon sequels or that stupid cop in Die Hard whatever. This is no surprise, as as I think I stated here before, the screenwriters all had 80’s action movies under their belts**).
This film version of the Punisher, while maybe being guilty of being a bit over the top, is exactly what the fans have been waiting for for quite a number of years now.
* That cover, with a gas-masked Punisher standing with uzi in hand amidst a field of toxic waste barrels is possibly my favorite and most iconic comic cover of all time to me.
** Whether they were released in the 80’s or not, Armageddon, Cliffhanger and Die Hard 3 are 80’s action movies the same way the ’04 Punisher is.
*** Yes I even loved how it ended. Fuck off Stewie! (My reaction at the time of finally seeing it about a year ago is posted about halfway down the page here if anyone cares: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendID=12617000