With “Punisher: War Zone,” Thomas Jane, the actor with two first names and little acting talent, looks like the smartest guy in the room. He didn’t return to the vigilante film series after making one awful movie four years ago.
To reboot the DOA “Punisher” comic-book-to-film franchise, Marvel went out and found the only actor on Earth to make Jane look charismatic. Ray Stevenson, the new Punisher, an ex-Special Forces instructor who slaughters bad guys to avenge the murder of his family, is Irish and isn’t allowed to speak a word for the first 30 minutes of “War Zone.” That speaks volumes.
This Punisher stabs, blows heads off, impales and shoots maybe 244 or so villain-victims. Judge, jury and executioner with extreme prejudice, he locks and loads and locks and loads again. He tosses a bad guy into a glass recycling machine. Love that squishy, slice-and-dice sound effect? Get used to it. Bodily fluids and the sounds they generate are a big part of this gory and wholly unsatisfying slasher film.
Six years have passed and Punisher Frank Castle’s been killing and killing, and yet New York’s supply of villains and bodily fluids hasn’t run dry. The villains are easy to find. They all wear black. Black on black. Asian, Italian, Russian or African-American, everybody gets their duds from the same store.
Frank falls afoul of an FBI undercover operation, kills an agent and is hunted by a fellow Fed (Colin Salmon) even as he tries to protect the dead agent’s widow and little girl and assassinate all the “real” bad guys.
The bloodbath in the opening reel left Billy the Generic Italian Mobster sliced up so badly he’s given himself a nickname — “Jigsaw.” (Yeah, it’s taken, but he was sure “Saw IV” would be the last one, too.) Dominic West of “300” does serious career damage as “Jigsaw,” slinging the worst “badda bing-badda boom” Jersey-Mafia accent this side of Hugh Grant. Mercifully, his face is unrecognizable in the latter scenes of this badda-bomb.
The Punisher encases himself in armor and clambers through the subway on the way to each showdown. He swaps Bible verses with a priest.
“God be with you, Frank.”
“Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God,” Frank hisses back, because that’s what heroes hiss in really bad comic-book adaptations.
The laugh-out-loud stuff may not be sheer ineptitude, but I wouldn’t stake my life on it.
Uwe Boll, the Orson Welles of awful movies, at long last has a challenger. By coincidence, “War Zone’s” Lexi Alexander is also German-born. But the martial artist/stunt choreographer who thought she’d landed her big Hollywood break with this should have checked with the smartest guy in the room.
If Thomas Jane knew better, shouldn’t she?
“Punisher: War Zone”
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West
Director: Lexi Alexander
Time: 100 minutes
Rated: R (pervasive strong brutal violence, profanity and some drug use)