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Frank Castle, the ex-military man whose family was killed by criminals, who became a vigilante known as the Punisher, goes after a whole mob family and gets everyone except enforcer Billy Russoti. He tracks Russoti down and chases him into a vat that is used for crushing bottles. Frank turns on the crusher hoping it would take care of him but it doesn't. He survives but sustains very severe injuries that even with plastic surgery his face looks like a jigsaw puzzle. So he decides to adopt the name Jigsaw. Frank who killed one of Russoti's people who unknown to him is an undercover Fed, decides to pack it in. But when he learns Russoti didn't die and is looking for the money he entrusted to the Fed and will go looking for it at his home which means his family is in danger. So Frank tries to save them. But Russoti wants revenge on Frank so he breaks out his brother who is so crazed that he is committed to an asylum, to deal with him. And also another Fed who's a friend of the man Frank ... Written by
The extreme violence gives it an exploitative edge and limits the impact of the dark tone and also the "fun" it could have been but still appeal to target audience
Those seeking out the sequel to the 2004 Punisher film will probably already know what they are getting into, partly because a quite limited release at cinemas in the UK means it is not easy to stumble into (ironic considering how many Brits are in it). This helps the film because really this is not something that tries to have something for everyone so much as it is a film that knows the target audience and is determined to give them what they want. As a result, the story here is a simple affair of a criminal scarred by the Punisher, going out for revenge while the police are after both of them it is not the most complex bit of writing you'll ever see but then, it doesn't need to be. Those looking for the Punisher's dark tone to be utilised to try and make this character into a possible "Batman" in regards having a dark psyche at the core of it will be disappointed because the film does no such thing. I was one of these people though and I was at least hoping that more would be made of the rage and loss inside Castle but again, a few flashbacks aside, he generally just broods around the place full of vengeful justice.
What carries the film then is a series of brutal action sequences and effects shots, all full of callous violence, macho posturing and gun play that rewrites all rules of the real world. At this point it does depend what you are looking for because there are a core of viewers will love the film for this as it delivers exploded head after collapsing face after dismembering and other really graphic acts. For me personally the overdose on excess is all too much and it does leave the film with this very unpleasant air that makes it harder to enjoy. If the violence was a little less graphic or frequently graphic then it would have been easier to actually "enjoy" the big action sequences for what they were, rather than the gore putting me off although again for some this will be the cherry on the cake. To the casual viewer this excess does give the film an exploitative, careless edge, where all the characters are little more than things waiting to explode and it limits how much we care not just about the goons but also the main characters.
This further detracts from the dark character of Castle as he becomes just a machine and not a man or even a shadow of a man and no, staring off moodily into the distance every now and again is not the same thing. At the same time it also limits the more flamboyant and silly side of the film the side that the hammy Jigsaw needed to play up. You can see it in the excess but also in the Patton reference and other silly things; all of these imply that it should be a little bit camp with the darkness (hence making it a bit more fun and accessible) but it doesn't do this and those that play to this side of it are left just looking silly in a bad way rather than a good way.
Specifically West suffers from this as his comic book villain is lost in the sea of gore. As a Wire fan I do feel a bit for West but his Italian impersonation at the start is awful and, once behind the make-up he can do little but be "a bad man" without much unique about him to make him notable for anything other than what he has done before. Stevenson is not "good" either but he matches the ambition of the film and makes for a big dark presence which is all the material needs and this he does well. I quite liked Salmon in it because he is one of the few that feels natural which is a bit of a condemnation on everyone else when you think about Salmon's range generally. Hutchinson matches West by overplaying but again the sense of comic book madness is taken away by the gore.
Punisher War Zone is a basic genre film then. For target audience it will satisfy as it delivers simple characters with simple motivations, a straight-forward plot with lots of action and lots of gore boxes ticked. However for many casual viewers it will be all too dark and unpleasant as the gore dominates and it makes everything seem a bit less "entertaining" and a lot more like work. The dark tone to the character and the hammy silliness of the villains are lost and the entire film appears to be about exploding heads great if that is your thing but not so great if not. A noisy Saturday night special with your male friends but that's all it is.
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