Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sadness of Expectations Unfulfilled: Punisher War Zone

Why didn't I read a review before I bought and watched Punisher War Zone? I really should have done so. I let the promise of Ray Stevenson and a comic book movie lead me down the path of disappointed movie-watcherdom.

Why was I disappointed? Because the movie was so disgustingly gory that I couldn't hardly digest the plot or appreciate the value of the movie. This movie was made as if it was a comic book for Hostel/The Devil's Reject fans. Okay I never watched these movies, but I scarcely see how they could be more gross and difficult to stomach than this movie.

The review on Amazon that I should have read prior to watching this movie said that if I didn't appreciate the comic book in all its violent glory than I shouldn't be watching the movie. I beg to differ. Comic book art is a one-dimensional medium. Movies are three dimensional. They have what appears to be real life people. It is much easier to deal with watching a person being torn apart on paper than it is in a movie. The impact of violence is therefore much more intense and more deeply felt than violence in a comic book or a graphic novel. I have read and enjoyed Elektra comics (designed for mature readers), so I know that there are violent possibilities in comic books. However, although some did not like Elektra, the filmmaker was able to demonstrate the deadly potential of Elektra and show her moral ambiguity without heads exploding almost continuously, peppered by other horrific death scenes.

This movie was too much to stomach. I firmly believe that even Kill Bill with the completely over the top violence it featured comes nowhere near how sickening this movie was. It simply made my stomach hurt and left a bad taste in my mouth.

And it was such a waste. It had a really good cast with three British actors that I admire: Ray Stevenson, Colin Salmon, and Dominic West. For the people who appreciate eye candy, there are handsome men in this movie to admire. It had an antihero who could be admirable but wasn't because he was a brutal and remorseless killing machine. And even still I could accept this in a hero if the impact wasn't delivered in such a horrific fashion. I love antiheroes, but in this movie, The Punisher was a person that I had trouble empathizing with or even detecting any humanity in. The few moments of humanity shown in some scenes was siphoned away by the following scene of him blowing someone's head off. Now I do want to be fair and state that these sickening acts of violence were perpetrated solely on evil people, although the bad guys do horrible things to good people, but still, cruelty is cruelty.

I think the script was pretty decent. This movie version is much more faithful to the source material of the Punisher comics. It had a very nice production value (except for the gore). The acting was very good, although I feel that Julie Benz was underutilized. It even had a few laughs. In a more subtle person's hands, I could have liked this movie. But with the execution that it received, I definitely did not like and do not care to watch this movie ever again.

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