Punisher: War Zone (R)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
Well, I suppose I've sort of always been vaguely aware of the character the Punisher, though I never read any of the comics about him. Seems like a pretty bad-ass dude, though. Which is cool. Probably about the most violent vigilante you're ever gonna see, so he's not like most super-heroes (in fact, you can't really call him a hero, exactly, and certainly not super). But whatevs... I have at least one friend (online) who I've always thought of as a major Punisher fan. And I suppose I have sometimes thought maybe someday I'd try to learn a bit about the character. Or not. But anyway, I just moved into a new house, where I have roommates for the first time in my life. One of them is a friend from work, who just got this movie, and I watched it with him, even though I've never seen any of the various other Punisher movies that have been made over the years. I don't think there's any continuity between the different movies, anyway.
So. At the start of the movie, I couldn't really tell what was going on. Just a lot of seemingly random violence, basically. The Punisher was killing off a bunch of mob guys. (I think it's set in New York City, but it sounded to me throughout the film like most characters were doing poor fake Boston accents.) Anyway, we eventually learn that the Punisher is like this ex-Marine named Frank Castle, who's been doing this vigilante thing for 6 years now, ever since his wife and kids were killed by the mob. And it seems like the NYPD are essentially turning a blind eye to his actions. There is a task force that I guess keeps track of him, though it mainly seems to be this one guy, Martin Soap.
Anyway, there isn't really anything resembling a discernible plot until one night when the Punisher is killing some mobsters, as usual, when he unwittingly kills an undercover FBI agent named Donatelli. This deeply troubles him, of course, and he tries to make amends to the agent's widow, Angela, and their daughter, Grace. But Angela, naturally, doesn't want anything to do with him, nor anything from him. Meanwhile, there's an FBI agent named Budiansky, who was Donatelli's partner, who now teams up with Detective Soap to try and bring in Punisher. (Though Soap turns out to be a friend of Castle's, or whatever... he actually seems like sort of a goofy fan, who sometimes helps out. I guess. So he's obviously not very helpful to Budiansky. We also see a guy called Micro, who provides Castle with weapons. And a former gangbanger named Carlos who is now working with Micro.
There's also a mobster named Billy Russoti, who at one point we see arguing with the head of his gang, and seems to have an interest in taking over, eventually. Which becomes possible after Punisher kills most of the gang. But in the process, Punisher nearly kills Billy, in a particularly painful way that absolutely should have killed someone, and now tops my list as the number one way I do not want to die. (Though honestly, I'd far rather die that way than live through it.) And... well, like I said, Billy did live, and went to a plastic surgeon, who did the best he could... but Billy's face was basically a bigger mess than Frankenstein's monster (and I'm damn glad his face is all we get to see of him), and he decides to start calling himself "Jigsaw." He only had basically two goons, Pittsy and Ink, left working for him, plus a few Irish guys (led by someone named Maginty) he'd just recently hired. More importantly, they broke Billy's brother James (aka "Loony Bin Jim") out of a mental institution. I should say, Jigsaw definitely seemed to have gotten crazier after what happened to him, though he still isn't quite as insane (and perhaps not quite as dangerous) as his brother.
Well... there's various stuff going on in the movie, not all of which necessarily makes that much sense. Apparently Jigsaw didn't have much money, but there was some that Donatelli supposedly had before he died, so he wants to find that, which means he goes to the dead agent's home and holds Angela and Grace hostage while he searches for the money, which isn't there. (I don't think the money was ever found, actually, I have no idea what's up with that. Maybe I missed something, or maybe it was just never explained.) But of course, Punisher shows up to try to protect Angela and Grace and kill the bad guys, but this is complicated by Budiansky also showing up and trying to arrest Punisher. But... well, Jigsaw has another way of procuring alot of money, which also turns out to be a way of making a deal with the Feds. It involves some Russian mobsters, mainly a father and son named Tiberiu and Cristu Bulat, who were smuggling a biological weapon into the city.
So, whatever. I dunno, I don't wanna say anything more about how everything plays out. There was tons of graphic violence, which was okay, if you like that kinda thing. Personally I can take it or leave it, though mostly I prefer for it to remain a rarity, in my movies. And you definitely don't want to let kids watch it. But the important thing is that, in spite of there being almost too much going on in the movie, the plot still seems kind of thin and nonsensical. (There's one point at which I'm not exactly sure why Punisher didn't kill Jigsaw, unless I missed something; but of course, then there would have been loose plot threads that needed tying up and no way to do it, so whatever.) There was some mildly entertaining humor in the movie, and the basic premise was okay, though the story didn't feel to me like it lived up to its potential. And while the action scenes were cool, if you're not squeamish, and really the whole movie is very dark... the villains were a bit cartoonish, sometimes. Jigsaw himself was an okay villain, I guess, though I felt like he was kind of shooting for Jack Nicholson in "Batman" but came closer to Tommy Lee Jones in "Batman Forever." His brother was perhaps a bit more interesting, though not as much as he could have been. And Maginty's crew had the definite potential to be cool, though I felt they were sorely underused and too easily beaten. So, yeah, pretty much every aspect of the movie, aside from the action, can be summed up by saying "cool potential, so-so execution."