Saturday, December 06, 2008

Punisher: War Zone completely fucking awesome and needs to be seen by you NOW.

It's just this side of ironic that the whole "hook" of Punisher as a comic character is that he's essentially a "realistic" movie-vigilante transplanted into a superhero-vigilante world, hence translating him "back" to film has always been slightly difficult. Here, they've finally made it work by letting Punisher bring the "comic-book-ness" of his world to the movies with him: We've got a hero who's basically yet another John Rambo/"Death Wish" heavily-armed urban crimefighter set up against a villian - the disfigured gangster Jigsaw - who's additude and operations are right out "Batman." And yet, it finally.

Plotwise, it's uncomplicated: Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson, officially an action star) aka "The Punisher" is an ex-military hardass who's waging a one-man war on NYC organized crime after seeing his wife and kids killed for witnessing a mob hit. He hits a moral dilema upon learning that his most-recent mob mass-execution has produced a pair of unintended consequences: Firstly, he's unwittingly placed psychotic low-level thug Billy "The Beaut" Russoti (Domonic West) - now bearing horrible facial scars and rechristened "Jigsaw" - into leadership as the sole survivor of The Family; and secondly that one of the hoods he DID kill was actually an undercover FBI agent - which puts the law MUCH more heavily on his trail and places the late agent's widow and daughter into imminent Jigsaw-related danger. Do ya suppose maybe he'll consider hanging it all up, only to see... I dunno, maybe evil rising in his absence and realize he's the only one who can keep doing what he's doing? I wonder...

The details all seemingly grow out of the Marvel Studios mandate to "listen to the fans" that informed "Iron Man" and this year's OTHER successful "reboot" of "The Incredible Hulk." For all the talk of drawing from Garth Ennis' recent work with the character, this version of Punisher hews most closely to the characters mainstream comics heyday in the 1980s - right down to amusing supporting roles for complicit Detective Soap and tech-saavy Microchip (Wayne Knight in a surprising "straight" semi-dramatic turn.)

Otherwise, it's all about how many bullets can be fired, how many faces can be blown-up/caved-in, how many explosives can be set off and how many times the audience can be made to applaud the sheer bravado with which "Green Street Hooligans" director Lexi Alexander - a stuntwoman and former kickboxing champion turned filmmaker - piles on the badassery like she's on a one-woman mission to out-testosterone every male action director on the planet. She comes pretty damn close, too. It's easy to imagine this film taking away "Crank's" crown as the ultraviolent "guy movie" to beat.

This is everything I want in a Punisher movie, and damn near everything I want in an action movie. Taken on it's own terms, it's damn near perfect.


tyra menendez said...

that's surprising. especially after the way they ruined garth ennis' "welcome back, frank", a few years ago.
so, what are your hopes for the spirit? i figure frank miller thought, "if anyone's going to ruin it, it'll be me", since, at least, he and will eisner were friendly.

Bob said...

If this were Frank Miller from ten years ago, I'd say "Spirit" was in decent hands... but the fact is, Miller hasn't written anything decent ("300" is a pretty great coffee table art book of Spartan comic drawings accompanied by portentous narration) since around "Sin City." Ever since then it's just been lots of "look at me" and falling back on his old crutches.

I COULD be wrong, but I doubt it. And the problem is, it doesn't even look like an INTERESTING failure... it looks like a depressingly predictable failure: It looks just like the ONE movie someone him you co-direct before? Hot actresses spitting out what twelve year old boys think "tough" older women sound like? The bad guy is dark-skinned with eye makeup and flamboyant costuming? Gee, didn't see THAT coming...

On the other hand, Scarlett Johnassen in a movie where Frank Miller has final say on costume design? THAT I approve of.

tyra menendez said...

ironically, however, one of the things 300 took a lot of shit, for, where the one-liners (come and get them, then we will fight in the shade, etc.); but those parts where historically accurate. i think a lot of people missed the point: to tell the story of the hot gates the way the spartans themselves, would have. including being primarily in the nude, a common feature in early spartan art - of course, that was before they became the super soldiers.
of course, in part because of lynn varley's colors, the art was gorgeous. but, yeah, sin city was the last great thing he did. but frank's always been pretty hit or miss. i mean, dk2?
but remember that spirit was basically a pulp action hero, forced into a "costume", by the editor, because that's what was selling. it was very much a product of its time. at the very least, you have to remove the racist side kick of "ebony" and make the girlfriend a woman, in her own right, instead of the old lois lane "save me, save me", sexist symbol, damsel.
so, obviously things have to be changed, and with miller's love of chandler and crime noir, in general, so of those changes are going to obvious.
i'm not saying it going to be electra: assassin, but at least it'll be by someone who loved the source material. of course you're also talking about material by the guy who literally wrote the book on telling a story with pictures and an adaptation by his main disciple. so, even if it turns out to just be crap, for the masses, at least it'll be well made crap.

oh, and i'm more into ava mendez, the scarlett. all props to her, as an actress, but in terms of hotness, i prefer the hispanic chick.

Bob said...

Oh, I've no doubt that Miller loves the material and wants to do right by Eisner... I just don't think he has it in him anymore. His work over the last decade has read like someone doing a PARODY of his DKR/Sin City period.

tyra menendez said...

but technically speaking, he knows how to tell a story, visually. and the actors he's gotten know their shit. so, like i say, at least it will be well made. but he might surprise us. i just don't want to give up on him, yet.

thegrimmling said...

How fast people forget (and forgive) Frank Miller for RoboCop 2.

I'm surprised Frank's hands were not sawed off after that turd.

But in all honesty, I get that sinking feeling that the Spirit is gonna suck.