Full disclaimer: There are spoilers. Full fledged, reveal it all, no turning back spoilers.
So when The Punisher failed to have a sequel, Lionsgate decided to give it another try, in a more hardcore fashion. After some weird rumors about female director Lexi Alexander, Punisher: War Zone ended up being more like the comic books than it's previous attempt. And to be perfectly honest, it's not even half bad!
In a whole new universe, one where Frank Castle's family is killed in a park, after witnessing a mob hit, you can feel the rage in his body. This is now an experienced vigilante who has got a serious kill number, as we eventually see in the basement of a million folders.
The movie starts off with an interesting opening credits sequence. You hear a story about a criminal being released, as the witness somehow ends up dead. Then you see Castle getting locked 'n loaded. This entire sequence, that lasts about two minutes, saves us a whole lot of time and focuses on the important part: The action.
And there's a lot of that! Blood, guts, a beheading, the fun of shooting someone's head off, and the fun of punching someone's head in! If someone dies in the most horrid way, this movie explores it to the fullest.
We also get the more emotional side of Castle. He has a lot of guilt, specially after killing an undercover FBI agent. He also tries to make it right. Clearly, he is a man with a clear conscious of his actions and while he does indeed murder bad guys for a living, he understands when he's offed one of the good guys, even by mistake. This adds a layer of connection that wasn't quite explored in the first film.
Well, then Castle accidentally makes Billy, The Mobster fall into the glass processor pit and switches it on. Billy ends up with a fully cut face and now is renamed Jigsaw. No, not like the one from the Saw franchise.
Finally, I'd like to point out a few fun things I've noticed:
- This mob boss, he is so committed to the role I can't even tell if he's so good or so bad. It's perfect, but almost in a stereotypical way, I just can't distinguish good from bad...
- The Italians and the Parkour Irish. Sounds like the worst sports movie ever.
- The weird and the I'm-not-so-sure but brotherly relationship between Jigsaw and Looney Bin Jim (I swear, these names!). Jigsaw whines and cries about his face so Jim decides to break all the mirrors. This is love, people!
- Blowing someone up with a rocket launcher. Yeah...
- The FBI always knew where was Frank's hideout. Since forever. That's the info they traded in with Jigsaw, after they apprehended a dirty bomb. But if they knew where his hideout was, why didn't they raid it before? I mean, getting a warrant to arrest a vigilante shouldn't be too hard, right?
- That weird recruitment scene... I see what they tried to do, I just think it's awkward.
- Someone gets shot while sitting on the toilet. It's just one of THOSE things that count in those weird and funny statistics (I can find real numbers, but it has to be in the hundreds!)
- That laughable but badass scene, where a detective is held at gunpoint for his wallet and he calls out Castle. Why do we even need cops, right?...
In all seriousness, this works out as an awesome extended pilot episode. Had this been commissioned by Starz or Showtime, it'd be a really good show, give or take a few details. But in a general sense, enjoyable.
Too bad Lexi Alexander thought this was a failure, because the whole thing works well. Between the colors, that successfully capture the comic-book feel and the over-the-top action, I'd be a sucker for more!
Hopefully this is The Punisher we'll meet later this week, when the second season of Daredevil is released.