"HE DOES to dose bastards what you an' me can only fantasize about!" gushes a New York cop who's totally gay for the Punisher, a sadistic, sociopathic vigilante who goes around killing criminals in imaginative ways. As splintery table legs are jammed into orbital cavities and walls are repainted by arterial sprays, the Punisher (the relentlessly stoic Ray Stevenson) sulks through New York, killing mobsters and moping over the fact that his family was killed a few years ago.
Punisher: War Zone never gets into much depth about said dead family—possibly because War Zone, like last summer's The Incredible Hulk, is a reboot of a movie that didn't work too well the last time (2004's forgotten The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta) or, in this case, the time before that (remember, if you can, 1989's That Crappy Old Punisher Movie that Starred Dolph Lundgren). Apparently, someone who makes terrible decisions is hoping War Zone will prove that the third time is the charm. I'm assuming the same dude is behind the decision to cram War Zone with as much gruesome violence as possible, and the decision to light the film with cheesy neon right out of an '80s music video, and also the decision to include dialogue like, "That's no way to punish the Punisher!" and "Let me put you out of my misery!"
If it's not clear already, War Zone is pretty hilarious, but I can't figure out if that's intentional: Admittedly, director Lexi Alexander goes for a more comedic tone than one would expect, and on some level at least, it's hard to not enjoy a movie in which the protagonist wields a kindergartner in one arm and a shotgun in the other. (The kid, thankfully, doesn't impair the Punisher's ability to blast people's faces off.) War Zone is dumb and cartoony and only a little bit boring, and there were even a few times when I thought it might be as good a send-up of stupid action flicks as Hot Fuzz. The difference, I guess, is that I'm not entirely sure War Zone knows it's a comedy.