Comfortable and Furious

Punisher Warzone (2008)



Vengeance has a name.

Entire story in fewer words than are in this fragment:

Vengeance has a name.


Limited, but present and proudly counted. A strapping black is angry with The Punisher for killing his partner, who was an undercover FBI agent posing as a mobster. (Smart move, as the film asserts that The Punisher has murdered several hundred mobsters over the previous four years.) After tasting the sweet, violent embrace of The Punisher, the strapping black comes around and realizes that daddy had been right all along. He stops fighting his impulses to shoot other men without trial, just because society says it’s wrong. In fact every cop who comes into contact with the rugged, hulking Punisher quickly comes to realize that man on man action doesn’t require the approval of the courts.

Corpse Count:

I hadn’t planned on seeing this film when I did. But the woman wanted to be in Forever 21 beyond the five minutes that I endured before my skin started to melt, so an opportunity presented itself. So no notebook, but I kept a running estimate on my fingers and the count honestly hovers around the 100 mark. Only one of these is from an explosion that kills a bunch at once, and that scene is fucking awesome. Virtually every minute possible in this film has been lovingly devoted to violence, and The Punisher always finishes off the wounded.

Pre-mortem one liner:

Undoubtedly, this goes to Loony Bin Jim, who prefaces his ax torture/murder by stating, “let me ax you a question!” No doubt, the screenwriter had that one chambered for a decade before the chance to use it came along, ensuring an Oscar nom.

On the basis of delivery, high marks also must go to the obese Irish gangster who is taking a smoke break when The Punisher discovers him. As if he’s gotten a parking ticket, he says “you have got to be fucking kidding me,” before The Punisher literally blows his face off, leaving a smoking crater.

Stupid political content:

The Punisher thinks that Marion “Cobra” Cobretti secretly keeps a copy of “Manufacturing Consent” under the driver’s seat. It’s revealed at one point that he has committed 100’s of murders before the film even started. It’s repeatedly made clear that the police cannot arrest and successfully prosecute even the most brazen of criminals. Even a simple mugger leaves one cop pleading for The Punisher’s help. The great Reagan myth lives on and the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world is the one with the absurdly liberal criminal justice system. Therefore, only The Punisher can bring justice. He does accidentally shoot that undercover FBI guy, but in the space of 48 hours, even that man’s wife has determined that The Punisher is “one of the good guys,” and is happy to see him set free.

Novelty Death:

It’s no exaggeration to say that more than half of the film’s deaths have at least some novelty. In terms of sheer violence, very few films are in The Punisher’s league. Wine glass stem through the throat, chair leg through the eye, close range shotgun blast, rocket launcher, ax, grenade launcher, baseball bat, sword, impalement, head stomping, decapitation, immolation, snapped spine, dismemberment… this film is an encyclopedia of movie violence, and should be treated as such by filmmakers of the future.

When you’re talking about a film in which the hero grabbing an old lady by the face and breaking her neck is not that great a novelty, it’s should be difficult to pick one novelty death, but I think the choice is clear. One of the criminal gangs is a trio of urban acrobats who are constantly jumping around and generally acting like dildos. They come to a space between buildings and one jumps from roof to roof. The next, waits his turn, jumps and does some acrobatic flip or spin. As his trick unfolds we see a rocket enter the screen with perfect comic timing. It snakes its way toward him and he’s blown into a million pieces at the apex of his jump as a stunned gang member stands on either side of the cloud of smoke and moron dust.

How bad was it really?

It was glorious. Yes, the story doesn’t always make sense. The acting is as spotty as the accents, where The Punisher and Jigsaw occasionally sound like MPs and a Latin King usually sounds like he’s from Greenwich. Wayne Knight is good, Dash Mihok is excellent and… who gives a fuck? This is a film about beautiful, vindictive violence. Everything is well shot, the action scenes are well choreographed and the special effects are top notch. So, the delivery of the exploding heads, flying limbs and mutilations could hardly be better. The story holds together well enough to flip on your Reagan switch so you can savor the relentless massacre of other human beings. Some of the really dreadful performances and characters (Loony Bin Jim, for example) arguably enhance the film, as their deaths are that much sweeter.

We’re lucky to get two films a year in the 80’s Action vein these days, what with the dominance of more family friendly supermarket superheroes, video game movies and embarrassing rip offs of the wrong Matrix. How can we turn our noses up at a character who makes his own bullets and promises to bad guys that he will “put you out of my misery?”

What You Learned:

1) Spending 10 minutes being run through a glass crushing machine: not necessarily fatal. 2) Having your limbs tied down in a mental hospital for years greatly enhances your strength and agility. 3) Batman is a va-jay-jay.