The boss nicked the best DVDs off the pile this week, leaving the lowly, cringing film editor to consider Punisher: War Zone, a Christmas season sequel that was out of theaters by New Year’s Day and is bowing just in time for its makers to drown their sorrows on St. Patrick’s. Like The Spirit, from the same studio, it showed that there is fool’s gold scattered amongst the riches of comic book adaptations; then again, what burning need was there for a C-grade continuation to a more upscale (well, John Travolta was in it) original?

Let us begin then, with a minute-to-minute anatomy of a film that failed. We start with the trailers: Crank 2 (repeat: what burning need was there…), The Haunting in Connecticut (Moldy food in the fridge! Scary!), and, straight-to-DVD, a slightly promising Old West-meets-The Descent mash-up, The Burrowers. Pretty please, boss…

Now that the throat clearing has ended…

1:26: First gun picked up. Lock and load! Here comes the Punisher, 2008 variety: Ray Stevenson, the likable lummox who played Titus Pullo on HBO’s Rome, encased from neck to toe in bulletproofed leather that must be hell to get off in bathroom emergencies. Relocated from Miami, the Punisher (aka Frank Castle, grieving undercover agent turned retribution specialist) now lives in the bowels of the New York subway system—New York, Quebec, to judge by the stray details the camera catches.

Boring parts. Time to listen to the commentary, by DP Steve Gainer and the director, Lexi Alexander. The German-born Alexander has a compelling backstory: A former mixed martial arts world champion, she was an Academy Award nominee for a 2002 short film and made her feature debut with a not-bad football louts picture, Green Street Hooligans, starring Elijah Wood as a guy who gets in touch with his inner Punisher. You don’t get much of that here, though: Though she has a charming, listenable, accent, she and Gainer high-five everyone, in typically dull DVD commentary way.

7:04: Back in action. Bad guy shivved. Bad guy decapitated. Bad woman has neck crushed. Assorted stabbings and garrotings. Punisher hangs upside on chandelier and blasts away at bad guys (the trailer money shot, already used up). Approximately 15-20 dead.

Boring parts.

10:52: Punisher repairs broken nose with pencil. Mistake Lexi Alexander for Nora Ephron and she will fucking kill you.

Boring parts.

13:30: Punisher assaults bad guy compound. About ten killed. Chief bad guy, Billy Russoti (Dominic West, cut off from The Wire, and with a manicotti-thick accent) ground up with glass products.

Boring parts. To get through them, whenever someone says “Punisher,” or “The Punisher,” have a beer. The grave and compelling Colin Salmon (Resident Evil), as an FBI agent tracking the Punisher, needs a new agent and better parts. Wayne (“Newman”) Knight turns up as the Punisher’s weapons guru, to buck him up when things go sour (he feels bad about icing an undercover agent). “You’re fighting a war with the guys who slip between the raindrops, who get away with it.”

30:11: A seriously scar-faced Russoti somehow returns as the hyperbolic Jigsaw—not to be confused with the moralizing madman of Lionsgate’s going franchise, Saw, or The Joker, from you-know-what.

Boring parts.

33:19: Jigsaw’s brother, “Loony Bin Jim,” introduced in asylum. He’s played by Doug Hutchison, so memorable as the mutant Tooms in two classic X-Files episodes. Jim cannibalizes his jailer. “Did you know kidneys and applesauce are a delicacy in Sweden? Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy, tummy, tummy…

Boring parts.

36:10: The wife of the slain agent (Julie Benz) is introduced to the Punisher. “Who punishes you?” After this, Rambo, Dexter, and Saw V, she needs to find her smile.

Boring parts. (Note: Stop Punisher drinking game. Alcohol poisoning imminent.)

40:45: Love scene: Jim breaks mirrors to show fraternal affection for Jigsaw, who feels bad about his stitched-together appearance.

Boring parts.

42:45: Jigsaw pierces Euro bad guy’s throat with stem of champagne glass. “You’re not in Transylvania anymore. Stop talking vampire!”

Boring parts.

49:30: Punisher blows away two members of high-flying “urban free-flow gang.”

Boring parts.

51:52: Punisher impales leader of UFFG on spiked fence, crushes skull.

Boring parts.

53:30: Alley fight between Punisher and FBI agent. “You have the right to shut the fuck up!”

Boring parts.

55:56: Bad guys beat up, knife, kill cops. “We gotta get outta here before more pigs arrive!”

Boring parts.

58:30: Dolls owned by slain agent’s daughter shot by bad guys.

Boring parts.

59:16: Upset with doll massacre, Punisher smashes hand through bad guy’s face.

Boring parts (10 seconds, enough to be boring).

59:32: Punisher shoots bad guy. CGI blood shoots out of bad guy.

Boring parts.

01:02: Punisher bonds with slain agent’s wife and daughter, survivors of doll massacre.

Boring parts.

01:10: Jim cuts off arms of Punisher associate. Punisher consoles associate by removing pickaxe from chest: “You’re gonna be fine.” Associate dies.

Boring parts.

01:13: Punisher goes to church, confronts priest (non-violent): “God by with you, Frank.” “Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God.”

Boring parts.

01:17: Jigsaw rallies other bad guys to his cause. “If you’re as sick of this cocksucker as I am, raise your hands, raise your armies…”

Boring parts.

01:22: Russian mobsters enlisted by cops shoot up bad guy Chinese gang. Punisher gets into act with grenade launcher. Dozens die.

Boring parts.

01:28: Jim puts bite on Punisher in bathroom. “Blood in urine, an early indicator of kidney failure…”

Boring parts.

01:29: Jigsaw shoots Punisher several times.

01:31 Punisher righteously angry. Bloody mayhem ensues. “Arrggghhh…blarrhhggg…grrrbbbb…!” Bullets to head, spikes, fire. “Let me put you out of my misery.” “Aaaaaaghhhhhhhhh….!”

Boring parts.

01.33: Slain agent’s wife to Punisher: “My husband talked, argued about you. He said you were one of the good guys.”

01.35: Punchline. “Oh, God…now I’ve got brain splattered all over me.”

Credits roll. Head-banging music begins. Rob Zombie contributes the non-love theme “War Zone.” “In the war zone/I die alone…” Correct: Punishing boxoffice results bear him out as the movie bellyflops to DVD. There are a few extras, including one on the movie’s weapons. I’d love a few for my birthday.

For more movie reviews and essays, visit Between Productions.

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