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Punisher: War Zone 

Punisher: War Zone is the most gruesome mainstream movie ever helmed by a female director. It’s hard to see anyone taking Lexi Alexander’s blood-soaked, live-action cartoon seriously enough to be offended. This is a movie populated on all sides by sociopaths. It doesn’t try to make you care about anyone or anything in it, and that works to its advantage. Rather than attempt to dignify revenge, Punisher: War Zone is a drunken carnival of action-movie ridiculousness.It features the hilariously named Free Flow Gang, whose MO is to jump off buildings. The Punisher’s rocket launcher explodes one of them during an inter-building cartwheel. After the head villain (Dominic West) has his face mutilated and renames himself Jigsaw, his right-hand man gets a whole montage where he elaborately smashes mirrors so Jigsaw can avoid seeing himself. If you’re on the wavelength that can laugh with this stuff instead of laugh at it, Punisher: War Zone is about as fun as mainstream cinema gets this season. It’s the sort of franchise installment so intent to “own your ass” that it renders all other movies bearing the Punisher title null and void. The script is just a shade from being clever enough---too many rushed punchlines (“You have the right to shut the fuck up!”) fall flat. And the colourful, comic-book panel framing is pretty---a church sequence is beautifully lit---but the filmmaking rarely has a dynamic sense of movement. Ray Stevenson fulfills the necessary part of making a tortured anti-hero completely unsympathetic. I like to see Alexander’s movie as some crazy experiment in the extreme limits of meaningless escapism. Put it like this: If you walk out of Punisher: War Zone feeling some close connection to its themes and characters, people should be afraid of you.

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