16 Dec THE “IS THIS HAPPENING?” MOVIE CLUB
There’s a floating, secret society of movies that includes such illustrious titles as RUNNING SCARED (the Paul Walker version, not the Hines-Crystal-Smits one), ANACONDA, and the immortal, why-hasn’t-Criterion-done-a-release DEEP BLUE SEA.
These are the kinds of movies where, while you’re watching it, usually with a group of friends, you think (or say aloud), “Is this HAPPENING?”
“Did I just see a from-inside-the-snake-view of John Voight being eaten?”
“When did this Paul Walker action movie become a Pasolini kid-rape parable?”
“Wait — did I just see Samuel L. Jackson get eaten by a shark? Oh wait — now ANOTHER shark is coming along and pulling his head off while the first shark swims off with his body?”
The reason you’re so brain-cracked as you watch these movies is that, unlike on-the-borderlands fare like THE STORY OF RICKY, DEAD ALIVE and ICHI THE KILLER, these are boilerplate, wide-release films put out by major studios. In thousands of theaters, all across America, for anyone to see. And yet they contain winking corpses, black-light massacres and Saffron Burrows stripping down to bra and panties so she can electrocute a genius-level shark.
Somehow, someone tricked someone else at the MPAA and, let’s face it, the studio itself to let these wonderfully transgressive movies loose to roam the countryside.
Well, it happened again.
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is THE BEST time I’ve had at the movies this year. I’ve seen better films. MUCH better films. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE DARK KNIGHT, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and RACHEL GETTING MARRIED I’m sure, someday, will influence my work and make me think twice before I let slide something hack-y and un-original.
But I didn’t ever feel like standing up on my chair and cheering. None of them made me cackle like a railyard hobo who’s found half a cigar and a can of beans. And none of them had a scene where Dominic West, in Frankenstein makeup, convinces black, Chinese and Irish gangs to put aside their differences and act as cannon-fodder in his hissy fit vengeance scheme against Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.
People are not shot in this film. They have holes blasted through them or are turned into sticky mist.
People are not punched in this film. They have their faces pummeled off.
Children are not threatened. They are un-fixably scarred for life.
The film does not contain a hero. It does not contain an anti-hero. It contains a glowering Brit who huffs around in a bullet-proof body canister like he’s searching for the perfect toilet to unleash a ten burrito dump. He’s just as awful as the villains he dispatches and, unlike scores of other action heroes, does not utter a single clever or ironic quip. He’ll plug someone and already be turning away, scanning the horizon for something else to kill. He’s played by Ray Stevenson, but could have easily been played by Ray Stevens. He’s more a force of destruction than Jason Vorhees or Michael Meyers could ever dream on.
Keep in mind, all of this mayhem, insanity and just-plain bugfuckedness is contained in one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen this year. It’s almost distracting, how gorgeous cinematographer Steve Gainer’s palette is. It’s like he studied BLACK NARCISSUS and THE RED SHOES right before shooting a snuff film.
And director Lexi Alexander, a former stunt woman and kick boxing champion, has just groin-punched her way to the front of the line in the Nutball Director’s Pantheon. Make room, Miike! Step aside, Kounen!
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is still in theaters. Barely. It took ten days for it to body-crawl past 7 million dollars.
Won’t you make a pasty shut-ins Christmas dreams come true? Won’t you call up an old friend, perhaps an unhinged asshole you’ve been avoiding , and take them to see PUNISHER: WAR ZONE? Or maybe the whole family, while you’re still digesting Christmas dinner? How amazing would it be if PUNISHER: WAR ZONE rallied, and beat MARLEY AND ME and BENJAMIN BUTTON on Christmas Day?
It’d help an angel get his wings, I bet.