Found this on CHUD.com SCRIPT REVIEW - PUNISHER: WAR ZONE 10.03.07 By Jason Pollock 1The Punisher stunk. You know it. I know it. Lionsgate knew it - they had a really tough time marketing the Artisan film in the wake of the acquisition of the company (it is, after all, a film in which punishment is meted out via parking citation - not quite what comic fans or mainstream audiences were looking for). Even Tom Jane knew it, poor guy. But the role put him in a place hed not been before (at the head of what was supposed to be a franchise), and God bless im - he spearheaded a movement to make a sequel and - finally...maybe - get the character right after three attempts (Step One: dont don a duster in Miami heat). After months of stumping and development hes no longer a part of things. And if ever you cared enough to wonder why...well - reading the script I just read might provide some insight. Dated August 20th, 2007, Lexi Alexanders screenplay - simply titled Punisher (and not the recently-revealed Punisher: War Zone) is a massive disappointment for me, if only because I really appreciate her first feature, Green Street Hooligans. Hooligans characters are at turns charismatic and revolting, and the films visuals are possessed of grit that doesnt feel completely contrived. Certainly the films thuggery plays like Scorsese-Lite (theres so much Scorsese-Lite style filmmaking going on nowadays that Scorsese himself is engaged in it), but Alexanders debut impressed because it dragged the well-worn elements into a place where theyre made to seem even more demented (Martys guys are almost always acting out of self-preservation at least, even if they dont know how. The kids in GSH seem to want their skulls caved in). Its the same ratty furniture as it ever was, but Alexanders feel for filmic Feng Shui made it different somehow. So...the woman twisted the conventions a tad, wrote a film whose violent characters myopic, testosterone-tweaked worldview and false bravado undoes them, gives us a bit of a message about the intoxicating nature of violence, and covers the whole thing with a sort-of old-school Paul Schrader vibe... It looks good up there, doesnt it? Like Alexander seems perfect for this material? I have no idea why this thing goes so far south. Perhaps its the fact that she feels compelled to scream "THIS IS A COMIC BOOOOOK!" whilst swinging from the rafters...her cape flapping in the breeze...but the entire thing feels like it was written by someone whose only understanding of the world of comic books comes from watching the Adam West Batman - or, worse still - the Tim Burton Batman. Anything it doesnt nab from those two awful sources seems to be plucked from the old Mark Goldblatt Punisher - like the films opening sequence, in which an acquitted mobster returns to his manse to celebrate with his boys, and is attacked by our old friend Frank. Ive got to be honest - I dont know if this whole script review thing is poor form anymore or not. Ever since Rob Zombies ruinous Halloween remake hit screens, Ive been wondering if the studio-mandated page-one rewrite of his screenplay in the wake of the savaging it received in a web review is at least partially responsible for the un-good film released to theaters. Should this work be so scrutinized in its infancy? And what gives me the right to do so? CHUDs own Devin Faraci has ruminated on this very notion in fine fashion in the past, so Ill not dive into that Nicholson-infested hedge maze. Instead, Ill say, for the record, that it is with a great many reservations that I sally forth (is she related to Mary Worth?) here because despite the fact that I feel awkward dumping on what is only an idea at this point, I cant lie and say its not going to get worse. The aforementioned opening was all I needed to read to know that this draft of the script fails. And while there is one truly Frank Castle moment to be found in Alexanders draft (and Im talking a moment befitting the psychologically interesting, fairly depressing, OCD-suffering Chuck Dixon stuff - not the garish, one-note, sub-Lobo Garth Ennis crappo), the first few pages tainted the read in a way that never allowed me - or the script - to recover. If tearing someone down before they even get up is as tacky as I believe it to be, then what Im about to do is go one further. Im going to explain the films utterly illogical opening sequence to you - then see if we cant fix it...which makes me a great big *******. Were introd via TV broadcast to ailing mobster Gaitano Cesare, the proud recipient of shiny new acquittal in his RICO trial (apparently, some witnesses and a juror couldnt make it due to death). The newscaster tells us that Gaitano is responsible for two-hundred gangland murders, and has never spent a day in jail. Cesare is depicted as a colostomy-bag bearing, wheelchair-bound bastard whose reputation is so severe that his goons would never consider making a move against him for fear that his ghost would pistol whip them to death. But hey, he beat the rap, so its time for a partay. Every party needs a pooper, and so we discover that there are two cops staking out Casa Cesare - an Italian detective named Saffiotti (who is disgusted by the gaudiness of the new-money mob), and Soap - who is described as disinterested and inept. Saffiotti offers running commentary as a whos who of goodfellas show up at the Cesare homestead, none among them more fleshed-out that Billy Russo, a pretty boy so enamored with himself that he constantly spies his own sexiness in every reflection. Hell - hes so foxy that other mobsters tell him how foxy he is. I wonder how a guy so vain would respond if you were to spoil his good looks...? Billy and his boys have a terse sit-down with Gaitano before dinner. Billys right hand Nicky warns him to go easy on the oldster, and Billy responds, What am I gonna do? Give im a heart attack? The two men vaguely threaten one another, and Billy leaves in a tizzy - so that hes not at dinner when the Punisher murders everyone in the house in the most ludicrous, implausible, and ill-conceived attack mission ever concocted for film - and that includes any of the set-pieces in Megaforce. The Punisher kills the power to the house. The bodyguards stand around confused - until one tells another to flip the breakers back on lest the boss bust their balls. The dinner guests curse in Italian as Punny appears atop the table - resplendent in his GLOW IN THE DARK PUNISHER SKULL TACTICAL ARMOR...sticks a red road flare in a bowl of potatoes, and proceeds to close quarters-kill every man at the table, starting with Cesare. He slits the goombah geezers throat, then proceeds to crawl the length of the table, snapping necks and stabbing guys along the way - and no doubt covering himself in food. Nothing is more bad-ass than a guy who just belly-crawled his way through fifteen yards of lobster bisque. Trust me. I speak from experience. But lets examine all that, shall we? If one were going to go through the trouble of cutting the power, why would one paint oneself glow-in-the-dark? Or illuminate the environment in any way? (ANSWER: a glow-in-the-dark cover for the movie adaptation graphic novel, a glowing Punny-skull T-shirt at Hot Topic, and a Toy Biz action figure with glowy paint - but I digress...) Why not kill the lights, descend on the room wearing night vision goggles, and silently kill each guy one by one? You could do the sequence as a PUNISHER P.O.V. tracking shot, making the audience complicit in the murders, or treat the image in post to stylishly convey lights-out activity. Either way - you end up in a situation wherein all of these mooks are cursing the lack of light, and so no one would notice the guys gagging from a choke or gurgling through a slit throat...until, of course, that was all that was left to hear - until all were left with is Gaitano sitting at the head of a table with a bunch of dying men. With that, Frank can light a red marker flare, finally illuminating the skull on his chest - in fiery crimson, no less - and its the first thing Cesare sees. He looks up into the Punishers face, and HAS A HEART ATTACK - which is something Billy mentioned earlier in the script actually being paid off. Then the lights come on, revealing this unholy mess. In that, you have something slightly more plausible - and far more intense - than having him land on a table, bathe himself in light, and then silently crawl around atop a seven-course spread. Some twelve-year-old kid putting my old pal Ding Chavez through his paces on Xbox Live has a better understanding of tactics than Frank Castle in this film. You could even make it really ******ed and have the mooks listening to I dunno Puccinis aria Nessun Dorma while they eat, and the music dies when the power does - but when Frank kills his first guy, the music one again fills the soundtrack Vin-cer-rooooooooooooo...! I mean, if youre gonna do an awful, over-the-top action flick DO IT. So Jigsa- er, I mean, Billy and his crew blow out of the manse, and the cops see the lightshow through the windows and decide to move in - and Saffiotti catches Frank red-handed - and lets him go. The film posits that deep down, cops respect Frank because he can go after the people they cant. Punny follows Billy to the docks - where the new capo-by-default preps a deal with his minions in a GLASS RECYCLING FACILITY. Dont worry, though - nobody gets tossed face-first into a glass crushing machine, or anything Theres a van full o Feds close by, listening to Billy tell a few dirtballs to grease the palms of a few key dockhands. The very fact theyre able to do this without any sort of parabolic paraphernalia is the tip off that someone in the room is wired for sound. The lowlifes get their marching orders and depart - taking to the rooftops for some pointless PARKOUR shenanigans Okay, so...Parkour. Seriously? Stop. Were getting to the point where were about six months away from poor Anna Faris doin some freestyle walking on a rooftop in Scary Movie 14 (please dont, Anna. I love you) or seeing a random Wayans brother running up the side of a building. ****s been around since Nam (the knowledge of which terrified me while reading the script. I was so afraid Frank would suddenly be doubled by David Belle ), but Hollywoods gonna play it out inside of a few minutes. At any rate, Captain Castiglione offs the guys standing guard, and then enters the building to punish Billy and his boys. He lays waste to everyone in the room - maybe he tosses Billy face first into a glass-crushing machine, maybe not - and then, as is the Punishers way, he sets about rolling the dead mobsters and discovers that one among them was a federal agent. Not a busted informant - but a flat-out Fed. This revelation made me feel like we might be heading for somewhere interesting - since, by Franks own logic, he now needs to be punished (that sounded sorta dirty) - but were derailed instead by the agents funeral (conveniently, hes interred in the same cemetery where Franks entire family is buried, which allows for melodramatic mourning), which serves to set up the fact that the agent has left behind a wife and small child. Of course, Frank is going to insert himself in the fractured familys life - and his doing so leads to the scripts best moment. Again, this could have created some real pathos, but instead - it awkwardly endears the Punisher to a saccharine moppet. Billy springs his creepy brother from a mental hospital (no doubt creating a role for the WWEs Kane), and - armed with the knowledge that one of his crew was a stoolie - sets out to murder the guys family. Toss in the cursory introduction to Puns tech support guru Microchip, and partner lame duck Detective Soap with an FBI guy who wants to protect his dead partners family, kill Jigsaw, and bring Punisher to justice (disappointingly little is made of the motivations he shares with The Punisher), and youre pretty much up to speed. The rest of the film sees Frank trying to protect Mrs. Fedwidow and her treacly tot from the clutches of Jigsaw and his Master-Blaster mongoloid brother. Along the way, he gets chummy with every character with a badge, thinks up a million and one ways to reminisce about his family (which seems only to justify the garish, over-the-top kills, not to create any real depth), and talks WAY too much. If there is a real-world, producer-mandated need to fill this normally taciturn characters mouth with dialogue, may I recommend a War Journal voice over? It would serve as an additional nod to the comic roots and allow an audience into the characters mindset. Even better would be to allow him to comment on what he sees, and have all of his comments be a delusional lie - theyre just justifications for his mission, and they can be thoroughly tainted by his worldview Instead, we get: Frank Never took the time to think about where I was headed. Theres no getting off and no turning back. Ill translate: Frank Cliché, cliché, cliché. And I have no problem with clichés - I just think that if youre going to utilize them, you have to jump in headfirst. Thats the biggest problem with this screenplay - when it tries for real world tough - it never seems real enough, and when it remembers that its a comic book film, it turns simplistic, garish, and brain-damaged - like when Billy embraces his all-new monstrous visage and admonishes his crew thusly: Billy Billy is dead. From now on...call me Jigsaw. Again - not that Im in any position to do so, but Id like to offer advice to screenwriters everywhere: Nicknames are given to you. You dont get to make them up. And if youre doing a comic book movie - whatever you do...dont crib from Jack Nicholson in Batman. Its a truly awful performance in one of the weakest comic-to-film translations ever. Dont take us back there. The only other plot strand - and its an amazingly superfluous one - is Jiggys Romanian deal gone bad. Jigsaw has control of NYCs ports, and hes worked out a pact with some creepish Romanians who want to bring some sort of vague (or, since this is the internet "vauge") biological threat into the country. Turns out its leftover chemical weapon props from The Rock, but honestly - I was hoping it was a vampire. A strange, supernatural villain would place Frank in the same position in which he routinely finds himself in the Marvel Universe - up against superpowered ****e for which he has no answer. Rights issues guarantee hes never gonna scrap with Doctor Doom (which has happened in the comics), but theres no reason you couldnt acquire the rights to an obscure supernatural Marvel villain and give Francis a run for his money. People enjoy comic book movies because they are colorful representations of the fantastique (thank you Clive Barker). Something needs to be done to the Punisher to make his comic book origins evident on film - because, in lieu of that, youve just got a bit of...Scorsese-Lite. Punisher is much more than a vigilante - hes a mental patient turned serial killer turned superhero. Thats some rich - and messy - territory to mine. Maybe someone will do that someday. Fourth times the charm?