"Punisher: War Zone" is everything its predecessor was not: namely, fun to watch. The slate-cleaning pays off.

Ray Stevenson takes over as Frank Castle, who's been keen on killing crime syndicates ever since his wife and kids were murdered for witnessing a mob execution while picnicking several years earlier.

His latest target is Billy "The Beaut" Russoti (Dominic West), a sleazy, greasy gangster eager to rise to the top of the criminal underworld. One night, Castle accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent, but succeeds in throwing Russoti into the glass grinder.

The baddie survives with his face in tatters. Now rechristened "Jigsaw," he terrorizes the slain agent's widow (Julie Benz), thinking her husband stole a bunch of money from their operation. The Punisher, of course, to the rescue!

Each of the film's spectacular action set pieces pop with gore and glee, achieving a level of purposeful ridiculousness that not even the comics dare attempt. The difference between this "Punisher" and its older brother is that at least the sequel knows when it's being bad, paying off in atrocious sight gags, throwaway dialogue and pervading over-the-topness.

As The Punisher, Stevenson is all badass stare-and-glare, which is all the part calls for, and he does it well. West chews the scenery, spits it out and laps it back up again. Supporting parts include lots of furniture and utensils that poke through various characters'  heads and torsos.

Several extras (on the two-disc edition) delve into various aspects of the production, albeit not too deeply, but are appreciated nonetheless. —?Rod Lott

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