Punisher: War Zone was released back in December of 2007, and just hit DVD shelves this week. Since it seems like most have not seen it, judging by its box office receipts, I wanted to throw my two cents in to tell you whether its worth watching. This is the third time the Punisher has been brought to the big screen. One version released in 80’s with Dolph Lungren which was quite terrible, and then again in 2004 we got the very mediocre Thomas Jane Punisher. So does this Punisher break the bad streak and deliver on the goods? Yes it does. This is an action junkies dream. Its non-stop violence, its highly stylized, and is very short and quick.
Most Punisher fans really care about one thing, the action. How is it here? Extremely over the top and relentlessly violent, and yet it creeps me out that I enjoyed it and some will get excited by that statement. This is basically Looney Tunes with The Punisher thrown in the mix with a thousand rounds. The violence is ridiculously gratuitous in the most ultimate fashion.
How’s the story? It is as generic as the character of the Punisher himself. His only real motivation is to kill the wicked and look angry about his families brutal death. The basic set up is that the Punisher ends up with a moral dilemma after killing an undercover federal agent, and then feels some serious guilt. Its a pretty big cliche of course, but one must be prepared for cliche after cliche with a film like this. When The Punisher kills the undercover fed, he also ends up dropping an Italian gangster named Billy Russoti in a glass crushing machine, who soon becomes his nemesis “Jigsaw”. The scene is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Batman when Jack Napier gets dropped in the toxic waste and then becomes the Joker. The movie also involves subplots with cops and the federal agent’s widow and kid, which are not that involving or necessary, making the film drag at times. The cliches that riddle the film lead to a plot guessing game in which you get everything right. It makes for quite a bit of fun.
The acting is made up of some very cheesy B performances, which are all part of the fun. Ray Stevenson (Rome) plays the Punisher in a hilarious brutish fashion, as a killing machine who doesn’t stop for anyone. He doesn’t speak much for most of the movie, and when he does he delivers such gems as; “Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God.” Dominic West (The Wire) plays Jigsaw. He is a terrific actor who seems to be able to pull of the perfect bad guy with his role in this and 300. His performance is the one that will make or break the movie for you. I enjoyed him quite a bit here, he is insanely over the top with his ridiculous make-up to his over-the-top Italian accent. While he won’t obviously be able to stand up to The Punisher, he makes for a menacing villain. One of the weaker parts of the film was Julie Benz (Dexter), who plays the federal agents widow with a chip on her shoulder. She was pretty uninteresting in the movie, leading to my wish that the subplot with her and her kid wasn’t in the movie. The rest of the actors fill in for some pure one-line action bliss.
Lexi Alezander, the director behind the very under rated Green Street Hooligans, brings an authentic B-movie look to the film. She makes New York City look like an underground night club. The color scheme leads to a slick, colorful palette to enjoy. She did what the other two movies failed at, she made the Punisher fun. She knows what type of movie she made, and greatly succeeded. Her action scenes also contain a good sense of geography and fun. Each action set is different and loads of fun, everyone gets bigger and bigger. The only fault she delivers is by delivering an anti-climatic battle that didn’t deliver a satisfying battler between The Punisher and Jigsaw.
Is Punisher: War Zone a particularly good movie? No. Its trashy, stupid, and kind of bad. Its a good thing this action romp knows this and makes these factors an asset to be enjoyable. Every film cliche is here and there mostly poked fun at, although some of them feel as if they are try to grasp seriousness. Lexi Alexander has finally delivered a fun Punisher that is worth while.
Film Rating: 7/10
The features here are nothing special, basically like another DVD release. It includes an audio commentary with Director Lexi Alexander and Cinematographer Steve Gainer that is interesting and informative. It also includes an always generic “The Making of”. There is a feature on Dominic West and it shows how they did his make-up, its titled “Meet Jigsaw”. There is a “Weapons of The Punisher” feature which is a rather boring feature on the weapons used in the film. “Training to Become The Punisher” is just a rather simple look at Ray Stenson’s training. It also has a “Creating the Look of the Film”, which shows how they used cinematography and post production effects to produce a slick-looking B-movie feel. Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary, but there is a decent set of feautures here.
Buy Punisher: War Zone (2-Disc Special Edition) on Amazon
Have you seen Punisher: War Zone? What did you think?
– Jack Giroux