Punisher: War Zone (2-Disc SE) - Mania.com

DVD Review

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  • DVD: Punisher: War Zone (2-Disc Special Edition)
  • Rating: R
  • Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz
  • Written By: Nick Santora, Art Marcum
  • Directed By: Lexi Alexander
  • Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
  • Original Year of Release: 2008 (Theatrical), 2009 (DVD)
  • Extras: See Below
  • Series: Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone (2-Disc SE)

War Zone is the most faithful depiction of the Punisher yet

By Tim Janson     March 24, 2009

Ray Stevenson in Lionsgate's Punisher: War Zone(2008).
© Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Robert Trate


A funny thing happened on the way to my hating Punisher War Zone, it actually turned out to be not that bad. It’s certainly a film that divides many mainstream critics from comic book fans. Relentlessly and shamelessly violent and gory, Director Lexi Alexander sought to capture the look of the grittier Punisher of the Marvel Knights and MAX imprints, particularly the stories written by Garth Ennis and the art of Tim Bradstreet. This film distances itself from the previous film almost completely, only acknowledging the timeline of the murder of Frank Castle’s family. That episode is completely changed from the family reunion on the small island, to just Castle and his wife and children having a picnic in the park. In this regard it is certainly closer to the comic book version of Castle’s story. In fact, Ray Stevenson looks very much like the 70s version of the character as drawn by artist Ross Andru. He’s a more mature character, battle-hardened and with an already receding hairline. 
The plot is simple and straight-ahead. The Punisher’s existence and activities are well-known to law enforcement and even though he is suspected of hundreds of murders, the police are in no hurry to capture him as his victims are all members of the criminal underworld. In fact, the “Punisher Task Force” is kind of an inside joke within the force, relegated to one cop working out of the basement who aids the Punisher as much as he can.
Castle storms the mansion of a powerful mob boss, killing virtually everything that moves. Only Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and a couple of his henchmen escape. The Punisher eventually catches up to Russoti and cause him to fall into a machine that crushes glass, leaving Russoti’s face a horrifying, stitched up mess. Russoti takes the name “Jigsaw” and vows to do anything he can to kill the Punisher.
The previous Punisher film did the obligatory origin story, a melodramatic and overlong bit of drivel that took an hour to establish the Punisher character. Here, the sappy sentimentality is done away with and the basis for his vendetta against the mob is covered in a flashback that lasts only seconds. It deviates from the intense action only for a subplot involving the widow (Julie Benz) of an FBI agent and her daughter who is caught in the middle of the war between Castle and Jigsaw. And what action there is! I don’t think I’ve seen as many heads and faces blown off as I have in Punisher War Zone. The “Saw” horror series has nothing on this film in terms of blood and gore.
Ray Stevenson is the best Punisher yet although that’s not saying much. He has more personality than thick Dolph Lundgren and the angst-ridden Thomas Jane. Dominic West was a scream as Jigsaw. The influence is obviously the first Batman film. There, Batman causes Jack Nicholson to fall into a vat of chemicals, scarring him into the hideous visage of the Joker. Here, Russoti falls into the glass crushing machine. Even the scene with the plastic surgeon is reprised. West brings the same sort of insane glee to his role that Nicholson did. 
As mentioned, the work of Garth Ennis and Tim Bradstreet are frequently mentioned by the crew as the influences for the film, even down to the limited color palettes, as they kept to a minimum of three colors of varying shades for most scenes.
Is it visceral and overly bloody? Probably but it is also exciting and much more fun than expected. I can see the Punisher being a reasonably successful niche series, much like the Blade films were as long as they continue to keep things simple.
The making of Punisher War Zone (9:00) This featurette covers the production of the film with comments by cast and crew members including Stevenson, Julie Benz, and Colin Salmon. Again it is emphasized just how much the filmmakers wanted to capture the look and essence of the Garth Ennis issues.
Meet Jigsaw (3:35) Dominic West discusses bringing Jigsaw to life, how he approached the role, and the lengthy make-up sessions.
The Weapons of the Punisher (4:35) The Weapons coordinator on the film discusses the over 125 replicas and live guns used during the filming including a look at several weapons such as the M4 rifle, Beretta 9MM, Smith & Wesson 500, and the AK-47.
Training to become the Punisher (5:41) Details Stevenson’s intense physical, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat training for the role. Stevenson has to look authentic switching from weapon to weapon, as well as aiming and firing.
Creating the Look of the Film (2:45) Director of photography Steve Gainer talks about the lighting, use of shadows, and color schemes, all designed to reflect the look of the comics.
Audio Commentary with director Lexi Alexander andDirector of photography Steve Gainer


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hanso 3/24/2009 5:04:02 PM

Are you kidding me?  Please don't insult us by comparing Dominic West's Jigsaw to Jack Nicholson's Joker. 

Nicholson's Joker runs laps around West's Jigsaw and doesn't even break a sweat.

Jigsaw was terrible in this movie thanks to great directing and acting decisions of West and Lexi Alexander, who decided to go completely over the top with the character.

If you want to compare Bat villains, choose any of the Schumacher villains and the you may comprehend the suckfest that was Jigsaw & Punisher: War Zone.

hanso 3/24/2009 5:11:45 PM

"I can see the Punisher being a reasonably successful niche series, much like the Blade films were as long as they continue to keep things simple."

LOL.  Successful niche series?  War Zone probably drove the last nail in the Punisher film franchsie.  It made like $11 million WORLDWIDE at it cost $35 mil to make.

tjanson 3/24/2009 5:16:33 PM

Hanso...first of all, you completely misunderstood what i was saying...I wasn't implying that the performances were comparable on an acting level, i was comparing the Jigsaw character and how he became Jigsaw was done almost as a tribute, scene for scene, to the Batman film.  I said be brought the same insane glee..not that he was better or as good...

And secondly...Jack Nicholson...wasn't that great...As usual he hammed it up and chewed up the scenery everytime he was on screen.  I think we al saw a true performance by Heath Ledger without the hamminess and the "Look at me!  I'm the great Jack Nicholson" method of getting attention.

hanso 3/24/2009 5:26:03 PM

WRONG!  Jack Nicholson was great!  Sure Ledger gave an Oscar winning performance and for my taste a better Joker than Jack's but it doesn't mean Jack wasn't great.  Now everyone wants to hate on the man but his JOker still holds up well and he portrayed a different side of Joker than Ledger.  If Romero and Ledger are the extremes, Nicholson was smack in the middle walking along the line of crazy and funny.

And Dominic West does not bring the same insane glee that Jack did for Joker.  Maybe the insane glee that Schumacher & Tommy Lee Jones decided to add to Two Face when they were getting high of the ickiest of the ikcy.

mosgza 3/24/2009 5:32:10 PM

I'm so glad they took the time and consideration of "rebooting" this "franchise" with such a fantastically stupid movie to make up for the previous one. Is Frank Castle really that difficult to capture on the big screen? ...Really?
Like the Hulk, now we have two movies - intentionally unrelated to one another - that have added nothing for the characters they're showcasing. Can't wait for the equally unnecessary Fantastic Four and Superman reboots.
Reboots... bah.
On a less cynical note, I think it would be a better idea for Marvel to get into the direct-to-DVD market for guys like The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Elektra and such. At least, then, I know what to expect when I pop in the movie; and I will be far more forgiving. War Zone might have been a classic if I knew the creators weren’t pretentious enough to consider this a ‘big screen’ movie!



mosgza 3/24/2009 5:33:54 PM

 Jack's Joker was the most fun, Heath's was just plain frightening! (and brilliant)

hannibalking 3/24/2009 5:43:59 PM

May have been the most faithful of the Punisher film, but I liked Jane's better. I found myself liking War Zone more than I thought I would have though. It's fun in its over the top gory way and Stevensen is pretty good as Castle, but there were too many cringe moments for me.

hannibalking 3/24/2009 5:52:52 PM

May have been the most faithful of the Punisher film, but I liked Jane's better. I found myself liking War Zone more than I thought I would have though. It's fun in its over the top gory way and Stevensen is pretty good as Castle, but there were too many cringe moments for me.

DaForce1 3/24/2009 6:49:24 PM

I agree with this review up to a point. Ray Stevenson isn't ready to take the lead in a film. He's a nice guy (met him in person while doing a junket for this movie), but he's a supporting actor at best. He didn't talk for the first 20 minutes of the movie, which is always a bad sign.

And Hanso, Nicholson played Nicholson playing the Joker. It was hammy. And Dominic West pretty much stole the same style of acting that Nicholson did in Batman. I rolled my eyes every time I saw how much was 'borrowed' from Burton's Batman for this movie.

It wasn't that great of a movie, but it wasn't horrible either.

What ruined the Jane Punisher was Vinnie Babbarino. Travolta sucked the life from that movie, almost as much as the decision to place it Florida.

hanso 3/24/2009 7:09:15 PM

Sure now everyone wants to hate on the man, no one did back when he pulled it off in 1989 and Batman was owning all that existed that year.

Nicholson even got some Oscar buzz, and nominated for a Golden Globe and some other awards for his role as Joker.

Dominic West mightve gotten nominated for Razzie cause it was so bad.  Jigsaw = Schumacher's Two Face, Riddler or Mr. Freeze.

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