When The Punisher came along in 2004, I often wondered if we’d get a sequel as I couldn’t wait to see if Marvel was going to turn it into a film franchise. Well four years came and went, and eventually in 2008 we got a reboot in the form of Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson as the one-man-army against crime. While the violence and action borders on cartoon-like, it’s still a pretty cool film for fans of the character.
Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) is back to stop crime by any means as he does his best to clean up New York as the Punisher. He’s doing a pretty good job of it thanks to the help of Micro (Wayne Knight) taking care of the tech and weapon side of things. After taking down some of the biggest underworld scum out there, only one person survives named “Pretty Boy” Billy Russotti (Dominic West), and barely at that after falling into a glass bottle recycler. Now with a face that’s as disfigured as his soul, he becomes the villain Jigsaw (not to be confused with the Saw movies) and enlists the help of his equally twisted brother “Loony Bin” Jim (Doug Hutchison) to take out the Punisher however they can, with the help of every piece of gang scum out there of course.
When I first saw this film, I didn’t know what to think as it played out a lot like the classic Tim Burton Batman films, as it has a sort of cartoon-like feel to it with the over-the-top violence and dark humor laced around it. There were moments where I just had to turn my brain off and just roll with the Punisher being able to punch through a guy’s face, or exploding people with gunshots. Yeah, it’s one of “those” kind of movies that also remind you of low budget but fun action films from the 80’s and early 90’s.
I also found it fun how Dominic West plays Jigsaw almost like a foreshadowing of Heath Ledger’s the Joker from The Dark Knight, as he does all sorts of dark humor laced gags like trying to recruit gangs with propaganda such as standing in front of the American flag and such. It’s moments like these that keep you watching despite the otherwise decent but mediocre feel of the movie. At least it looks and sounds good thanks to the 4K with HDR treatment, as every gruesome detail shows up perfectly and the Dolby HD audio makes sure you hear every gunshot and bloody squish as you watch.
There’s also some pretty cool special features starting with audio commentary by director Lexi Alexander and cinematographer Steve Gainer where they discuss how they filmed the movie, how Lexi’s kickboxing and stunt work experience influenced some of her decisions filming parts and more. “The Making of Punisher: War Zone” is a short piece going into the making of the movie, “Training to Become The Punisher” shows viewers some of the weapon training Ray Stevenson went through with the U.S. Marine Corp and action sequence supervisor Pat Johnson, “The Weapons of The Punisher” has weapons specialist and supervisor Paul Barrette giving viewers a close look at all the weapons Frank uses in his fight against crime.
“Meet Jigsaw” is a short but cool extra showing off the talented Dominic West and his portrayal of the character and the gross but awesome make-up they used on him. Lastly there’s “Creating the Look of The Punisher” that goes into the color schemes used in the film, and how they’ll remind people of the Tim Burton Batman films I mentioned earlier.
It may not be the best adaptation of the character, but Punisher: War Zone is most certainly the most unique and gruesome that’s sure to be guilty pleasure fun for fans, and a wacky, violent ride for others. If this sounds like a good time to you, then you’ll want to jump into this war zone and check out the dark humor action here.