Blu-Ray Review: Marvel Character Strikes Out Swinging With ‘Punisher: War Zone’

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No votes yet Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – It’s officially a strikeout for Marvel’s The Punisher, a character now featured in not one, not two, but three bad movies of his very own. Dolph Lundgren swung wildly and missed with his “The Punisher” and Thomas Jane nearly connected but went foul with his reboot of the franchise. Now, Ray Stevenson is the latest actor to fail to connect with this legendary character in “Punisher: War Zone,” now available on Blu-Ray.

There’s at least one thing that director Lexi Alexander and writers Nick Santora and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway get right with “War Zone” - they’re not kidding around. Gone is the attempt at a PG-13 like the Thomas Jane & John Travolta version and the hero is finally the dark, relentless killer that he should be.

Punisher: War Zone was released on Blu-Ray on March 17th, 2009.
Punisher: War Zone was released on Blu-Ray on March 17th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

The problem with “War Zone” is that gore does not equal dark. Yes, there’s extreme violence in “War Zone,” but it’s never allowed to be effective because Alexander and his cast play the whole thing as broad as can be. Dominic West (“The Wire”) as the villain Jigsaw should be terrifying, but he comes off cartoonish, like a twisted, deformed version of Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos”.

Punisher: War Zone was released on Blu-Ray on March 17th, 2009.
Punisher: War Zone was released on Blu-Ray on March 17th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

Ray Stevenson of “Rome” (it’s sad to watch two great actors from HBO in Stevenson and West reduced to paper-thin parts like these) plays ex-Special Forces officer Frank Castle, still seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and child. The Punisher is the target of both the mob he’s been decimating in vigilante crimes and the police forces trying to bring him down. After an undercover agent is killed in a Castle shoot-out and Jigsaw is born, The Punisher’s problems multiply.

Stevenson brings a chiseled, nearly-silent strength to the title role that I would actually just barely choose as the best of the three if I had to compare Ray, Thomas, and Dolph. And the action is appropriately R-rated. But the script for “War Zone” is horrendous and I could never shake the feeling that I was watching a relic, a film closer to the mindless action more prevalent in the ’80s.

Ultimately, “Punisher: War Zone” suffers from too many tone shifts, not enough interesting characters, and some of the worst dialogue in the history of Marvel movies. Hardcore action junkies may be satisfied but this is merely proof that this character doesn’t work on the big screen like he does on the page.

The 2-Disc Special Edition of “Punisher: War Zone” is an impressive release from Lionsgate, a company that always knows how to treat their action fans well. First and foremost, movies like “War Zone” depend on a great audio track. If the film works for you, it could only possibly work LOUD and the English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio will rock your “Punisher”-loving world. The video isn’t particularly notable but also doesn’t register as flat.

Special features include a digital copy of the film, a commentary by Alexander and director of photography Steve Gainer, and the following featurettes - “Training to Become the Punisher,” “The Making of Punisher: War Zone,” “Creating the Look of Punisher: War Zone,” “Meet Jigsaw,” and “Weapons of the Punisher”. It’s a more-than-adequate collection for the film.

‘Punisher: War Zone’ is released by Lionsgate Home Video and stars Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchison, Dash Mihok, and Wayne Knight. It was written by Nick Santora and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway and directed by Lexi Alexander. It was released on March 17th, 2009. It is rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

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Frank Castle, the

Frank Castle, the ex-military man whose family was killed by criminals, who became a vigilante known as the Punisher, goes after a whole mob family and gets everyone except enforcer Billy Russoti. He tracks Russoti down and chases him into a vat that is used for crushing bottles. Frank turns on the crusher hoping it would take care of him but it doesn’t. He survives but sustains very severe injuries that even with plastic surgery his face looks like a jigsaw puzzle. So he decides to adopt the name Jigsaw. Frank who killed one of Russoti’s people who unknown to him is an undercover Fed, decides to pack it in. But when he learns Russoti didn’t die and is looking for the money he entrusted to the Fed and will go looking for it at his home which means his family is in danger. So Frank tries to save them. But Russoti wants revenge on Frank so he breaks out his brother who is so crazed that he is committed to an asylum.

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