Andy's Review: Punisher: War Zone - The Real Punisher

December 8, 2008

I wanted to voice my opinion on this today, because I felt Kevin's review didn't really do the film justice. Let me start off by saying this: Punisher: War Zone is a completely different movie than Thomas Jane's Punisher from 2004. While I did enjoy that film very much, and while Jane did the best he could with the character, I was never sold on him actually being the Punisher. He looked nothing like him, and the movie wasn't as gritty as many comic book fans are typically used to seeing with the character. Enter December 5th, 2008 and a reboot of the franchise just like Louis Leterrier did with the Hulk earlier this year. So how did this Punisher compare to the ones of past? I believe it was a much better film than both.

War Zone goes exactly where I wanted a Punisher movie to go. It's gritty and violent and at times it feels like it jumped straight off the page of the Punisher MAX comic. Ray Stevenson is the Punisher. He looks almost exactly how every comic book reader would envision him on screen. While the story wasn't award worthy and at times was campy (okay, at times it was very campy), I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Frank Castle takes on some thugs in a scene from Punisher: War Zone.Punisher: War Zone Review

By now most of you know what the story is about. The Punisher (Stevenson) begins the film by "punishing" a New York mob boss along with his family and friends at their mob mansion. As the Punisher kills anyone and everyone there, he receives a tip that some of the men have escaped. The Punisher of course follows and cleans up the rest of the mess, or so he thinks. One of the mob leaders by the name of Billy Russoti (played by Dominic West of "The Wire" and 300) becomes horribly disfigured by the Punisher's antics, and swears revenge on the Punisher and all that stand in his way. He calls himself Jigsaw and with the help of his demented brother "Loony Bin Jim" they become a menace to the people of New York City.

As I said before, the story here is not a phenomenal story. It is very predictable and it's definitely something we've all seen before. Many critics would immediately write off this movie at this point. George Roush over at Latino Review recently said this: "Movies are story driven works of art. If the story is shit, the film is shit." There is no way that, as a writer and a moviegoer, I can agree with that statement. I can understand and respect what he is saying, and agree that movies are a work of art, but to say that the value of each and every film rides on whether or not the story is well done, is a bit extreme. War Zone's story is not very well done, but it is still a very likeable movie. I was very entertained from start to finish.

Another aspect of War Zone that can't be overlooked is the violence. I felt confident that no matter how good (or bad) I thought War Zone was in the end, director Lexi Alexander would do a good job with the violence. I absolutely love Green Street Hooligans and what she did in that film felt very real. While at times things got over the top in War Zone, I still enjoyed every last blood-splattering kill. And the answer is yes, the Punisher can punch a hole in a man's head. I hope you were asking that question!

All in all, War Zone was good for what is was. If you go in expecting anything like The Dark Knight or Iron Man, you will be thoroughly disappointed. However, if you walk into the theater to see a fierce and graphic look at the Punisher, than you should enjoy every minute of this. Hardcore comic enthusiasts shouldn't be disappointed either, as there are plenty of lines that come right from the comics. From exploding heads to point blank executions, Punisher: War Zone was a decent film with a decent story, and an excess of violent eye candy. I was never bored, and I know that with the right expectations, you won't be either.

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Thank you! A 6 is a much more deserved score than a 2.5. I'm glad to see someone else gets it and realizes not every movie needs to be touching and emotional. Gratuitous violence works too.

Syphous on Dec 8, 2008


This thing BOMB like hell at the box office!!! Its such a shame too, the Punisher is a great character.

Hellboy 3 on Dec 8, 2008


finally a good review, I agree with #1

Drunkimus on Dec 8, 2008


this was actually really entertaining, not following the comics, i really liked it. this is what max payne should have been like, too bad its a shame. but yes the violence is awesome and there are alot of unintentional funny parts, go see it

sk8er on Dec 8, 2008


I haven't seen it yet but im sure i'll enjoy it, mindless killing is always fun. I seriously doubt it will be anyware near what the incredible hulk was though. I thought hulk was the second best film of the year just behind batman.

dac_fan on Dec 8, 2008


I kind of liked War Zone, but the violence was way, way over the top. It was cartoony, when it should have been disturbing. To me, Lexi Alexander is the female Uwe Boll. They both have this very European approach to violence that is graphic, but constantly winking at the audience. When the Punisher punches a hole in a guy's face, you know they've pretty much gone off the reservation. I think The Punisher needs a director with an American sensibility for violence. Someone who will make it gritty, real and regrettable.

Tom Brazelton on Dec 8, 2008


It's the "costume" that let me off. I know the Punisher has to be ready for anything and that he's doesn't have any super powers, but he looks like he's ready for a tundra or something with that turtleneck vest, and the piss-poor skull sucks ass, too. For some reason, the skull looks better in the poster.

bat on Dec 8, 2008


did you watch the same movie as i did? It was horrible. Yes, Stevenson is probably the perfect Punisher, but come on....really? the movie lacked on plot, acting, realism and excitement. It was just one more bloody special effect after another. Frank Castle is a man who lost everything he loved.....there is so much go on there. He was a Special Forces soldier, and trust me, hanging from chandeliers is not something they teach to anyone in the military that matter. No sliding down the hall on your knees while shooting yourM4. Give me a break. Lexi has just been added to my list of BANNED directors. You are right there with Ang Lee....I will never watch another movie you make.

michael on Dec 8, 2008


ive said this in ever blog about punisher .....if you want to make a punisher movie, watch MAN ON FIRE. that style of torture and brutalitity , while being totally apathetic. And it MAN ON FIRE, you beleive it could's tactical, it's real and it's bloody.

michael on Dec 8, 2008


The fact that you put Lexi next to Ang Lee in terms of "BANNED" directors makes your entire comment null and void, michael.

Itri on Dec 8, 2008


Yeah I agree, Ang Lee actually has some talent #10.

adam on Dec 8, 2008


I thought Thomas Jane played a great punisher. Ray Stevenson showed to much emotion. One of my favorite lines from Janes movie was when Rebecca's character asked him about his family and said that she was sorry for his loss, and he replied, "I'm over it" Where Stevenson looks like he was about to start crying when the girl was playing with his daughters snowglobe. Stevenson's version took place six years later and he was way too emotional. Where Thoman Jane's version his family died 5 months prior before he came the punisher, and showed very little emotion. And plus I liked the facted that he drank. Much more realistic.

The_Phantom on Dec 8, 2008


The Phantom knows what hes talking about.

Al on Dec 8, 2008


My friends and I were talking about our favorite Punisher stories and typically the one's we remember are those that are told from the criminal's perspective. The Punisher is stalking them, hunting them down and they're on the run. The Punisher almost works better when he's a boogeyman. Someone the criminal element rightly fears. But you can't make a movie about The Punisher in that context because it becomes a horror film and Frank is supposed to be someone you root for. To that end, they're never going to film a Punisher movie that is going to satisfy the fan base.

Tom Brazelton on Dec 8, 2008


who cares what you all are talking about they raped indiana jones in the ass.

fuck you all on Dec 8, 2008


"Ray Stevenson showed to much emotion. One of my favorite lines from Janes movie was when Rebecca's character asked him about his family and said that she was sorry for his loss, and he replied, "I'm over it" Jane's "Punisher" saying he's "over" the death of his family is the epitome of why his Punisher was terrible. His lack of emotion had more to do with his uncharismatic acting. Ray Stevenson was perfect. The man simply is Frank Castle in every possible way. It was like watching a comic come to life in so many scenes with him. "To that end, they're never going to film a Punisher movie that is going to satisfy the fan base." Wrong. Fans loved Punisher: War Zone. It's the mainstream who hated it.

Rampage on Dec 8, 2008


oh my... words can not describe what a piece of shit this movie turned out to be. it is now #2 on my all time worst movies ever list. this is a stream it on netflix at best.

thestaton on Dec 8, 2008


We respect everyone's opinion. But REAL Punisher fans will ALWAYS have War Zone. Totally agree with you Rampage. I loved it. I saw Castle. I think Tom Jane would have been Martin Soap. Honestly, he looks just like him! Peace

Bugs on Dec 8, 2008


THATS TRUE. WE RESPECT EVERONE'S OPINION. But I like Andy's reviews as compared to Alex or Kevin's. This is not a movie to be compared with The Dark Knight. I've been collecting The Punisher series since the Mike Zeck & Steven Grant short series. I liked Jigsaw in there. I liked TOM Jane as the Punisher in 2004. But i love Ray in War Zone. He does remind me of the The Punisher on the cover of the 1st issue of War Zone. My Hats Off to Lexi. She sure is one HOT Russian mama and she sure can direct an action movie. Not phenomenal, but really entertaining for me. I can't forget the scene where where Frank smashes a guys face with the leg of a chair. Welcome Back FRANK.

Shawn Gregory on Dec 8, 2008


#9 - I tried to watch Man on Fire but every action scene was ruined by Tony Scotts self indulgent and confusing shaky cam.

Payne by name on Dec 11, 2008


dude you got it right, every movie should be commented and critiqued on its own standarts this movie will surely wont be a best movie nominee in story wise and it may not include best actor or supporting cast nominess but from what i have seen so far in the trailers, it sure will pack serious punch viloence action wise and punisher is cruel and violent when he is on the job. he doesnt say if youre guilty you will be judged, he says if you are guilty you will be punished and by punishment he holds the bar reall high, bang/boom/slash/ "you are dead" type punishment. the director has stated that they are going for a mature viewer type punisher as marvel have portrayed in the max series. so in that perspective and being a veteran comic reader/collector and penciler for my own pleasure, i can say that this movie will deliver what it sets out to deliver. we may argue the visual style, color scheme, the cinematography later on after the fx are completed and we see the whole movie but what we wont argue, shouldnt argue is gunfights are dirty, gritty, and waay bloody then we usually let on in other movies. (checkout "Saving Private Ryan" for some great real bullet and bomb damage scenes :P) to come to other aspects of punisher franchise that are used in the movie the costume looks cool enough the high collor is not a turtle neck sweater but infact a neck protector as some previous commenters have complained the cast looks promising i like stevensons and he is built to play punisher, and looks the role as portrayed in the max series (and i have to say i liked Janes punisher too, he is well built, he is able to do the stunts but he is a baby-face and is the next C. Lambert in my book and i dont see Mr L playing the role of Punisher 😛 ) to sum up; i look forward seeing this one one have a tendency to like it when i do 😀 thnx for the review andy cheers

burak on Dec 12, 2008


Thank you for a proper review. Punisher was great I gave it a 6, but better than Incredible Hulk? I think not, in my opinion Hulk was the second best comic movie of the year just behind batman.

dac_fan on Dec 12, 2008


Payne, hahahaha...agreed with Man on Fire, but the character is what i am focusing on. that is a man who is totured by a past....he has no problem taking a life, torturing a person or losing his own life in the process of justice. The character obvioulsy has a past in which he has training in this field, as does punisher. I would have enjoyed a more realistic approach on this movie. I feel there is a much they can do wtih Frank/ Punisher and that last two movies were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Meet somewhere in the middle.

michael on Dec 15, 2008


OK look the reason the punisher could punch a hole in dudes face is due to the fact that the dude had an extensive cocaine addiction, everytime you see him in the movie he's doing coke, and one would suspect that enough coke will deteriorate your nasal cavity to the point where all it would take to concave your face is one good punch.

Woon on Dec 16, 2008


100% agree with #16... not only the mainstream who hated it.. but the "homos" too like #12 above..

DracooLa on Dec 21, 2008


First; I am a Captain in The Marine Corp. All Marines are Special Forces. We are all now MARSOC and part of The Special Forces Community: Navy SEALS, Green Berets, Rangers, Airborne and USAF Special OPS. My favorite Marvel Character is Garth Ennis's Punisher in The Max Punisher. Punisher War Zone is part of the marvel universe and is not for adults. It's for children. I was totally turned off by the title " Punisher War Zone " . It's an insult to Garth Ennis's Max Punisher Run. First; Frank Castle was not in the special forces. However; he was a marine during The Vietnam War. He was also the only survivor from his Fire Base. A Marine makes do with whatever he has or doesn't have and improvises. His armor and his weapons were realistic. The violence was realistic even his Kevlar fist smashing the man's face. We are trained to use our hands to push the cartilage in the nose cavity up into the bad guy's brain. We are also taught to push a the bad guy's eye balls into his his brain and use our fingers to push up into his brain. I can believe that a marine with the proper military arm's maker can create a Kevlar glove. I do agree with some of the commentators that " sliding down the hall on your knees while firing an M4 and firing in a circular motion from a chandelier are not part of Special Forces training. However; remember that Marines are encouraged to improvise. These two tactics were improvisations from an incredibly experienced Marine whose theater of operations is New York's most dangerous inner city urban areas. This Punisher had plain looks that helped him blend in well with the gritty New York urban environment. I saw all three Punisher movies and " Punisher War Zone was the best of the three. The one mistake that the producer and director made was to make Jigsaw and his brother as silly as The First Two Face played by Tommy Lee Jones in one of the silly Batman Films. Jigsaw's brother was also silly and reminded me of a cannibalistic toad. I refer to The Toad from one of The X-men films. Finally; as for The Punisher getting emotional about the little girl who reminded him of his dead daughter; I have gotten emotional when I saw dead children in Afghanistan and Irag.

Ivan Arcaya on Dec 28, 2008


Thomas jane is a great actor but not the best punisher. His tragic life gives emotionality to the character but janes version dwelled on it so much it took away from the punishers overall rage and anger towards criminals. Stevenson was blunt, brutal and to the point. He hates bad guys therefore kills them. The SUBTLE LOST SAD LOOK in his eyes showed the pain of frank castles past without slowing the action. The 2004 punisher was good but i honestly felt it was too focused on frank's sadness rather than anger. This movie was a little campy but honestly how can you take a comic about a single man being able to guy down dozens of enemies single handely and always get away with it so seriously? Its as believable as a comic film should be. Its a good movie and overall carries the tone of the comics and a better portrayal of frank castle. Besides, no punisher film could be worse than the Dolph Lundgren original.....

don on Sep 29, 2009


I saw it in theatre, I own the B-Ray watched it several times and i can say that this is not the best punisher movie that can be seen/shot but it definetely is the best of all three tries. and i loved it 😀 #27 yes the first punisher flick was not that good but gotta hand it to its director, the guy who introduced leather to the comic hero costume design 😀 well i wanna go home rewatch some of the action sequences of Jane's and Stevenson's versions once again 😀 cheers

burak "Daequitas" on Sep 29, 2009

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