Movie: "Punisher: War Zone"
Year: 2008
Rated: R
Genre: Action / Adventure
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Writing credits: Nick Santora, Matt Holloway, Arthur Marcum

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 12/29/2008

Plot: During a raid on a mafia operation, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, accidentally shoots an undercover FBI agent. Now, he must come to grips with his feelings over the mistake while avoiding capture. Further complications arise when Jigsaw, a mobster he disfigured, emerges to pursue the slain FBI agent's family.

Review: After the painfully lame Punisher movie of 2004, I wasn’t expecting much from War Zone. On the one hand, it wasn’t encouraging to hear that Tom Jane bailed on the project because he didn’t like the script. On the other hand, apart from his gravelly voice, Jane wasn’t exactly Punisher material. Having seen the movie, I think it was for the best.

Frank Castle’s family is dead, and now he kills criminals for a living. This is pretty well-established. He’s been at it for a while now, but he hits a little snag when during a routine shootout, he accidentally wastes an undercover FBI agent. Now, wracked with guilt, he contemplates hanging up his shooting irons for good. Further complicating things is Jigsaw, a mobster who was grossly disfigured after Frank tossed him into a glass... grinding... thing. It looks mean and it breaks up glass bottles. For recycling, let’s say.

The rest of the movie is kind of a blur. Why? Because it’s god awful. The film opens up with an action sequence that prepares you for the sort of over-the-top violence you can expect throughout, but then there are these long sequences where everyone is... talking! Some movies can do scenes with dialogue in them, but Punisher: War Zone is not one of them. Some of the lines are laughably bad, but the rest are merely bad.

And part of that problem can be blamed on the actors themselves. The film suffers from a glut of irritating support characters, many of whom will not be killed by the Punisher during the course of the film. Highlights include Carlos, the former Latin Kings member whose exaggerated accent had the entire theater laughing at one point, and Budiansky, the by-the-book ham of an FBI agent who you know will be rooting for Castle by the end of the movie.

But none of these characters compare to Jigsaw’s psychotic brother, Loony Bin Jim, played by Doug Hutchinson. Funny story: IMDB listed Doug Hutchinson as an actor. This was an oversight on their part, as Mr. Hutchinson is not even an actual human being. Rather, he is a device built by the SFX team to deliver terrible lines like “Yummy yummy yummy in my tummy tummy tummy” (which did not sound any better in context, I assure you) in such a way that every. Word. Seems. Like. Its. Own. Sentence. I wanted him to be shot the moment he started talking, but no, he had to be a part of the plot.

But again, it’s not all his fault that the movie is so bad. Director Lexi Alexander is as much to blame as anyone else. Now, in a film where in the first ten minutes, the title character decapitates an old man and simultaneously breaks the necks of two people with his hands and feet, you can’t expect there to be a lot of subtlety. At the same time, though, shots framed during the slower parts of this movie are often intended to convey symbolism, as well as other crap you learn about in film school. Instead, they wind up being so overt and heavy-handed that you wonder if the director didn’t take notes from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

At one point, as Jigsaw is contemplating his new ugliness, he sees a big video billboard showing an animated jigsaw puzzle. We know he sees the billboard because they show it twice, and hold on it long enough for even densest viewer to see where they’re going with it. I half-expected him to say, “call me Jigsaw, like that billboard down there.” Then again, maybe the scene was supposed to show how he was debating between calling himself Jigsaw, from the billboard, or Scarface, from the “The World is Yours” sign just below it. Boy that would’ve been weird, huh?

But it’s not all bad news. Ray Stevenson does a fantastic job as the Punisher. He even manages to work around the terrible dialogue, and the “bonding” scenes between him and the girl whose dad he killed. He’s easily the best Punisher actor (sorry Dolph). Let’s just hope they can get him a better script for the next movie.

Apart from the terrible quality of the movie as a whole, the other complaint I’ve heard from people is that it’s too violent. First of all, heaven forbid there be a lot of violence in a movie about a man who does nothing but kill criminals. More importantly, though, the movie is based off of the Punisher MAX series. Those comics are packed, PACKED with blood and gore. Point-blank gunshots, vivisections, it’s all in there. And sure, there is an almost baffling amount of violence in War Zone, but most of the really outrageous scenes are humorously overdone. Ask yourself, did I laugh at Story of Ricky? Yes? Then the violence in this film won’t be a problem.

Is Punisher: War Zone a great superhero movie? No. Is it bad enough to seem like a straight comedy? Not quite. If you’re a fan of the character, I think you’ll enjoy Stevenson’s portrayal, but you’ll have to suffer through a lot of other crap. The violence, though, shouldn’t be much of a problem. For me, there was one exception to this: in one scene, develops a strange sniffle. Instead of blowing his nose, he grabs a pencil, shoves it up his nose, and... I’m not sure what exactly he does, but it involved a lot of wet crunching and ended with him withdrawing a bloody pencil. That was by far the most punishing scene in the movie.

Overall rating: WholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Dec 30th, 2008, 06:54 PM
Waiting for the DVD. Mostly because it shot out of theaters too quickly for me to get there and watch it. I still think the 2004 Punisher movie was amazing. Mostly because I was expecting the 2004 film to be how the 2008 sounds.
O HAI!!!!!!
Dec 30th, 2008, 10:20 PM
I liked the 2004 one and didnt get to the movies for this one, sounds like a rent to me though...possibly a buy since I have OCD when it comes to comic movies, i have to have all of them for soem odd reason
lurking on the walls
Dec 30th, 2008, 11:38 PM
I actually enjoyed this movie, now i saw it online (thanks Megavideo.com) and, do agree with you saying most of the lines are bad, hell I totally agree... but why not think of it this way, It's now Saw 5... which was by far more athetic than the privious (in my opinion). AAnd It's not a Friday the 13th... But it's something in between... it's like the th3e offspring of Rambo from last year... I mean think about it. Former soldier fighting an army filled with impossible odds.

It's lame, but I went in to it knowing there won't be much of a plot, I looked forward to seeing this new rendition of the Punisher, and I enjoyed it. And you have to admit, seeing that new free climbing fad being taken down a peg was epic. How often do you see a guy doing a flip off of a building only to be hit by a stinger missile?

although seeing a small gang get introduced...and then wiped out before anything could develop was a little odd, they can do better... now if they used General Krepkov from the comics, I think he'd be epic as a heartless bastard.

once again, I liked it. and I don't care what anyone else thinks, each movie delivered a different aspect of the punisher for the time. 80's he did the job to get it done against the mob. 2004 it was vengance. 2008 Vengance to the next level.
Dec 31st, 2008, 12:30 AM
Had some cool moments but overall, ugh.
Sympathizes with the foo'
Dec 31st, 2008, 11:13 AM
No no, 2004 was not vengeance; it was punishment!

I liked the 2004 Punisher movie because it didn't go overboard with the comic-book trappings; it felt more like an old-school 70's action movie instead of another "Matrix" ripoff. But now I have to see this one, if only for the above-mentioned scene where the Le Parkour guy gets blown to smithereens.
Jason's a Furry! Run!
Dec 31st, 2008, 01:20 PM
As a straight, over-the-top action movie, I really enjoyed this one. The gunplay was good, the violence was excellent ('too violent'? Completely ridiculous, there's no such thing), and the gore was nice and thick. I also found a good amount of the humor enjoyable (especially the parkour moment. Full agreement that it needed to be brought down a bit, even though I still think it's really cool).

Though you are right, most of the story and characters are little more than filler (at least it seems that way). The occasional plot hole doesn't help either (anyone else notice the Russians just completely disappear at one point?). But I let it slide in the end, mainly because Ray Stevenson did such a great job (he owned that character. Much better than Jane, and I'm a Jane fan). Plus I liked his sidekick played by Newman.

Also (and I may be alone here), I felt this was different from most comic book movies in that it didn't even try for realism. While all the others are trying to make it all seem like a comic book situation that could actually happen in real life, this is one that just said "fuck it" and went nuts. Sure, it doesn't make for 'good' movies so to speak, but it makes some really entertaining stuff. Like this, which did far poorer at the box office than it deserved.
Dec 31st, 2008, 08:48 PM
Didn't expect much from this one.
Forum Virgin
Jan 1st, 2009, 03:53 AM
I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the 2004 version and ended up liking this one as well. I felt like it was so over the top yet didn't take itself serious. Its like the director just went bat shit with the idea and had a lot of fun with it. I do wish it had more action scenes but it was still entertaining.
Jan 3rd, 2009, 01:58 AM
I guess I never really got the punisher. Mind you he has his moments (like in marvel zombies when he decides he'll kill the last people on earth just because they happen to also be criminals) but to me he always seemed a little two-dimensional. He seems like a blatent edgy marketing gimmick to me, sorta like the sega genesis and "blast processing" back in the day. That isn't to say there haven't been, on very rare occasions, good stories written for him, but that says more for the writers than the character himself, who is nothing more than a generic bad-ass anti-hero.
Jan 4th, 2009, 09:09 AM
It was'nt the best movie I had ever seen Ray Stevenson looks and acts exactly like the Punisher should and at least this one is set in New York
The Ugly Puckling
Jan 4th, 2009, 02:54 PM
Ray Stevenson really was a horrible Punisher in my opinion, he looked exactly like the type of person The Punisher should be brutalizing, and sounded too much like a European, which he is, but there are numerous actors that can play Americans well.

I really liked Thomas Jane's Punisher, he didn't look like a person that would be ready to brutally and horrifically murder an entire gang, and that was a nice aspect. Plus, the friends aspect was handled a lot better in 2004, these light and airy but tormented people surrounding this dark and brooding but in the end hopeful figure was a great contrast. John Travolta was the biggest flaw in that movie.

But in the end, Howard The Duck was a better movie then War Zone...
Reptilus Rex
Jan 5th, 2009, 05:05 AM
Whoa, Graystreet...I don't know if you want to throw insults that big. Warzone may not have been an ideal movie, but Howard the Duck was absolutely God awful and probably the closest thing to a film-based weapon most of us will ever see.
I might just be old-fashioned, but I always admired the Punisher for his conviction. Yeah, he's killing people, but everyone knows he's sticking to his metaphorical and physical guns by not backing down.
I liked the 2004 movie with Thomas Jane, because it had really good character development despite not quite hitting the nail on the head with the history (along with Rebecca Romijn), and besides, Kevin Nash (The Russian) was stabbed by a real knife by Thomas Jane during their fight in the apartment building. It was an accident, but it's still pretty funny.
lurking on the walls
Jan 5th, 2009, 07:26 AM
Graystreet, I agree on some sections, and It was odd knowing Castle was played by a scottish actor, but he did look like the Punisher, not like a guy he'd hunt.

and Grossenschwamm, I dind't know Nash was actually stabbed... That makes it better.

yet, I find it funny how Gray complains about a scottishman playing an American, yet, it's ok for an American to play a Russian?
Fookin' up planets!
Feb 2nd, 2009, 04:12 PM
"Nobody fucks with the dark overlord"

Best quote in...

-Howard the Duck-