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PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Lexi Alexander

Starring:
Ray Stevenson
Dominic West
Wayne Knight
Colin Salmon
Julie Benz

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Waging his one-man war on the world of organized crime, ruthless vigilante-hero Frank Castle sets his sights on overeager mob boss Billy Russoti. After Russoti is left horribly disfigured by Castle, he sets out for vengeance under his new alias: Jigsaw. With the "Punisher Task Force" hot on his trail and the FBI unable to take Jigsaw in, Frank must stand up to the formidable army that Jigsaw has recruited before more of his evil deeds go unpunished.
Is it good movie?
Dear Tom Jane Punisher: I was wrong about you. I'm sorry I insulted you before, even when you released your unnecessary director's cut a few years ago. I'm sorry that I screamed out loud when that stupid skull explosion ended the film and I'm sorry that I ripped about the Punisher being sort of a sh*t-disturber more than anything else. Your movie isn't really that bad. I still remember being one of eleven people who sat and saw this on the big screen, and the theatre manager came in and said how it was one of the better Marvel films he'd seen in quite some time. No, he's not blind.

Because they made a new one. Now here's the thing. Sometimes, comic books just don't translate very well to movies. I'm not a big Punisher fan, but I know that the fine line of humor that the series walks would be pretty tough to translate to this film, and unfortunately they tried.

This movie is way more faithful to the comics than the original was, apparently. Except it's just so damn stupid. I'm sorry, but this movie is really, really stupid. I like action, especially when it's brutal but it needs at least just a little bit of a hook to keep me going. This movie is like a Saturday morning cartoon full of blood and guts and other nasty stuff.

There really isn't much of a plot at all. Punisher's going to quit when an innocent dude dies at his hands. He gets pulled back in (really, really easily), Batman 89-Jokerizes Russoti into Jigsaw and that's about it for storyline.

Let's talk a bit about West here, shall we? He's so terrible. He hurts this movie quite a bit. He plays Jigsaw like he's on Mad TV or something. Constantly cracking wise and looking like a stupider Tommy Lee Two Face, he's a tremendously ineffective villain. Doug Hutchinson is far better as Jiggy's brother, Loony Bin Jim is a WAY better villain who's underused, unfortunately. Even he becomes sort of tame after awhile. Microchip is in this movie too and he's played by Newman. Everyone hates him in the comics but he, like every character in this movie, fails to make any impact on the screen.

And the violence!?!? Oh man, it's almost as if people were saying 'we know this movie is absolute crap, here's the only selling point'. It's more or less violence on top of violence that ends up being so overused that it becomes comical. If you thought this movie was 'awesome', you must absolutely love pointless violence. NOW I KNOW The Punisher is violent and stuff but if I could give two sh*ts about him, who's he's after or what he's doing then it all seems for naught. This movie is EXTREMELY violent- not Rambo violent, but very violent. This includes a gun barrel and a chair and other objects being rammed into faces and a really stupid (and hopefully purposeful) comedy sequence where a stupid Rastafarian gets blown up in mid-flip by a rocket launcher.

People like Ray Stevenson as the Punisher. I will say this- the guy absolutely, 100% looks the part. He may be better looking for the role more than anyone else I could think of. I just thought he brought no presence to the role at all. He just broods in a goofy turtleneck and shoots people. He barely even speaks. At least Jane had dialogue. I didn't care about Castle or his chosen protected at all (Julie Benz in a throwaway role with bad hair). Take it or leave it.

Here's the bottom line. This movie is watchable at least once because it's so ridiculous. It looks good for such a low budget. There is lots and lots of stupid violence. For me though, it got old and 2 of 3 of the fellows watching it with me really thought it was worse than me. The other guy liked it because he's a desperate Punisher fan (fair enough). Ultimately this movie becomes a no-fun plunge into violence that fails to make you give a quarter of a crap- adding more violence doesn't mean the movie will draw you in further.
Video / Audio
Punisher: War Zone is presented to us in a 2.35:1 widescreen format. It really looks great with vibrant colors and good skin tones.

Audio is presented here in 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and sounds fantastic. The mix is really well done and you'll hear all the visceral noise you can handle.
The Extras
There's so many extras here to dazzle you, you might think it was a better flick. Either way..

The best feature here is the Audio commentary with Director Lexi Alexander and Director of Photography Steve Gainer. Informative and heavy on the technical aspects, this is the track for fans. The only bummer thing about this is that there's no Stevenson and also, where is Garth Ennis? How could he not even be mentioned in the Special Features?

The Making of Punisher: War Zone is a quick little 10 minute EPK that tells you how great everyone and everything about this movie is. How can you tell a 'making of' story in 10 minutes!?

Meet Jigsaw is a little 3 minute commercial about Jigsaw, and you get to hear a bit about how badly they messed this up. West is trying, he's just getting it so very wrong. The makeup isn't bad, but that's about it.

The Weapons of the Punisher comes in at about 5 minutes long and it's actually cool because it has some science integrated in. It's short, it tells you what it promises it will and that's about it.

Training to Become the Punisher is a cool little feature that shows how hard Stevenson had to work to get into the role by doing military training. Tough stuff and very cool, although he was kind of skinny at the time, it shows how much work he put into things. Acting is harder than it looks!

Creating the look of the film is 2 and a half minutes of production designers talking about how much they love using colors in this movie. It was too much and the director said they could only use three colors in each shot. Whee!

Finally, you get a trailer for this flick and some trailers for Crank 2, The Haunting in Connecticut, My Bloody Valentine (Special Edition), Transporter 3, Saw V, The Burrowers, The Spirit, and Hulk VS. Whew!
Last Call
I've said it before and I'll say it again: how hard is it to make a good Punisher movie? The plot is so simple, so simple. Frank Castle is a good guy, his family is massacred, and he goes nuts, finds a skull shirt and kills dudes. Add some painful lessons about the toll of revenge and a serious villain, pepper in lots of bullets and explosions. That's it. I wish I could say I liked this more because I had no expectations for it, but I didn't. Ultimately the movie fan won out because like sex, you need to warm the fires a bit before you jam the gun barrel in a dude's face.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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