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The UnPopular Opinion: Punisher: War Zone

08.25.2016

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

The Punisher is a very difficult character to translate to feature films. Comic book fans would disagree and cite that Frank Castle should be one of the easiest. But, in a world where PG-13 is king, it is difficult to make a sanitized version of the vigilante decked out with guns and explosives. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Thomas Jane version of the character, 2008's sequel/reboot PUNISHER: WAR ZONE may be the closest we will ever get to a true adaptation of the comic book. Yes, Jon Bernthal is phenomenal in the officially sanctioned Marvel Cinematic Universe version on Netflix's Daredevil series, but Lexi Alexander's film is a truly inspired throwback that was released a decade too early to be truly appreciated by our throwback-centric current mood.

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE should have worked wonderfully had it been released alongside DEADPOOL. The over the top violence was designed as a direct homage to the ultra-violent action films of the 1980s and it delivers on all fronts. To realize that this movie was helmed by a woman should have been even more reason for it to have done well and finally quashed any haters who say female filmmakers cannot direct action as well as men. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is bloody, ridiculous and completely wonderful to watch. This is a movie for bad movie afficionados and makes you wonder just what could have been if Lionsgate had not exerted so much control. Lexi Alexander has vocally said that Marvel Studios provided great input on the film, but Lionsgate was the tiebreaker and their influence led to the finished product. There is a great film in here, one that could have paved the way for the Marvel Knights branch of Marvel Studios to bring us darker and more mature fare than is possible in Disney's main venture.

The UnPopular Opinion, Action, Comic Book, Superhero, Drama, Fantasy, Punisher: War Zone, Dominic West, Ray Stevenson

There are three key elements that make PUNISHER: WAR ZONE a success but one of them stands above the rest: Ray Stevenson. The Irish actor had only one studio film under his belt when he won the role of Frank Castle and he knew this film was a big opportunity to make his mark in North America. With that in mind, Stevenson delivers a take on The Punisher straight out of an old school Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone movie. With limited dialogue and unlimited bullets, Stevenson's Frank Castle is a one-liner spewing killing machine. That, coupled with the over-the-top gore on display, makes for the adult equivalent of Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN films. Where those movies were the embodiment of a live action comic book, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is the perfect embodiment of a live action Marvel Knights comic book. Dark reds and blacks pervade the color palette, giving this movie a palpable sense of death.

The second biggest element that makes PUNISHER: WAR ZONE work is Dominic West as Jigsaw. Where John Travolta was laughably bad as an antagonist in the previous film, West chews the scenery at a level that rivals Jack Nicholson in BATMAN and Al Pacino in DICK TRACY. Jigsaw is at once a demented villain and a cliche gangster, but the combination works within the confines of this cinematic universe. Travolta's take on Howard Saint was completely serious which made his traits and mannerisms laughably bad. Here, West takes Jigsaw over the top, like any great Marvel villain should be, and delivers a portrayal that is unhinged and yet frighteningly dark. If anything West may have played it too dark which is why his character feels like he would have been more at home in a DC Comics movie.

The UnPopular Opinion, Action, Comic Book, Superhero, Drama, Fantasy, Punisher: War Zone, Dominic West, Ray Stevenson

Overall, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE feels like a DC take on a Marvel property, which is not a bad thing. While people are lamenting the current slate of films coming out of Warner Bros DCEU, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE fits right into that same mold with the characters feeling like they could have existed within SUICIDE SQUAD and no one would have batted an eye. Lexi Alexander had only helmed the soccer hooligan film GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS prior to PUNISHER: WAR ZONE and she imbues this movie with the panache of established directors like John McTiernan or Renny Harlin. Despite the production and release woes that this film endured, Alexander is the third component that makes this movie work. 

Lexi Alexander has maintained that the tone and style of PUNISHER: WAR ZONE was always intended to be like the testosterone-fuled flicks of the 1980s. With that in mind, the film manages to out 80s the original THE PUNISHER which actually was released in the 1980s. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE is heavy metal fueled violence. This movie is the equivalent of drinking energy drinks all day and then listening to Iron Maiden at maximum volume. It isn't good for you and doesn't really serve any purpose, but man is it a rush. Alexander was so taken aback at the studio shenanigans that circled this project that she has yet to film another Hollywood feature, but her work on series like Supergirl and Arrow have kept the comic book bug alive. I for one would love to see her get the chance to tackle another adaptation by Marvel or DC.

The UnPopular Opinion, Action, Comic Book, Superhero, Drama, Fantasy, Punisher: War Zone, Dominic West, Ray Stevenson

There is no mistaking PUNISHER: WAR ZONE for any awards contenders out there but that doesn't take away from how much fun it can be. This movie ranks alongside the BLADE franchise and even DEADPOOL as some of the more vicious and bloody superhero films ever made but it also represents Marvel Studios most debauched film in their extended canon. I will continue to support Jon Bernthal as the ideal Punisher for the MCU but he does not hold a candle to the action-oriented Frank Castle on display in PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. This is the movie that embodies Garth Ennis' 2004 run on the comic and that is definitely a good thing. I can absolutely understand those who disliked this movie, but it is worth revisiting years later and enjoying it for what it is instead of what you think it should have been.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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8:57PM on 08/26/2016
It was so over-the-top good...Bernthal is doing well with the character but Stevenson nails it as the real "psycho" version of Castle; almost exploits the death of his family as a reason to kill, not to justify it.
It was so over-the-top good...Bernthal is doing well with the character but Stevenson nails it as the real "psycho" version of Castle; almost exploits the death of his family as a reason to kill, not to justify it.
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12:11AM on 08/26/2016
It's not a bad movie because it's awesome. Ray Stevenson is one great Punisher. Too bad the movie is underrated.
It's not a bad movie because it's awesome. Ray Stevenson is one great Punisher. Too bad the movie is underrated.
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8:48PM on 08/25/2016

Couldn't agree more!

Great gif of my fave scene in the movie. This Punisher flushed the crap Jane version out to sea where it belonged. Really hoped we get to see Ray play the character again. He was awesome.
Great gif of my fave scene in the movie. This Punisher flushed the crap Jane version out to sea where it belonged. Really hoped we get to see Ray play the character again. He was awesome.
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3:48PM on 08/25/2016
Ugh. I love the Punisher, but I almost walked out on this opening night. Dominic West was so horrible in this (and he was usually solid, but that forced Italian American accent was close to parody), when he and his stupid brother character were strutting down the street I literally facepalmed. I really believe Lexi Alexander just didn't get the characters outside of Frank. Horrible film, one of the worst with Marvels logo on it.
Ugh. I love the Punisher, but I almost walked out on this opening night. Dominic West was so horrible in this (and he was usually solid, but that forced Italian American accent was close to parody), when he and his stupid brother character were strutting down the street I literally facepalmed. I really believe Lexi Alexander just didn't get the characters outside of Frank. Horrible film, one of the worst with Marvels logo on it.
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3:41PM on 08/25/2016

100% Agreed!

This was so much more fun than the Thomas Jane version (Yeah, I said it!) and was an absolute blast!! Still don't get the hate for this movie but when the article mentioned 'out- 80 the 80s', I think a lot of guys felt "insecure" especially when they found out the director was a girl..!?? * collective minds blown*

Serious, this is the Frank Castle the Thomas Jane version was too afraid to be by playing it safe. Granted, Marvel hadn't found winning its formula yet but it was/would have
This was so much more fun than the Thomas Jane version (Yeah, I said it!) and was an absolute blast!! Still don't get the hate for this movie but when the article mentioned 'out- 80 the 80s', I think a lot of guys felt "insecure" especially when they found out the director was a girl..!?? * collective minds blown*

Serious, this is the Frank Castle the Thomas Jane version was too afraid to be by playing it safe. Granted, Marvel hadn't found winning its formula yet but it was/would have certainly been a worthwhile risk.

Anyways, like the old saying goes Talent ahead of its time is never appreciated.
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3:12PM on 08/25/2016

Love this violent s.o.b.

"heavy metal fueled violence" is such a great compliment for this movie.
"heavy metal fueled violence" is such a great compliment for this movie.
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12:32PM on 08/25/2016

Y'know

It's strange - I had a love-hate reaction to this one. I really liked RS as FC - but there's no denying the movie was poorly put together. I thought West was over acting. The atmosphere was all wrong to me. Felt low budget. But it was gritty.
It's strange - I had a love-hate reaction to this one. I really liked RS as FC - but there's no denying the movie was poorly put together. I thought West was over acting. The atmosphere was all wrong to me. Felt low budget. But it was gritty.
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-5
12:29PM on 08/25/2016
-THE PUNISHER WAR ZONE: 0/10
-THE PUNISHER 2004: 6/10
-DEADPOOL: 9/10
-SPIDER-MAN trilogy: 8/10
-BATMAN 1989: 6/10
-DICK TRACY: 4/10
-SUICIDE SQUAD: 6/10
-GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS: 7/10
-BLADE trilogy: 5/10
-THE PUNISHER WAR ZONE: 0/10
-THE PUNISHER 2004: 6/10
-DEADPOOL: 9/10
-SPIDER-MAN trilogy: 8/10
-BATMAN 1989: 6/10
-DICK TRACY: 4/10
-SUICIDE SQUAD: 6/10
-GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS: 7/10
-BLADE trilogy: 5/10
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7:10PM on 08/25/2016
You are being awfully kind to Suicide Squad.
You are being awfully kind to Suicide Squad.
12:09PM on 08/25/2016
Far from perfect, but very unfairly underrated. I consider this punisher film the closest thing we got from the comics (I enjoy the Lundgren version a lot as a perfect 80's extravaganza). I had a blast watching this with friends when it came out, some scenes still make me smile with its over the top action/gore fest, I remember reading somewhere that Ray Stevensen portrayed Frank Castle as a Jason Voorhees character which I agree. Most of the Punisher comics I've read (quite a few), he is
Far from perfect, but very unfairly underrated. I consider this punisher film the closest thing we got from the comics (I enjoy the Lundgren version a lot as a perfect 80's extravaganza). I had a blast watching this with friends when it came out, some scenes still make me smile with its over the top action/gore fest, I remember reading somewhere that Ray Stevensen portrayed Frank Castle as a Jason Voorhees character which I agree. Most of the Punisher comics I've read (quite a few), he is mostly like that. I don't get the love for the Thomas Jane version though, I've tried so many times to like it but everything is wrong about it and it is no fun either as far as I'm concerned... And like I've said before on this site, the Daredevil's version portrayed by John Bernthal is okay in my book but he plays it like an Italian american middle weight boxer who's been watching too many De Niro/Pacino movies.... I'm looking forward for his own series to make my final judgment.
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11:31AM on 08/25/2016

5 Stars!!!! Loved this movie

To me, this is the definitive Punisher movie. I couldn't agree more. The slick production design, crazy over-the-top violence, and linear story telling was perfect! I still can't quite understand why it is not more popular. This IS the Punisher. The fact that it was directed by a woman is awesome! Reminds me of how brutal American Psycho was (directed by a woman as well). Totally agree that this is like a DC take on Marvel material. Great Article.
To me, this is the definitive Punisher movie. I couldn't agree more. The slick production design, crazy over-the-top violence, and linear story telling was perfect! I still can't quite understand why it is not more popular. This IS the Punisher. The fact that it was directed by a woman is awesome! Reminds me of how brutal American Psycho was (directed by a woman as well). Totally agree that this is like a DC take on Marvel material. Great Article.
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11:27AM on 08/25/2016
My god what a damn turd. I'd throw it up there with the F4 reboot
My god what a damn turd. I'd throw it up there with the F4 reboot
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10:32AM on 08/25/2016
I didn't care for Warzone but I appreciated the R rating a lot more. I like the Thomas Jane version more. Maybe as an unpopular opinion as well.
I didn't care for Warzone but I appreciated the R rating a lot more. I like the Thomas Jane version more. Maybe as an unpopular opinion as well.
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