The Story: Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) is the vigilante known as The Punisher. When he accidentally kills an FBI agent and discovers that mobster Billy Russoti (Dominic West) is doing a deal to smuggle in a biological weapon the Punisher gives it his all to kill Russoti.
Pros: That plot above is so simple because the movie is fairly straightforward. Weapons are smuggled in by a mobster and the Punisher is going to take said mobster out. There’s no real thinking required with this movie and that’s a good thing, not every movie has to be Gone with the Wind and Punisher: War Zone is a movie meant for pure escapism. As a comic book movie it’s no Dark Knight but its fun and in-your-face. The style is reminiscent of Sin City or like the 1990 film Dick Tracy. The gore and violence in this movie is crazy and again is in the vein Robert Rodriguez’s comic book film mentioned above. Things are being blown off, exploding, you name it. Having enjoyed the 2004 version of The Punisher I was a bit hesitant when Thomas Jane didn’t reprise his role but Rome star Ray Stevenson wears the mantle well. He’s a gruff, tough as nails character who is physically intimidating and up to the challenge. I found him more physically fit than Jane just because he also has a tall stature. Wayne Knight, Seinfeld’s Newman, also surprised me as he was a great part of the movie as Micro. He’s a nice guy and has some good dialogue. I was truly sad with how his story ends because you really come to love his character and how he gives a little calm in the flurry of bullets and gore.
Cons: I had a hard time watching Punisher: War Zone because it’s just downright stupid. The plot is so simple because it’s incredibly thin and pretty much non-existent aside from allowing the Punisher to kill the bad guy. The characters are all heightened caricatures of their comic book personas which work in something like Watchmen but are just ridiculously stupid here. Dominic West is downright terrible as Billy Russoti aka Jigsaw. His makeup job is funny but he tries way too hard to play Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, even with the head nods and accent. He also tries to channel Heath Ledger’s Joker character with how he rounds up all the scum in the city to fight the Punisher but when he’s giving his recruitment speech behind a background of the American flag…hard to take him seriously. Dough Hutchinson plays his brother Looney Bin Jim and he’s a notch below terrible if that’s possible. He growls, meows like a cat and just has no purpose in the movie. Julie Benz spends the entire movie looking scared or uncomfortable and I think that’s due to the movie’s terrible dialogue. Dash Mihok also seemed creepy as Soap, a cop who idolizes The Punisher. He spends the entire movie making doe eyes and talking like he’s a baby which really creeped me out. I also hated that this movie completely disregards the plot of the 2004 version. I’m not sure which version sticks more the comic but I would have enjoyed some continuity. The violence in this is also completely gratuitous and unnecessary. I enjoy shoot-outs and gore as much as the next gal but I find it really hard to believe Ray Stevenson can punch a guy in the face and cause the guy’s face to explode like a piñata…yes that’s really in the movie. Director Lexi Alexander seems to have had no idea what to do with this movie and it makes for a really stupid experience.
Features: As terrible as this movie is the DVD makes up in some cool features. Director Lexi Alexander and Director of Photography Steve Gainer provide commentary. Gainer gives a lot of technical information and I was a bit sad that Alexander never mentioned her problems with the studio in making this. The two do have fun though and have some good chemistry. Alexander makes fun of some of shots and you have a few laughs at her expense with how she uses American slang (she’s not an American herself). Other than that the five featurettes are pretty boring and standard. “Training to Become the Punisher,” “The Making Of Punisher: War Zone,” “Creating the Look of Punisher: War Zone” and “Weapons of the Punisher” all focus on aspects of the movie and have very standard interviews with people in the know depending on the featurette. If you really love the movie this right up your alley, if you’re like it just seems meant to sell DVDs. “Creating Jigsaw” is about how they created West’s character, since I hated the character thank goodness this was only 3 minutes because that’s about all the Jigsaw I could stomach.
Overall: I really wanted to enjoy Punisher: War Zone but it just failed on all fronts. The characters and actors are over the top, the violence is ridiculous and the story is non-existent. I say stick to the 2004 version since it’s more enjoyable. Punisher: War Zone gets a 1/5 and the DVD gets a 2.5/5 because of the commentary and copious amount of features.