Friday, March 20, 2009


Once again, I'm going to stubbornly contradict the arbiters of cinematic taste – and the terrible box office grosses – and say that I thought PUNISHER WAR ZONE (2008) was a terrific, 80's-styled action film. In fact, although I'm a Thomas Jane fan, I thought that WAR ZONE was a considerably better film adaptation of the Marvel Comics character than than the 2004 version of THE PUNISHER.

For one thing, Ray Stevenson (ROME) – who I don't believe I've ever seen in anything before – looked a lot more like the way I picture Frank Castle. He's not a pretty boy, but instead has a weathered, rugged face with some maturity on it. And he played the part well, too, even if his British accent occasionally slipped through. For another, the main heavy, the hideously disfigured Jigsaw (Dominic Green), was an appropriately bigger-than-life villain and not just another smarmy crime boss – though he starts out that way. Some critics/reviewers complained that the part was played too broadly and campy, but again, I thought it complemented the comic book tone of the film.

It was set in New York and not Tampa, so it was much darker and grittier, and has some very noir-ish scenes. The violence in the movie was really amped up and very comic book-ish. I could have done with less CG gouts of gore (I would have preferred old school Karo syrup + red dye, personally), but the outrageously gruesome "kills" were kinda cool and fun. Finally, WAR ZONE demonstrates the absolute best use of a rocket launcher ever. (Rent the film, and you'll see what I mean.)

Now, bear in mind that I actually like the much-maligned 1989 version with Dolph Lundgren. And I liked the Thom Jane version, too. In fact, I think all three PUNISHER films are enjoyable, B-action flicks. And I kinda dig that each flick has a different lead and that each one stands alone with its own continuity and "universe." (The flashbacks to Frank's past in WAR ZONE match the comic, not the 2004 film, so it's clearly not a sequel.) But then, we all know that my taste in films is questionable.

The Lionsgate DVD I purchased features both a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 1.33:1 fullframe transfer. The picture quality is sharp, with good contrast, solid blacks and good detail. Audio options include both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. There are no extras whatsoever. (There is also a 2-disc special edition, but I haven't seen it.)

It's not a superhero film, but it is definitely a comic book of a movie and manages to accomplish all I want from a Punisher flick – it has Frank Castle kill lots of mobsters in violent and graphic ways. And... he wears the skull.

BUY: Punisher: War Zone