Staff Editorials

Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray review
Posted: 08.07.2009 09:13 by Richard Walker Comments: 5
Marvel once again reboot the comic book franchise that they’re not quite sure what they should do with, producing mixed results. This is the third attempt at bringing Frank Castle to the silver screen, with Dolph Lundgren and Tom Jane preceding ex-Holby City actor Ray Stevenson’s turn in this most violent of The Punisher movies.

Playing Castle as the same brooding, gloomy and morally dubious vigilante as seen in the original comic book, but almost devoid of the dark vein of humour, Stevenson’s performance falls a little flat, although he does manage to convince as a brutal, merciless bad ass. Clad in black, he’s a one-man army waging war against the same mob that murdered his family in cold blood and by extension, every other dangerous Mafia criminal who might be a threat to any other vulnerable family.

The movie’s central antagonist is Billy ‘The Beaut’ Russoti, who Castle himself transforms into the hideously disfigured Jigsaw (we won‘t say how, but it‘s pretty nasty). Played as straight up pantomime ham by The Wire’s normally brilliant Dominic West – who is clearly having a great time, playing crazy - Jigsaw and his clinically insane brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) are both uncomplicated, morally bankrupt cartoon villains that provoke exactly the right amount of boos and hisses in their acts of wanton brutality and general evildoing.

Meanwhile, Castle himself is struggling to come to terms with his own mistakes, accidentally killing an innocent police officer, leaving a little girl orphaned and a wife without a husband. Inevitably, the mother and daughter find themselves in grave danger at the hands of the miscreant duo of Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim, and so The Punisher finds himself stepping in as protector, looking to earn forgiveness for his part in the inadvertent murder of the officer.

Essentially, Punisher: War Zone is a throwaway slice of pure popcorn cinema, displaying some of the most ridiculous comic book violence we’ve perhaps ever seen in a movie of this kind. Harking back to the excessive bloodiness of 80s action flicks, War Zone sees fists go straight through faces, bullets tear through flesh in fountains of the red stuff, chair legs get pushed into eyes, heads explode and in one mirth-inducing moment, The Punisher even blasts a villain out of mid-air with a rocket launcher, turning him into a mist of charred powder.

Any drama the movie manages to wring from Castle’s inner turmoil and Stevenson’s tortured, mournful performance is countered by the inherent daftness of the violence presented in the film. Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim are a pair of jokers, dancing and prancing around the place like any unsympathetic, comical villain should, so it’s with tongue firmly in-cheek that one should approach War Zone.

Your enjoyment of the latest Punisher movie will entirely depend upon your tolerance for over-the-top brutality as there’s certainly plenty of it on show throughout the movie’s 103 minute running time. Ultimately, this is the kind of film you’re likely to watch with a group of like-minded friends on a Friday night, expecting nothing more than a fun action movie and in this department, War Zone doesn’t disappoint.

It’s never going to win an Oscar, but Punisher: War Zone is a suitably entertaining action romp, that’ll keep you and your friends both gripped and laughing from beginning to end. Arguably, this is the most definitive representation of the character to be committed to celluloid yet and the level of gruesome gore literally pulls none of its punches.

On Blu-ray, Punisher: War Zone is well presented in 1080p, framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For such a dark movie, it’s heartening to see that the blacks are nice and deep, with some graininess only occurring in certain scenes. Colours are saturated in keeping with the drear and gloom of the smoky, urban setting and the detail is pin-sharp for the most part, especially during close-ups. The colourful hues that accompany each scene make for a fairly distinctive look, served well by the sharpness of image lent by this crisp transfer.

The audio is perhaps the strongest aspect of this disc, with a booming DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. Explosions and gunfire are not only clear and bassy, but the sonics fill every inch of the listening area creating a fantastically busy and exciting soundscape. The music makes its presence known at all the right moments too, rocking with clarity and bombast in equal measure. And when Castle fires his custom Smith and Wesson 500, you sure as hell know about it.

This Blu-ray is sadly rather light on extras, with the usual interactive bells and whistles accompanied by only a handful of brief featurettes and a director’s commentary. Each featurette runs at roughly only 5-10 minutes each, so there are only titbits of salient information about the movies to be gleaned from each. Talking heads with the cast and crew lend some extra insight into behind the scenes on the film, but we would have liked something a bit more substantial rather than the lightweight supplemental material we’re given on this disc.

Punisher: War Zone is a knockabout, fun action movie that doesn’t really take itself all that seriously, so neither should you. It’s not the “reinvention of the wheel” that Stevenson claims it is in the Making Of featurette, but it is nevertheless faithful to the source material. For a gloriously bloody and excessive action flick, you could certainly do a lot worse.

* Commentary with director Lexi Alexander and Cinematographer Steve Gainer
* The Making Of Punisher: War Zone
* Training For The Punisher
* Weapons Of The Punisher
* Meet Jigsaw
* Creating The Look Of The Punisher

Film: 7/10
Disc: 5/10

Purchase: - £15.98 - £15.99 - £16.99 - £15.95


By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Jul 08, 2009
I thought I'd watched this movie, but now I see the images I'm in doubt, perhaps I only saw the first punisher movie they released... might give this one a go.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jul 08, 2009
Same goes with me Jake. I was sure I seen it already before actually coming here.
By melzerith (SI Core) on Jul 11, 2009
I thought it was the best one as of yet. At first I thought the first one with Dalf was the best one and after the second one I said i'd never watch the third but I'm glad I did. p.s. second one still sux
By Revan (SI Elite) on Jul 13, 2009
Good movie. Liked War Zone better than the first Punisher movie. WZ felt like they took a bit more from the comic books.
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Jul 17, 2009
I've been meaning to watch this. Might have to stick it on tonight. I've not seen the original movie and I actually enjoyed the second movie.