Throw Back Thursday Review of “Punisher: War Zone”
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Run time: 103 minutes
A lot of my movie-based conversations, with friends and family, lately have been about comic book movies. We have talked all about the thrashing “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” has received, at the hands of critics (and even a fair number of fanboy moviegoers). We have discussed the mind-blowing success of “Deadpool” and it’s being rated R. We have even gone over our respective levels of excitement for the upcoming (as of this writing) “Captain America: Civil War” and “Suicide Squad”.
Let’s put all of that aside for a moment though, and talk about another R rated Marvel film about a violent anti-hero. A movie that is sadly known more for it’s low box office take than the insane, hyper-violent badassness of Ray Stevenson’s protagonist. I am talking, of course, about Lexi Alexander’s 2008 film “Punisher: War Zone”. A film which is, in my humble opinion, the most criminally underrated Marvel film ever.
The brief plot summary on IMDB is as follows: After hunting down and killing hundreds of violent criminals, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, faces his most deadly foe yet: Jigsaw. That pretty much sums up the story in War Zone, but the story is not what’s important. What is important is the depiction of the story’s characters and the world in which they live. In 2004, we were tortured by another “Punisher” film that had a sulking, pouty-faced Castle (played by the usually very good Thomas Jane). In Alexander’s version, we get what any real fan of the “Punisher” comic books would want. A quiet, intimidating, stone cold killer who has A LOT of weapons and is willing to commit to a little “Eye for an eye” style of revenge.
The fact that this movie is not given it’s proper due probably has a lot to do with the fact that it came out at an unfortunate time. The world had just been treated to two massively successful superhero films with very different tones. “Iron Man” featured a resurgent Robert Downy Jr. and audience-wowing special effects (thanks to a much more generous budget than War Zone received), and “The Dark Knight” was dark and gritty and one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. Not to mention Alexander was only given a $35 million budget to work with as opposed to say “Iron Man” with it’s $140 million. The odds certainly didn’t favor War Zone, but for me it is still a great addition to comic book film.
War Zone was it’s own creature entirely. Is it flawless? No. The score is headache-inducing, and Dash Mihok’s Martin Soap feels like he is not only in the wrong movie but maybe even the wrong universe. Those things aside though it is a very entertaining film, and one that should be given more credit. It has a self-aware, over the top feeling in every nook and cranny of every scene. Complete with a gloriously cheesy, maniacal villain (Dominic West as Jigsaw), a color palette straight out of the comic series itself, and more bullet-filled, blood-soaked carnage than you can imagine. “The Punisher: War Zone” may not be on the pedestal of Marvel films like “Guardians” or “Winter Soldier” but it’s hero does deliver something that those guys don’t… a really high body count!