Howdy people of the north, south, east and west, and welcome to Day #11 of Month of Superhero Film Reviews 2! During this month I’ll be reviewing of some of the best, average and worst comic book adapted films. After checking out The Punisher yesterday, I thought I may as well check out the reboot that came out four years later; Punisher: War Zone.
So now we have last Punisher film to come out and the third live-action film incarnation of the character after the 1989 film and the 2004 film. Rather than being a sequel to the Thomas Jane film, the slate was wiped clean for something a little darker, more violent and unrestrained. The end result is one of debate among fans as to whether this film did a better adaptation of the comics or not. And today I get to tell you where my opinion lies.
The story can be summed up as the following:
“After hunting down and killing hundreds of violent criminals, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, faces his most deadly foe yet: Jigsaw.”
The story here is more along the lines of how I’d envisioned a Punisher film. There’s no origin story, that’s explained pretty much in flashbacks and conversations, already on the right track. We have Frank Castle already established as the popular vigilante, he’s running around a taking names, the police and criminals know of him, it is all good stuff. I even like how Punisher does something that really messes him up and he has deal with it throughout the film. Even though there are a lot of things to like, I will say that the plot for all the stuff going on did feel a little thin and just felt like it was there help give Castle reasons to kill people. Certain elements with Frank’s past and the main villain work well, but in the grand scheme of things some of this stuff isn’t fleshed out enough for you to get emotionally attached to these characters and this film reaffirms my preference for the Punisher to be on TV because stories like his should be told over longer periods of time.
So then the question becomes which one is better The Punisher (2004) or War Zone? Well that’s a tough question to answer. The 2004 film, while I felt it wasted time with the origin story and didn’t display enough of Frank’s skills, we got to spend time with Jane’s Punisher, see him develop and have him in the classic attire. Whereas this film gives us the action, violence and badassery that Punisher is known for in swifter and more comic book styled affair. I would argue that War Zone win by a tiny margin because of the bloody action and skipped origin story.
Now let’s talk about the cast. Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle/The Punisher is very good. What Stevenson lacks in dialogue and character moments, he makes up for in his physicality, charisma and approach to action, I also liked his dramatic moments, but generally he was just awesome in the action scenes. Dominic West as Billy Russoti/Jigsaw is alright. West starts out well, he’s cool and charming, but once he gets becomes disfigured his persona gets a little wacky and starts to channel Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face from Batman Forever, and it’s quite troublesome. Colin Salmon as Paul Budiansky is pretty good. This character is fairly serious and really wants justice and has a beef with the Punisher. Salmon is always good in most films and TV shows that I’ve seen him in and he fares well here too. Wayne Knight is cool as Linus Lieberman/Microchip, you can tell that Linus and Frank have history and I liked his dialogue and Knight is still as charming and fun as ever. I just wish there’d been more time between him and Frank to show more of their relationship and why he was important to Frank. Doug Hutchison as James Russoti/Loony Bin Jim was initially pretty funny and interesting, but after a while the whole crazy act just got a little silly and cartoonish for my liking. Julie Benz was fine as Angela Donatelli and Dash Mihok was fun as NYPD Detective Martin Soap.
Now let’s talk about the presentation. Visually the film is pretty insane. Action-wise the film basically just throws everything at you with some incredible set pieces that have a lot of style, flair and carnage. The violence is also turned up to one hundred with people getting cut, stabbed, shot, broken and exploded, there is no restraint, people get messed up and it is great… To a degree. After a while it can get a bit over the top and cartoony with some of these death being more funny than serious. As for the film score, Michael Wandmacher deserves a lot of credit for his work on this film as his score for the film was hard-hitting, aggressive, dark and beastly. I also have to say that some of the music tracks selected for this film was pretty good I especially liked the use of Justice, Slipknot and Pendulum.
And lastly how does it compare to the comics? Once again I’ve never read the Punisher comics, however from the animated versions I have seen and what I’ve read about, this film does give you better representation of Punisher’s relentless nature and marksman skills.
So to conclude Punisher: War Zone is a violent action film that is a lot of fun and has a good central performance from Ray Stevenson. While the story is a bit substandard and the violence can be too over the top to a comical fashion, there is enjoyment to be found with this one if you can switch your brain off and enjoy the ride.
That’s 11 reviews done, only 19 more to go. So have you seen Punisher: War Zone and if so what are your thoughts on it? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts yo! Come back tomorrow and I’ll have a new film review online, until then peace out!