Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone
Director: Lexi Alexander
Writer: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru‘s comic character
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Julie Benz, Stephanie Janusauskas
Seen on: 7.9.2022

Plot:
The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) has been haunting the city for six years now – six years where he killed the villains of New York. The police haven’t caught up with him, despite knowing that he is Frank Castle, but they are not entirely dissatisfied with his work, so their motivation is not very high. During yet another shoot-out with the mob, Frank not only maims heavy hitter Billy (Dominic West), but he also kills an undercover cop. This prompts renewed interest in the police investigation, and it makes Billy – who had prided himself on his looks so far – swear revenge on The Punisher.

Punisher: War Zone is an extremely gory and violent take on the Punisher that glorifies him a little too much for my taste.

The film poster showing Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) shooting his guns.

I don’t know much about the Punisher as a character. I haven’t read the comics, and most of my knowledge comes from the show with Jon Bernthal that I found really good. From what I know, the most interesting thing about him (to me) is the way his character is a direct critique of the police force and (in the show) of the military-industrial complex, showing how useless and self-serving those institutions really are. That is not to say that the Punisher is what justice looks like, but what it very definitely doesn’t look like.

There is very little trace of that in this film, I’m afraid. I mean, yes, it is explicit in the way the police is not interested in capturing Castle, so long as he kills the bad guys, because bad guys aren’t people to them (and you can become a bad guy pretty quickly). But other than that, the film is not interested in the critical potential of the character. In fact, the film actually ends with Castle as the savior as he kills a simple robber. It’s pretty much the opposite of what the character stands for (for me).

Frank (Ray Stevenson), Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon) and Martin Soap (Dash Mihok) ready to storm the villains' lair.

The rest of the film is dominated by fight scenes that rely a little too much on guns for my taste. They are incredibly gory – I was really surprised by just how much blood and brains and guts we get to see here. I can appreciate that, but I had to readjust my expectations a little. The gore and fighting comes with the kind of ridiculous dialogue you’d expect from this kind of film, and a scenery-chewing Dominic West who was the absolute highlight for me.

There is certainly fun to be had here, at least if you like gore, over the top one-liners and 80s action movies. It’s not my personal favorite thing, so I’m not exactly the target audience. Mostly though, I’m just not so sure that I liked it as a Punisher film.

Jigsaw (Dominic West), his face marred by scars that crisscross all over.

Summarizing: maybe a re-watch of the show instead.

4 thoughts on “Punisher: War Zone (2008)

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