Guillaume de Sade Reviews: Punisher: War Zone (2008)


Direced by: Lexi Alexander
Written by: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, & Matt Holloway

Okay, before getting into the movie, let’s go through some history. Frank Castle, a hardened Vietnam special forces vet is finally home and enjoying a picnic in the park with his family when they’re caught in the crossfire of a mob shoot out. He survived, his family didn’t. He went on to kill the fuck out anyone associated with their deaths, then continued killing the fuck out criminals in general. There was even a brief period where he became so psychotic (I call it dedicated, but whatever) that he was even killing the fuck out of people committing minor crimes like littering and jaywalking. If you want to get technical about it, he became the most prolific serial killer ever. No mask, no super powers…just an unending need to kill the fuck out of criminals.

Eventually he was captured by the authorities and executed. He then came back as a sort of angel of death type being with a magical trench coat from which he could pull out machine guns from Heaven. That shit didn’t last. Frank Castle quit that and got kicked out of Heaven and sent back to Earth as a mortal, where he quickly picked up where he left off…that’s right…killing the fuck out of criminals (and punching polar bears…you know he wouldn’t try that shit with a panda bear!!).

So there you have it…an extremely entertaining character that can only work when he is left as a one dimensional charter. Anytime that writers have tried to add much depth to the character, it failed miserably.

Punisher: War Zone is actually the third movie featuring this character, yet this is not a sequel. Each movie featured a different character with a different story…perhaps at a future date, I’ll review these as well. I’ll do my best to write the rest of this review without too many comparisons.

I was extremely excited for this movie when I heard that they were not afraid of getting an R rating for graphic violence. This could only mean that they were sticking close to the source material…then I heard that the main villain was Jigsaw! Phenomenal…now I KNEW they were sticking with the source material and there’s no way it could go wrong…

After witnessing Ray Stevenson in character for ten minutes, I was convinced that this man was The Punisher. No, not the character…I mean I think that he actually goes out at night on his own time, with a white skull painted on his chest and kills the fuck out of criminals. He is just THAT believable as The Punisher.

…sigh…

From there the movie goes down faster than Sabbath’s willpower at a chinese buffet. The script is weak…not awful, but weak. As I have said this is a character that works best as a one dimensional character, so you would think that a weak script would be okay, but there were only two other believable actors in the whole movie. Microchip’s comatose mother and his ex-gangbanger assistant. Wayne Knight might look the part, but saddled with shitty dialogue, he just didn’t seem that into it. Jigsaw, his cartoony accent and his brother Looney Bin Jim seemed like they were actively working to shit on Punisher fans. I was especially disappointed in Loony Bin Jim actor Doug Hutchinson. I had only seen him in one other role and that was as Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile and he was excellent in the role. So seeing him was like drowning and getting thrown a life line! Seeing him in character was like having that line covered in chum and razor blades.

So after all this, why do I still watch this movie repeatedly? Again, there is the fact that Ray Stevenson is ridiculously believable as the character. I have a friend who is a Marine and after seeing the movie verified that the tactics Stevenson had to study and perform in the movie were legitimate. There is another reason though…this movie was so well made you almost forget how bad it is. Every technical aspect of this movie was top notch. The filmmakers (Lexi Alexander, et al.) didn’t reinvent the wheel. They didn’t attempt high art…instead, they stuck to the basics and perfected it. Seriously…go back and watch this movie with that in mind. This movie, from a technical aspect, is fantastic and really should be studied by aspiring filmmakers.

Don’t believe me? I’ll leave you with a quote from Roger Ebert: “You used to be able to depend on a terrible film being poorly made. No longer. The Punisher: War Zone is one of the best-made bad movies I’ve seen.”

– Guillaume de Sade

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14 Responses to “Guillaume de Sade Reviews: Punisher: War Zone (2008)”

  1. I blame you for having me watch this film. I know you like this movie more than you let on in this review! I will concede on a technical level, they did fine … but most Hollywood films usually do from at least that standpoint. Stevenson sucked though. Maybe it’s because he was as one-dimensional as could be and that bored me. It was like watching a somewhat angry block of wood act, but I digress.

    Some people would probably disagree. Some might even call for me to be burned at the stake, but screw it. I’m an unabashed loved of Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Punisher and I thought Thomas Jane was great in the role. It might not be the best movie ever, but it was definitely the best adaptation so far and as a comic book film it was damned good. It hovered around Blade and Spider-Man in terms of quality.

  2. I also cannot argue with the Chinese buffet comment … that shit’s my kryptonite.

  3. Guillaume de Sade Says:

    I did enjoy the TJ punisher, but there wasn’t much except for the name that really tied that character to being The Punisher. That movie could have just as easily been called “Angry Underwear Model Seeks Revenge.”

    As far as the technical aspects, the point I was making is that they did more than “fine”, more than the Hollywood “usual”. While the writers and actors (except for R.S.) should be hanging their heads in shame, everyone else should have no problem finding work with this in their resume.

  4. Great review and I agree with you on most points. My problem with it, is once again they have to bring in kids and a potential lover to try and soften The Punisher. The opening of the film was absolutely perfect and what a movie about The Pinisher should be like. The rest of the film can’t live up to that opening. It IS the best Punisher film though and by a wide margin. Sabbath is nuts. The TJ Punisher is absolute ass.

  5. chainsawcheerleader Says:

    When I rented this film from Netfilx I didn’t really have high hopes for it. It was actually really good. The whole potential love interest is always very annoying. I would love to know why in almost every film there has to be a love interest? That crap always makes me want to claw my eyes out.

    Great review, Guy.

  6. I stick by my guns. The dark humor of the 2004 film is how I like my Punisher.

  7. The 2004 Punisher is in my Top 25 favorite list. Dark humor for the Punisher works.

  8. I’m all for a dark humor Punisher. I just don’t remember any dark humor in the 2004 version. All I remember is cheese and a complete lack of understanding of who the character is. Taking Frank Castle out of New York is an automatic fail by itself. It would take another five paragraphs at least to document the rest of the fail.

  9. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that account. I remember it being all dark humor and worth repeated viewings. I remember feeling the same about the shift from New York to Miami, but I’ll take that over what War Zone gave us which is one hell of a bland, shitty story with a bland, shitty Punisher. The rest of the cast isn’t worth mentioning.

  10. The “dark humor” was the fact that someone actually gave Kevin Nash a movie role. What’s funny is that a casting director that cast John Travolta as a douch-y bad guy probably still has a job casting other films, instead of flipping burgers at McDonald’s, where they’ll probably fuck that up. I found the humor especially dark that you had a fucking blueprint from Ennis’ run on The Punisher to do some mean-spirited humor and instead fucked it up by casting Kevin Nash.

    Thomas Jane sucked fat donkey balls as The Punisher. Ray Stevenson played him perfectly. War Zone is a seriously flawed film, but it’s much more a Punisher film than the Thomas Jane version is. I don’t even mind that they made the Thomas Jane/John Travolta vehicle. That’s fine. Just call it something else, like Battle Of The Faggots, or something like that, because that bullshit was NOT The Punisher that I’ve been reading in Marvel Comics for the last 20 years.

    Don’t even get me started on Constantine vs. HellBlazer. I’d have to find a way to stab someone through the fucking internet.

  11. Keanu Reeves was an inspired casting decision. While we’re at it, I think we need to discuss the laundry list of overlooked merits of Ang Lee’s Hulk.

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