Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone: Directed by Lexi Alexander. With Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon. Frank Castle, known as the Punisher, ruthlessly demolishes organized crime, but it starts an even bigger war.

Ah, the Punisher. His first appearance in the comics was the same year as “Death Wish” and shares many of the same elements of death families, a third for revenge, and poorly thought out action scenes. This is the third Punisher film with the third actor to play the character, none of whom I actually liked all that much in the roles, either because they were too wooden, the story was too silly, or none of the pieces actually fit together. The prior two films had one or two of these elements, but “War Zone” shares all three! Shares name with the second Punisher ongoing series that first started in 1992 and was canceled in 1995, I believe it was mostly stories of Frank going around the world to see and kill exciting people, but the movie is about a home town beef he has with the Mafia. Ray Stevenson is a good actor, but this isn’t a role that I would point to when I want to show people that. Same with Dominic West (The Wire), Colin Salmon (Resident Evil / Arrow), or Julie Benz (Buffy / Angel / Dexter). I believe this is the first on screen appearance of Microchip, who they only barely introduce and don’t go into his backstory at all (NEWMAN!).

As one of the last “bad” comic book movies, it really has it all:

Really unfortunate portrayal of mental illness
Punisher wants to quit but miceochip pulls him back in
Terrible Choreography and cinematography that at times evokes “Batman and Robin”
The bad guys go recruiting at “one race only” clubs while dancing and doing a weird patriotic speech

In fact there’s two great examples of things that would have been made so much better. In one scene a Catholic priest is greeting Frank in a church and it’s an awkward clumsy things that would look better on a comic page but doesn’t work at all in the movie as is:

priest: “I haven’t seen you”
Frank: “Since the funeral”

Why interrupt him? why not let the priest say the hole line, then give a solemn response? The second is right at the end when the bad guy says “I’m going to shoot Microchip or the girl, your choice.” Those of us who knew the character from the comics would know immediately that 1 – Frank Fucking Castle would never throw his guns down and 2 – FFC would NEVER throw his guns down just to protect Microchip, who absolutely knew what the stakes were and had the same rage inside his heart that FFC had, he just had a different skill set. FFC would absolutely save the girl first, then see if he could save Micro.

Something that was cool to see was that it was released under the “Marvel Knights” banner, it was the first, then a few years later the second Ghost Rider film was under it too. So far I think those are the only two to use it, and it’s been pretty much retired for movie projects, especially with the purchase of Marvel by Disney just a year later in 2009, and the extremely recent advent of the situation with all Marvel TV and Movie project being done under Kevin Feige’s control.

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