Theatrical Review: Punisher: War Zone
Frank Castle, the vigilante known as The Punisher, continues his war on crime in New York City. As he’s busting up his usual Mafioso, while they’re engaging in a deal with the Russians to bring over bio-toxic material to sell to terrorist organizations, two things happen- Castle inadvertently kills an undercover FBI agent and he causes the head of this mafia cell, Billy the Beaut to become horribly disfigured. Billy renames himself Jigsaw and vows to take down the Punisher, all the while while Frank tries to make amends with the family of the agent that he’s killed… and of course, hijinks ensue.
Punisher: War Zone is now the third movie involving the titular character and also the third take on the character, and so far, the one that has the most fun with it yet. Director Lexi Alexander has decided with this version to really embrace some of the over-the-top aspects involved with The Punisher, and has delivered an ultra-violent R-rated version that pretty much lets you know this is the way it’s going to be right in the first few minutes of the film. What she’s got here is a very fast-paced and fun piece that’s certainly faithful to some aspects of the character. Marvel’s had so many different versions of what The Punisher is over the years, and what’s shown here is probably the most familiar to longtime fans (though I have to admit, I haven’t kept up as much as others, but there were certainly things that I recognized).
It’s a good-looking movie for sure, and the action is really nicely done, and the way I see it, it looks like all involved were having a pretty good time.
Ray Stevenson takes over the role of Frank Castle, and he certainly looks the part and he pretty much delivers the goods though this doesn’t really ask that much from him- he’s the driving force of the film though, symbolically more than anything else. More fun is had with all of the supporting cast in the film, primarily with Dominic West playing Jigsaw, who’s clearly having a ball on-screen. Doug Hutchinson plays his insane brother Loony Bin Jim, and he’s a cool little physical counter here, being a relatively small man, but obviously very deadly. The inspired casting choice award goes to Wayne Knight, playing Castle’s long-time tech associate, Microchip, Knight’s just perfect for the part, and actually provides more of the human insight to The Punisher. The cast is rounded out with good supporting turns from Colin Salmon, Dash Mihok and Julie Benz, amongst others, and like I said, all looking like they’re having a pretty good time here.
My expectations were relatively low going into this, as I really enjoyed the last Punisher film with Thomas Jane in the lead, so I wasn’t quite expecting a whole lot here. So I was pleasantly surprised to have had as a good a time with the movie as I did. It’s on the minor side compared to some of the other big comic book movies of the year, but there’s still a good time here, and if you can take the high level of violence that this has (and it’s pretty high), there’s s good time to be had. Very much recommended…