Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Who’s being punished here: us or the criminals?

Former FBI agent Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) still has not been able to get over the murders of his family. Therefore, he takes his anger and revenge out onto the streets where he continues to tally-up a vigilante record that makes every cop in the state of New York, jealous and on the look-out for any suspicious activity. The latest leader in suspicious activity occurring in NYC is Jigsaw (Dominic West), who used to have a pretty face that all the ladies used to love, but is now ruined, all thanks to THE PUNISHER!!

After 3 movies, and no success whatsoever with the box office or the critics, it seems that the Punisher character may have to be put to rest and left in the comics. Why? Well it’s simple: the guy’s just too goofy of a comic book hero. Actually, scratch that. He isn’t even a “hero”. He’s just a dude that goes around, killing people, in the name of what he believes is right. Oh, and it’s always bloody, gory, and not for the faint of heart. That means that these types of movies, are usually made for the older, R-rated crowd, so fuck the little kiddies who want to see shizz like this and that. This is the real shit, men! If you don’t like it, then back off and take your snobbery elsewhere!

Some of you may be a bit confused as to where the hell I was going with those last couple of sentences right there, but don’t be alarmed: I am too. What I’m trying to say is that this character is hard to adapt to the screen successfully for the sole-reason that the character itself has such a fan base that is so divided, it’s hard to really get the name or product out there. That’s why when a film like this comes around, it isn’t made for the New York Film Society or any other group as prestigious as that; it’s made for the bumbling idiots that like when people get their heads smashed in just for the sake of it. No, not psychos. But people who like to see it played out on film where nobody is harmed. I hope at least.

Where all the lovin' goes down...
Where all the lovin’ goes down…

That’s why seeing a movie like this is so hard because being a critic that has a standard built-up after all of these years, it’s so damn hard to just drop it all down, and let a completely dumb movie like this take over. After awhile, I got used to it and it did, but that’s REALLY saying something. To say that this movie is stupid, would be the equivalent to patting it on the back and giving it a cookie for being a good boy. THIS MOVIE IS FREAKIN’ IDIOTIC! I kid you not!

If you don’t know this within the first five minutes, you might just be screwed for the rest of the hour and a half because this is as low on the totem-pole as you are going to get. The script is almost non-existent by how utterly dunce-like this is and makes every piece of dialogue seem like each one of these actors (talented ones, mind you) are just stretching their inner-souls to make something useful come out. Whoever wrote this movie, I feel bad for you and your career because this is like an IQ level of 48 and lower. I kid you not. It’s freakin’ stupid. That’s if you haven’t been able to tell by now.

However, you don’t see a movie about a vigilante that goes around, “punishing” people for the sake of revenge for a well-written script, with perfectly-rounded characters, and an emotional-arch. You want to see blood, guts, guns, bullets, violence, necks snapped, explosions, heads smashed in (like I said before), and campy-as-hell people getting their insides taken out. That’s the type of stuff you want to see and if that’s it: you’re gonna have a field day with this one. Can’t say that I didn’t have fun either, it’s just that this is one of those flicks that is sometimes so hard to get by with all of the terrible qualities, that the positive qualities that make it fun and exciting, really seem to fade away.

But taking this type of movie in as it is, you could do worse. Actually, A LOT WORSE. With a movie like this, you can’t expect much and expect to get much out of it. You just go in, get ready to see some people shot, stabbed, hacked-up, or murdered in any type of way, and expect to smile or go “oooooooohhhhh” by the end of it. Those are the types of people that this movie is made for, and even though I can’t say I’m one of them, I still do appreciate a nice, mass-slaying every once and awhile. Not always, but when it’s done in a fun, unadulterated-way, then I’m rarely ever disappointed.

Even though I’m a huge fan of Thomas Jane as the Punisher and in general, I still have to give some kudos to Ray Stevenson for at least giving Castle some snarl and edge to him that you didn’t really see quite as well last time. Granted, that movie was more concerned with painting Castle as a human-being that still struggled with the reality that everybody he practically knew has been massacred, but that’s not what this movie, or this version of Castle is about. Even when the movie does try to tackle themes and ideas like that, it fails miserably. Thankfully, Stevenson keeps his head above the water and it’s a shame that this guy doesn’t get more leading-roles his way.

Actually, on second thought, I saw somebody who looked exactly like this the other day.
Actually, on second thought, I saw somebody who looked exactly like this the other day. I also just so happened to be in Skid Row that “other day”.

Then, on the other side of the coin, you have Dominic West as Jigsaw, and god is this guy chewing the scenery! I mean, every single second he is on-screen, he sounds so ridiculous with his over-the-top, New Yarrrrk accent, and has the goofiest-look that I couldn’t even take seriously after awhile. I get why the guy looks the way he does and I understand why the comics made him that way, but for everybody in this movie to just sit-around him, and act normal as if he doesn’t look like a freakin’ cheap-o, Halloween mask I’d get if I was in a total rush for one before I got sloshed at my dorm room party. West is okay, but this material for him just blows and makes me wonder if he lost a bet, or was just trying to stretch his wings out a bit and get some mainstream exposure. Whatever the predicament was, I feel bad for him and everybody else in this flick that actually took the bait to work with this screenplay. Screenplay, in the sense that it’s just a bunch of words, thrown-together on a page with a bunch of scenes labeled; “Bam! Boom! Bop! Crash! Bang!”

Consensus: If you want a movie that’s going to satisfy your dramatic, and emotionally-powerful needs; then Punisher: War Zone is nowhere close to doing that. But if you want action, blood, gore, and cheesy one-liners, then you’ll be in-store for a bat-shit crazy time.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

With facial hair: not Newman. Without facial hair: Newman.
With chin hair: not Newman. Without chin hair: Newman.


  1. Yeah, this movie got a lot of hate, but I personally enjoyed it for the dumb fun that it was. Definitely prefer the Thomas Jane version as well, though. Would have much preferred to see a sequel to that one, but, eh, oh well I suppose. Nice review, Dan. 🙂

  2. Good review Dan. I enjoyed this movie for the mindless bit of nonsense that it is although I think it fell apart big time near the end. I absolutely hated the watered down Thomas Jane version of the Punisher and actually enjoy the Dolph Lundgren version. Yeah I know I’m just strange that way. : P

  3. 5/10 isn’t a bad rating. Especially when you consider this movie has the lowest box office of any Marvel Comics film ($8M) and that includes Howard the Duck – a bomb that came out in 1986!!

  4. I really did not like this version of the Punisher very much. Ray Stevenson felt more bored to me than detached, which I think was what he was going for. Jigsaw and his crazy brother were also way too cartoonish to be taken seriously, and the violence was so over the top it actually made me laugh more than once. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Wayne Knight, in my opinion he was the best thing about the movie, which is kind of telling.

    • The whole movie was so over-the-top that I laughed a whole lot. I didn’t mention Wayne Knight, just strictly because I forgot about him. He was good, but for some reason: he just left my mind when it was over.

  5. I’ve never understood the people who prefer this to the Thomas Jane version (They actually exist). Have you seen the Dolph Lundgren film? Dumb fun with a capital D.

  6. This version is horrible, but so much more preferable than the paint-by-numbers snooze fest that starred Thomas Jane. Yes, I’m one of those people. At least this movie threw all caution to the wind and went full-on balls to the wall insane. It’s one of those movies I like to call “so bad it’s awesome!”

    • I’ve been hearing that a lot more lately. I liked Jane’s version better, but this one definitely has it’s fun and never lets you forget about it.

  7. The Punisher really is a rough character to get a hold of, and even in the comics, he’s had so many stops and starts that from a strictly creative standpoint, it’s probably for the best if he remained a supporting character making the occasional guest appearance in other books, like Spider-Man or Daredevil. I think the character would make an awesome sub-plot foil for either of those heroes in a future movie, or give him his own short before another Marvel movie. “Dirty Laundry,” last year’s Thomas Jane fan-made short posted onto YouTube was pretty cool, and only about 10 minutes long, the perfect length of a Punisher movie.

    • I saw it and thought it was pretty awesome. Punisher can’t have the whole movie to himself because he just doesn’t work, sort of like the Hulk if you think about it.

  8. I have to slightly disagree that this movie is for idiots.

    Yes its silly, but I think the intent was to go for a comedy. Some of it is goofy-goofy and some of it is dark, but all of the characters are absurd and parodies of superhero/cop movies…

    All except The Punisher.

    What I did NOT like about the Jane Punisher was that the movie had a ‘revenge begets revenge’ story which is too standard. Punisher is about a guy who’s family is killed and he goes off the deep end. The Jane Punisher did have some great moments/lines though for sure and its a good flick.

    But Stevenson Punisher is just a miserable man who makes no negotiations or meets people halfway (see: blasting a dudes face off in front of a cop, “Damnit Castle!”). This is The Punisher I want to see more of…

    And I will have to say Dirty Laundry is probably the best representation of The Punisher we’ve gotten on film yet. Such a badass short.

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