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Punisher: War Zone(2008)
Waging his one-man war on the world of organized crime, ruthless vigilante-hero Frank Castle sets his sights on overeager mob boss, Billy Russoti. After Russoti is left horribly disfigured by Castle, he sets out for vengeance under his new alias: Jigsaw. With the "Punisher Task Force" hot on his trail and the FBI unable to take Jigsaw in, Frank must stand up to the formidable army that Jigsaw has recruited before more of his evil deeds go unpunished.
For more about Punisher: War Zone and the Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray release, see Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight
Director: Lexi Alexander
» See full cast & crew
Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray Review
Lionsgate's latest release will punish even the best sound systems.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 11, 2009
Did you know kidneys and applesauce are a delicacy in Sweden?
Take Batman, even the very darkest iteration of the character as seen in the Oscar-winning The Dark Knight, strip him of even the last shreds of a conscience when facing off against the city's most hardened criminals, give him a pair of Beretta 92s and a Smith & Wesson .500 revolver, and behold Frank Castle, A.K.A. "The Punisher." Castle and Wayne share more in common than one might expect. This pair of black-clad vigilantes fight the most ruthless and despicable of criminals, those both disfigured and escaped from the insane asylum; avenge the loss of family; and show a vulnerability to both physical and emotional damage that other heroes do indeed face, but not with the same grit and despair. "The Punisher" seems to be the Marvel answer to "Batman," though Frank Castle's world has not enjoyed the same level of big- and small-screen attention as the Caped Crusader. It's no surprise, really, for as dark as the world of Gotham City may be, Castle's world is bleaker, more violent, and more unforgiving. Punisher: War Zone represents the third big-screen adaptation of the character in the past twenty years, and the films have only improved with each outing. That's not to say that this or either of the two previous films are particularly great outings on the same level as the best of Batman, for example, but from a purely superficial perspective, appreciating the Punisher films for all they attempt to be, they make for a popcorn-munching good time.
Former Special Forces instructor and dedicated family man Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson, TV's "Rome") has seen his life torn apart since the execution of his wife and children after they accidentally witnessed a mob execution. Castle has since lost his ability to cope with reality and has turned to brutal vigilantism to exact revenge on those who killed his family and those who may again one day strike and destroy another innocent family. When Castle, better known as "The Punisher," takes out yet another mafia ring, he accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent, leading the bureau to send in one of their own, Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon, Alien vs. Predator) to join the "Punisher Task Force" and bring the vigilante to justice. Meanwhile, the Punisher's latest run-in with the mob has left rising star Billy Russoti (Dominic West) badly deformed but not dead, and now known as "Jigsaw." He wishes to both oversee a big-money deal and eliminate the Punisher once and for all. He enlists the help of his committed brother, James "Loony Bin Jim" (Doug Hutchison) to take out the anti-hero. Meanwhile, Castle must deal with a guilty conscience as he copes with his accidental killing of an innocent man, which may lead the slain officer's wife and daughter into terrible danger at the hands of the deranged tandem of Jigsaw and Jim.
Punisher: War Zone isn't exactly cinema as high art nor is it a pandering Oscar wannabe, though it does adequately and almost heartbreakingly develop its lead character as well as many an award-winning Drama. This is generally just bloody, hardcore, unforgiving entertainment that will leave audiences either laughing and applauding or walking out of the film in utter disgust at the level of tongue-in-cheek brutality the film showcases. Punisher: War Zone is a prime example of zany, ridiculously grotesque, and completely inconsequential filmmaking that sets out only to entertain that all-so-important 18-35 year-old male demographic that also happens to enjoy Saw V and Crank. While it may not be the latest in thought-provoking Drama or even a groundbreaking Action picture like Die Hard, it accomplishes all it sets out to do which, frame-for-frame, counts for just as much as those other films that serve as more than mindless fun.
Of course, for a film such as Punsiher: War Zone to succeed based even on one measly criteria of entertaining a core audience, it must understand both its target audience and the material it chooses to tackle. Fortunately, this Lexi Alexander-directed picture does just that. Punisher: War Zone is a hardcore, blood-and-guts feast for the eyes that never once takes the easy way out, refusing to cut the most grisly of images to earn a more audience- and box-office friendly PG-13 rating. Give the movie credit for sticking to its guns and delivering one heck of an all-out bloodbath extravaganza that has the bullet- and body-count of Commando and enough blood to satisfy the needs of the next pair of Saw films. The presentation of the violence is accompanied by a comic book look and feel that removes the harsh edge and stomach-churning nature of it while retaining the excessive violence, including a shotgun blast to the head at point-blank range, a man churned in a glass crusher, a chair leg through the eye, a knife through the top of the head, and plenty of nasty bullet holes.
Finally, Punisher: War Zone features a series of characters that lighten the load of the excessive violence considerably. Only the film's anti-hero, Frank Castle, offers a generally stern and serious countenance. He's relentless in his punishments, efficient with the tools of the trade, and goes about his business with a nonchalant demeanor, sometimes almost too casually tearing into his opponents, blasting a villain in the face with shotgun like he was offering the man a stick of gum. Castle's ability to wage war with both bravado and deadly professionalism is offset only by his deep care and respect for the innocents of the world. He's humble and leaves his heart wide open for those whom he has hurt in a roundabout way, or those who once fell victim to those he punishes. Frank carries out his duties as a vigilante with startling efficiency but also to the detriment of his own soul, each kill leaving a scar on his heart that pains him with every squeeze of the trigger. On the flip side is Jigsaw and his demented brother James "Loony Bin Jim," a pair of misfits that give the best Batman villains a run for their money with their completely self-centered, over-the-top, charismatic, and deadly demeanors. The pair provide both the villainy and the comic relief, are easy to root against but also curiously mesmerizing to watch, leaving audiences to only wonder how they will top their latest antics. They are unscrupulous and hateful, killing anyone (little old ladies beware!) who stands (or sits idly) in their way. Punisher: War Zone is over-the-top, yes, but not drastically so. It's ridiculous, but it doesn't cross the threshold into the realm of stupidity. It straddles that fine line well, with the hero and villain offsetting one another in classic fashion, and the movie has a whole lot of fun in exploring each side of the coin both sufficiently and gruesomely.
Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray, Video Quality
Punisher: War Zone comes to Blu-ray with solid 1080p transfer framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The undeniable strength here lies in its very deep blacks and fine levels of foreground detail, particularly facial detail. There is a golden-reddish tint to much of the image, though it's mostly subtle and never dominates the frame. Grain is rather heavy in some scenes; a hazy mob meeting in chapter two looks good if not a bit dim, with both the off-kilter color scheme and the rather heavy grain making their presence known. A fair amount of depth accompanies most scenes. Whether the image be hazy, tinted, or dark, there is little loss of near-frame detail. Fine detail is never particularly striking save for that in close-up shots, but it never lacks, either. There is no smearing or instances of fine textures having been scrubbed away; the film is simply just dark and occasionally cloudy, naturally obscuring some detail. A few scenes look slightly soft, but such instances are the exception to the rule. Generally, Punisher: War Zone is sharp and nicely presented on Blu-ray.
Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Punisher: War Zone wages war on sound systems everywhere with an aggressive DTS- HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. Simply put, this track rocks. The audio is bass-heavy and fills the entire soundstage with volume, clarity, and excitement. The music in particular is replayed with authority, making its presence both heard and felt in most instances. The percussion-heavy moments drive the experience home, while the more subtle musical cues are heard playing with both grace and clarity. Sound effects are played all over the listening area; radio chatter, police sirens, or the beating on a steel hospital door are heard in one corner or another of the listening area, discretely and effectively, all the while environmental atmospherics in outdoor scenes play here and there, allowing for a nice, subtle, and realistic ambience. Dialogue reproduction is also spot-on. As one would reasonably expect, this film features almost wall to wall gunfire punctuated by a final shootout that is nothing short of astounding, sonically. Shots ranging between a 9mm and a .50-caliber handgun or pistol-caliber submachine guns to AK-47s bang out from every corner, and each shot fired reverberates through the listening area while simultaneously pressuring every floorboard in the house and rib in the body to cry out for mercy. This is a relentless, unforgiving soundtrack that suits the movie perfectly.
Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Punisher: War Zone offers viewers several extra features. First up is a commentary track with Director Lexi Alexander and Cinematographer Steve Gainer. This pair offers up a mostly generic track that covers all of the usual tidbits -- the weather during the shoot, the technical aspects of shooting the film, the limited shooting schedule and the work of the second unit, the make-up, the performances of the cast, and more. Fans might enjoy this one, but it's hardly an absolute must-listen. The Making of 'Punisher: War Zone' (1080p, 9:02) is another generic supplement that offers cast and crew interviews talking up the film's style, the action sequences, and the performances of the lead actors and briefly examining the characters they portray. Meet Jigsaw (1080p, 3:34) features a look at the work of actor Dominic West and the make-up he wears. Weapons of The Punisher (1080p, 4:39) shows viewers the extensive number of firearms featured in the film. Training to Become The Punisher (1080p, 5:47) examines the weapons, military, and physical training the actors undertook to add a level of realism to the picture. Creating the Look of the Film (1080p, 2:46) briefly examines the ideas behind the film's color scheme. Concluding the extras on disc one is MOLOG functionality and 1080p trailers for Punisher: War Zone (1:08) and several additional Lionsgate titles - - Crank 2: High Voltage, The Haunting in Connecticut, Transporter 3, Saw V, The Burrowers, The Spirit and Hulk vs.. Disc two of this set contains a digital copy of Punisher: War Zone, but was unavailable at the time of writing.
Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Punisher: War Zone represents a high point in the world of zany, over-the-top action. It's not really a parody of the Action genre like Shoot 'Em Up, nor is it a completely serious Action picture like Dirty Harry. It falls somewhere in the middle, though it does trend more towards the "parody" side of the ledger. Its relentless display of carnage is offset by both a hard-nosed yet vulnerable hero and a pair of whacky villains that lack even a shred of humanity but enjoy an extra-large funny bone. Punisher: War Zone is the sort of movie that generally makes for critical fodder. Taken in context, however, it adds a few elements that make it stand above the level of straight parody. The result is a movie that isn't intended to stand next to the best Hollywood has to present, but it offers fine entertainment in its own right, particularly when viewed while in the proper frame-of-mind. Lionsgate once again delivers a new release with admirable treatment. The video quality isn't eye-catching in every frame, though it is efficient throughout. The audio track rocks as expected, and the disc offers an average selection of bonus materials. Punisher: War Zone comes easily recommended to viewers with an open mind and a tendency towards ultra-violent yet somewhat goofy cinema.
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Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Lionsgate Brings Punisher Sequel to Blu-ray - January 19, 2009
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'Punisher: Warzone' to Blu-ray on March 17th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No technical specs have been announced at this time, though you can expect a 1080p AVC video encode along with a DTS-HD ...
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