Punisher: War Zone review from What About the Twinkie?

Welcome, welcome, welcome back to Flashback/Backslide’s ongoing Marvel Blogathon. Our next review comes from Kieron at What About the Twinkie? who watched Punisher: War Zone for the blogathon. Once you are finished reading the review, make sure you head over to What About the Twinkie? where you can find more great reviews and special features including the Film Club where What About the Twinkie? hosts a group of other reviewers who take a look at one of their favorite films. In case you want to read more about the Punisher films,  Drew’s Movie Reviews checked out 2004’s Punisher for the Marvel Blogathon last month.

A few years back, Lexi Alexander joined the hilarious and highly recommended How Did This Get Made? podcast to discuss the many issues she faced when directing the movie (Patton Oswalt joined the podcast as well). Kieron alludes to the outcomes of these influences in the review. Maybe Kieron and I will host Lexi Alexander and Patton Oswalt in a few weeks to learn more about the film. I mean, if we have the time.

As a quick aside, the Marvel Blogathon schedule has been shuffled a bit due to my sputtering internet connectivity. These technical issues displaced The Girl that Loved to Review‘s analysis of Iron Man (which went up last week) and will force the Flashback/Backslide review of The Incredible Hulk to a time-to-be-determined (hopefully later this week or early next week). For all of you who need your Edward Norton fix, I recommend reading What About the Twinkie?’s review of Birdman.

Okay I think I’ve given you enough homework for the day. Let’s get to Kieron’s review.


War Zone 1Director: Lexi Alexander

Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West & Julie Benz

Synopsis: After hunting down and killing hundreds of violent criminals, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, faces his most deadly foe yet, Jigsaw.

Rating: 18

Run time: 103 minutes


Rarely have I used the word “depressing” to describe a superhero film. But here, in Punisher: War Zone, it feels essential. The dark, grim underbelly of New York is exposed to its fullest, with criminals running amok and the only person to stop them is the morally dubious “hero” The Punisher. Ray Stevenson has replaced Thomas Jane as the titular hero in this 2009 reboot, while Lexi Alexander has replaced Jonathan Hensleigh in the director’s chair and everyone involved has done their best to distance themselves from the 2004 version of the character.

Unfortunately, their attempt to distance themselves from Thomas Jane’s turn as the overly violent vigilante has not necessarily had the desired effect. Yes, things are darker here, and it is possibly the darkest any mainstream superhero film has dared to be. And yes, it is debatable as to who is the better Punisher, with Stevenson going for a less is more approach as he guns down bad guys in a way not too dissimilar from the original Terminator film. But are things any better? Certainly Marvel and, more to the point, their Marvel Knight’s brand have gone for a mature approach here, and have attempted to step away from the lighter films on offer at the time. As such, Punisher: War Zone is one of the most violent comic book films I have ever laid eyes on, and is a far cry from the type of superhero films we currently see. Violence it seems, outweighs plot, and comes at the expense of other things normally associated with films, such as characterisation and fun.

War Zone 2

As the violence grows ever more OTT, so too does the acting. Dominic West’s turn as big bad Jigsaw has all the hallmarks of a villain gone mad, but does little to make the character interesting. Likewise, Dough Hutchinson plays West’s onscreen brother and fellow psychopath Loony Bin Jim, another turn where subtlety seems to have been thrown out the window in favour trying to be as crazy as possible. Fortunately, the film does have Colin Salmon to call upon, dodgy American accent and all. Salmon brings levity to any role he plays, and his turn as Agent Budiansky is one of the better elements of the film. Alongside Salmon is Dash Mihok as Detective Soap, an NYPD detective who is assigned to the “Punisher Task Force” and his role brings some fleeting moments of joy to an otherwise grim film.

As for The Punisher himself, Ray Stevenson has all the hallmarks of a trained killer as he expertly takes down bad buys while rarely breaking into a sweat. Whether Stevenson is the best on screen Punisher is debatable, but he is probably the closest to the character in spirit and I imagine this is how die-hard fans always wanted him to be portrayed on screen. The film is itself is a rather disjointed affair. Fun is rarely had, and the violence is quite sickening at times, with one wondering whether all the blood spatter were truly needed. As a striking contradiction, the performances, mainly from the villains, seem so ridiculously over the top that they would not be out of place in a children’s TV show. The plot barely exists and is a fairly simple tale of revenge, while the finale has been done a million times better in the likes of Dredd and The Raid, even if those films were released after the fact. Unfortunately, three films in and we seem no closer to having a really good film version of The Punisher. Dolph Lundgren’s 80’s straight to video version has built up a cult following, while Thomas Jane’s 2004 effort has its fans. Punisher: War Zone may have the best version of the character, but that seems to come at the cost of what else makes a film watchable.

In summary: A poor, depressing effort all round. Punisher: War Zone does little with its source material, and will likely leave a sour taste in most viewers mouths afterwards.

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11 thoughts on “Punisher: War Zone review from What About the Twinkie?

    • Thank you for joining! This is a great review of an awful movie. Hats off to you for being able to get through it and still have the will to spend time thinking about it while writing. I think I would have immediately purged all memory of the film.

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  1. Great work Kieron. You know, about eighteen months ago I ordered The Punisher (2004) cause I am a HUGE fan of it, and when it arrived I popped it in to watch it because I had a been in my bonnet to watch it again. I actually received a copy of this in the cover of the first one, and when I realised what was going on, I returned it (obviously). It was truly a depressing experience. I have tried to watch this one about three times, and just couldn’t get in to it. Seems I am not missing anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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