In the previous two theatrical adaptations of The Punisher comic book, the title character has yet to reach the merciless point of vindictiveness that his name would imply, letting a new love interest or some superfluous subplot interfere with inflicting pain and horrific violence. The third time is the charm for Frank Castle, though believe me, there is absolutely nothing “charming” about what goes down, blows up or is torn to shreds in Punisher: War Zone.
The Punisher makes his first appearance early at a family dinner, of all places, decked out in black body armor with the faint signature “skull” mark on his chest. Without wasting a precious second, he uses a knife to sever one baddie’s head before pulling out his big guns for the rest. The gory scene is more “Punisher” in tone and execution (pun intended) than anything put to film before it.
Even though The Punisher uses state-of-the-art military-grade weaponry and avenging the death of your immediate family is no laughing matter, Punisher: War Zone taps into the exaggerated violence and circumstances from the comic to help detach it from reality. Come on; how can you take a film seriously whose villain, Jigsaw, was ground up in a glass recycling machine and patched back together using slices of horsehide to rebuild his face? It is hardcore camp, no bones about it. You are meant to cheer Frank on when he punches one of Jigsaw’s henchmen in the face but instead of his fist impacting with said thug’s face, it goes through it. Not calculate the physics behind how much force would be required to inflict such a devastating injury.
If you are watching Punisher: War Zone then you expect over-the-top violence and believe me, this rollercoaster ride does not disappoint. The only hiccup is a brief stint about halfway through spent exploring actual “plot,” but it quickly segues right back into action before too long. Don’t let the appearance of Julie Benz from Dexter fame during this recess throw you off. There’s no love story, subplots or time wasting nonsense to chew up runtime. It throws guns and gore at your face with no apologies. If you cannot stomach this, please move along.
Punisher: War Zone’s visual design takes stylization to a new level of creative appreciation. One scene might be flush with reds, the next blues, and the next completely monochromatic. Without notice, a scene might jack saturation up through the stratosphere “just because,” then reset 30 seconds later and alter the level of grain.
Due to the dynamic nature in which the film was shot and tinkered with in post, the 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 1080p transfer needed to be at the top of its game to keep up. The less stylized scenes perform better than the ultra-stylized, super-saturated ones which show hints of softness and increased grain. Even then, and especially elsewhere, detail is fantastic and the image is what you’d expect from an HD presentation, crazy visual style and all.
With guns firing and heads exploding more often than not you’d expect nothing short of being overwhelmed by a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix from Punisher: War Zone. Your speakers will plead and beg for a vacation after gunfire rattles around the room and the subwoofer kicks out huge thuds. Yet somehow dialogue and subtle effects are not lost in all the commotion.
Audio Commentary — Director Lexi Alexander and her director of photography Steve Gainer are a perfect pair as each is intimately familiar with the film and build upon whatever direction the other talks at. They touch upon everything imaginable from staying faithful to the comic to dealing with harsh weather in Montreal to technically creating the film’s unique visual style. This is one of the more entertaining commentaries in recent memory and is a must-listen for buyers or renters of the disc.
Training to Become The Punisher (5:47, HD) — Ray is shipped off to a “classified” military facility where he is drilled on the art of combat. Most of this piece involves watching Ray seize and control a room full of terrorists from a fly-on-the-wall perspective.
The Making of Punisher: War Zone (9:02, HD) — The short runtime should tip you off that there isn’t much substance to be found in this promotionally-oriented featurette. Lexi and her D.P. Steve talk through much of what they elaborated on during their audio commentary while a few others throw in their two cents for good measure.
Meet Jigsaw (3:34, HD) — How did the make-up crew make Jigsaw look the way he does? With prosthetics, of course. See how they are applied in this piece, as well as Dominic throw a few jabs about how hard yet fulfilling the character was to portray.
Weapons of the Punisher (4:39, HD) — There are more than 125 guns used in the film, and this shows off a few of the more prominent ones. The military advisors are pretty pumped up to see their weapons wreaking havoc on-screen.
Creating the Look of the Film (2:46, HD) — Strict color palettes play an important role in the film’s visual flair which this featurette offers a brisk crash course on.
While the Blu-ray package for The Punisher might not live up to the “special edition” tag, Punisher: War Zone looks and sounds great while racking up an enormous body count with unrelenting and unabashed gore. Rambo would be proud. You, however, might want to stick with considering giving it a rent.
- Score: 7.9