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The Punisher: WarZone


Tim Bradstreet
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Exclusive Q&A: Punisher's Stevenson

In Punisher: War Zone, Ray Stevenson becomes the third actor to bring Marvel Comics' vigilante hero the Punisher to life on screen. In 2004, Lionsgate brought out Thomas Jane as The Punisher, and who could forget Dolph Lundgren in 1989?

 

Punisher: War Zone picks up Frank Castle four years into his one-man crusade to punish the guilty after his wife and children were murdered by the mob. Going after the Russoti crime family in New York requires Castle to blast Parkour-flipping henchman out of the air and explode skulls with point blank headshots.

 

The following Q&A is an edited excerpt of a one-on-one interview with Stevenson at the film's press junket in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 2. Punisher: War Zone opens Dec. 5. (And check out the new interactive online prequel comic here.)

 

What's your take on Frank Castle?

 

Stevenson: To put it in very grandiose terms, he has this mythical tragic warrior aspect to him. With Frank, he'll never be done. There'll always be an enemy, and so he's put himself on this path, and he'll just keep doing this. He's made a choice. He's made his peace with that. There's something intriguing about that, that there's no questioning about that. He's not there to judge people. He's not there to decide their fate. As far as he's concerned, he's just going to exercise that fate and dispatch them.

 

Yeah, he's not in good shape for winning this crusade.

 

Stevenson: I don't really want people to walk out of the cinema wanting to be the Punisher, which is a strange thing to say. This is a huge action character, lead part, not to want people to [idolize]. But I think if we play it honestly enough and show his pain and show the dark place he's at, you don't want to be him. You're glad he's there, in a sense, and you can't wait to see what he does next. I don't want people who are being ostracized, bullied or segregated to go out thinking, "All right, that's it. I'm going to tool up like the Punisher" and take out their own personal bad guys." Things happen in schools across America and stuff like this. You don't want to exacerbate that.

 

Did you do any of the hanging from the chandelier stunt?

 

Stevenson: Yes, absolutely. The hardest thing, in a weird sort of way, is everybody thinks they can hold both their arms out level. You try it upside down, and one arm goes up and one arm goes [down]. It's just like [the director says], "No, no, no, you've dropped your left arm." You're hanging upside down trying to level your arms. It sounds ridiculous, but that became more of an issue than the spinning thing. "You're looking a bit lopsided." You're still making a movie, and you still want it to be right.

 

punisher2_stevenson_gal.jpg

 

What are your thoughts on the extreme violence of the film?

 

Stevenson: Well, when I first read the [comic] book, I thought, "This is so extreme. This is uber-violent. Do I really want to get involved?" But the more I read, it was Garth Ennis' writing [that hooked me,] because there is a price to pay. Bullets don't just bounce off him. It raises some real moral issues, but if you tone the violence right down, the strength of the real moral issues that are raised wouldn't be as valid, wouldn't be as clear, and also the price that's paid. You've got a very violent piece, a violent man doing violent things to violent people, but that gives us the foil to show the heavy weight of the consequences. So I think in its genre, in its scene, I've made my peace with that. The violence is there as it should be.

Did you try different versions of the costume?

 

Stevenson: There were variations. We always knew we were going to go for the Kevlar, and we weren't going to do sleeveless big arms and the big guns. We pretty much were happy and married to that and then just made it work with the weapon choices we were having.

How did you like your preppy sweater in the mournful flashback of his family picnic?

 

Stevenson: Oh, well, yes. That was a soft-focus moment, wasn't it? Almost as much as the bouffant haircut. You know, again, this is from that world. This is the way these things get illustrated, so you've got to commit to it. --Fred Topel

 

Source: http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?c...=3&id=62503

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Great interview with the Wolfe ;)

What a great guy.

 

Also - I'm all about people sharing their feelings about a film they've seen. If they want to call themselves reviewers or critics, whatever, so be it.

What I do find infinitely disagreeable is this shit I'm reading wherein some of these folks are tossing Jane under a bus.

I'd love to know what some of these people thought about Tom's performance at the time, 'cause if I remember correctly, even when the film itself was coming under heavy fire the one thing almost everybody agreed on was that Tom's performance and dedication to the role were undeniable. If you have a problem with the movie itself or the direction that's a whole seperate issue. Seems like somehow these guys are now blaming Jane for things more to do with story and direction - and that's a load of absolute BS. Sounds personal to me. Why else take an opportunity to insult a fella in public?

 

Remember, this is a guy who dedicated himself unconditionally to step into this character's body and mind.

In 2004 he was almost universally praised for this.

Ray himself told me that Tom's dedication was inspiring to him and that it set the bar.

 

Inevitably Tom's 2004 Punisher film is going to be the set-up for almost every Warzone review, and people are going to take their shots . . . Just the nature of the beast, I understand that.

 

All I'm saying is, don't be so quick to disrespect a guy who ate, drank, slept, breathed, and BLED this character for US, the fans, and because he was passionate about the material.

 

This is not a case of Punisher actor bias either. I've been praising and defending Ray on these boards since moment ONE and I have tremendous respect for both of these guys. It's just disappointing and frustrating to see some attitudes go the way of a fickle (and sometimes pandering) mob mentality.

 

- TB

 

 

 

 

its just like people slamming ray for so long before this movie came out, its rather annoying eh?

 

 

WHAT ABOUT DOLPH DAMN IT, HES THE PUNISHER TO.....erm........wait,nevermind

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OOoooh, This is one damning review, Hates Tom, and hates Ray even more!

 

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainme...0,4969739.story

 

He's losing his hair and he is a lousy fuck...TRUST ME...nobody takes him seriously. He wants to be TJ so bad, it hurts him late at night, as he sleeps...ALONE.

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Reviews aside, one thing I sit comfortably with (as a hardcore fan of the character) is that in Punisher 2004 and with Warzone we were lucky enough to get two actors who cared about what they were doing far past the opportunity or the paycheck. Two guys who went above and beyond to capture the essence of the character.

Maybe it's hard to get the perfect Punisher film made, but at least they got Castle right in the performances.

 

People may disagree with that somewhat where 2004 is concerned because it's not a Punisher veteran we're watching, more of the transformation of a man into the machine we were to get in the sequel, or in this case the reboot.

 

It's kind of sad when I see disparaging comments leveled at these two actors who left it all on the field for us.

Ah well, what else should I expect? ;)

 

- TB

 

 

 

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It's kind of sad when I see disparaging comments leveled at these two actors who left it all on the field for us.

Ah well, what else should I expect? ;)

 

- TB

 

 

There's more of those bullshit comments to come buddy. I try to stay away from most reviews these days. Not much good can come out of it in this particular case. I'm just waiting two more days and then ROCK AND ROLL.

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There's more of those bullshit comments to come buddy. I try to stay away from most reviews these days. Not much good can come out of it in this particular case. I'm just waiting two more days and then ROCK AND ROLL.

 

 

Heheh, no, no. I'm realistic about that. I just think it sucks and sometimes I can't help myself from speaking out.

I'll take my heart off my sleeve and stick it back in my chest now ;)

 

- TB

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That's what I'm saying. The negative reviews are repetitive and the positive reviews are more or less repetitive. I'm taking it all with a grain of salt until I see it. Watch my own review be repetitive heheheh. ;)

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Dang! Remind me to never get on the wrong side of Tiara!

 

I just hate it when so called "critics" don't even understand the depth and dedication of Jane; it sickens me. He's a great actor, father, husband and hard core working man. Review all his films and then make a comment. Other than that, back da hell up when it comes to Jane. He's one of us; he comes from the streets and he made it. He represents. Bottom line.

 

Mess with him and you mess with us all.

 

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From the reviews it seems that the main thing that most people wanted out of a Punisher movie was for it to just violent as all hell. Oh, well.

 

I reckon that to reboot the series so soon after the 04 version they had to aim in a different direction, they couldn't really have tried the same thing twice so soon (ie, the gritty crime noir setting). My guess is they decided to aim for a different audience from the start. The MAX series definitely embraced outlandish violence with a comic edge and that seems to be the vibe from the positive reviews. Those reviewers that enjoyed the villians in the movie also point to an outlandish performace thats in keeping with the tone of the movie.

 

The 04 film worked with a certain demographic of the Punisher fans (with the exception of Tampa!) and I think this one will cater for another altogether (with some overlap). So in 4 years most Punisher fans will have had something to smile about.

 

Me? I'm dying to see that Free Runner Vs Rocket Launcher scene!! :D

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Me? I'm dying to see that Free Runner Vs Rocket Launcher scene!! :D

 

I'm actually sorry that was spoiled by the reviews.

Cause let me tell ya, it's a whole lot more of a gasp moment when you have no idea it's coming.

Sometimes information sucks ;)

 

- TB

 

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It's kind of sad when I see disparaging comments leveled at these two actors who left it all on the field for us.

Ah well, what else should I expect? ;)

 

- TB

 

 

Remember when suffering for one's art ment everything an actor did leading up to the performance ;)

 

The thing that gets me the most is when a reviewer can not comprehend that fact that just becasue a film was not good, or not to their liking, that an actor/actress' porformance can still be good. Hell, even good scripts can be shot horrible. I only find validity in someone's review that can take that into consideration.

 

Tom was excelent, same with Will Patton, and from what I'm hearing, Ray is pretty darn good too. Some things work, some things do not, so if you want me to keep reading your collum, tell me these things. Just because a film is brainless does not mean the reviews have to be as well.

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Just walked in the door back home from the Warzone premiere.

Sleep beckons. Just wanted to pop in and mention a few people that made the night special -...

- TB

 

Tim, Thanks for those behind-the-scenes tidbits!

 

And Brian McQuery, thanks for the detailed encounter!

 

Really felt like I was/we were there. I appreciate it!

 

So cool! B)

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Film School Rejects review.

 

What do we expect from our comic book movies, and how have those expectations changed over the course of the past 3 years? Two important questions that one must ponder before we can talk about the most recent comic book adaptation, Punisher: War Zone. You will generally find that people fall into two categories when it comes to these expectations: some are of the belief that comic books should be fun and silly, sticking with the nature of the source medium. Others, mostly thanks to recent films such as The Dark Knight, believe that comic book movies can be more — they can be very earnest films, possibly great drama that just so happens to include characters drawn from comic books. For the record, I can go either way, though I can most often be counted among the latter.

 

What makes this division important is that in this regard, Punisher: War Zone could make for an incredibly polarizing movie. On one side, it is gratuitously violent and over the top in so many ways, which many fans may come to love, leaving them very fond of its silliness. On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who will view it as a laughable affair, a film that takes a serious character and plops him into a world of goofiness. Put simply, this is the sort of film that you’re going to love or you are going to hate.

 

But let’s back track a bit and get down to some specifics about this round in The Punisher’s cinematic life. Ray Stevenson, the films bright and shining star, was oft criticized by yours truly for not having the right look, not sounding like a goof in promo footage, and the like. The truth is that I have a man-crush on Thomas Jane, the Punisher of 2004, and that man-crush was blinding me to the fact that Stevenson makes for a great Punisher. He finds a way to capture the depth of the character, an emotionally wounded and vengeful guy whose every waking moment is spent fighting the memories of the day his family died. Also, when it comes time to shoot the place up — which it often does — Stevenson has the physicality to bring the Punisher to life in a big way. Simply, the man is a killing machine, unlike anything that we’ve seen before in this character’s short-lived cinematic run.

 

Dominic West and Doug Hutchinson in Punisher: War Zone

 

The only problem is that while Stevenson plays the role straight, so many things are going awry around him. For one, the film’s story and dialogue are what you might expect from a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal affair. Sure, they brought Frank Castle back to New York, but did Hollywood’s B-movie accents have to come with it? At first, I was wondering if Dominic West was trying to play Billy “The Beaut” Russoti, the mobster who eventually becomes the mangled crime boss Jigsaw, or if he thought he was the big bad in some ridiculous gangster parody. Chief among these goofball offenses is a ridiculous sequence in which Jigsaw and his cannibalistic brother Looney Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) go recruiting. From the outlandish high stepping to a Pattonesque speech in front of an American flag, this sequence was just a little too much. Then of course, there is this gang of meth-addicted acrobats who pop in and out of the movie. Their existence was a mystery only until one of them meets their end in a creative, albeit extremely cheesy way.

 

And maybe that is the point that I was missing as I laughed at and furrowed my brow toward this film for 107 minutes. Maybe it is all just supposed to be silly, stupid and fun. Because sure, it is gratuitously violent — the sort of violent that you find in the depths of the horror genre. We are talking axe-wielding psychos and grandmas with half-a-head here. And if you are into that sort of thing, there is plenty to go around. Unfortunately I’m not, and to me it all felt as if director Lexi Alexander and the creative team behind this film were going overboard with the violence in order to distract us from the fact that it had a story akin to something we might see in a Cinemax original movie. But again, the violence — plentiful.

 

My hope is that there are some of you out there who will be jumping to see this, despite the fact that I found it to be a trifling affair. Because contrary to what some of you are expecting, this film isn’t a train wreck at all. In fact, if you look at it the right way it could be a rockin’ good time. The hurdle that I couldn’t get over is that while it is violent and silly, it was too silly when it didn’t need to be, too goofy where I might have expected it to take a serious turn. And it was this silliness that made the entire experience feel off-balance.

 

In the end you really have to go back to that great divide. Because if you go into this movie expecting a dark, serious and gritty Punisher movie, the kind that the 2004 film hinted at but ultimately failed to deliver, you will leave disappointed. Of that, I can assure you. But if you go in looking for some silly fun, over the top violence and a man who might have been meant to play the Punisher all along, you’re in for a treat. Because Punisher: War Zone, for all its faults, does live up to the second half of its name.

 

Grade C

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Glad everyone enjoyed my recap of premiere night. Tim's been hounding me to join this forum for some time. And I finally gave in. I didn't have anything against it, I have just never joined a forum before.

 

Then he was generous enough to invite me to join him at the premiere. I'm extremely grateful and glad that I could share the experience with all of you.

 

And I'm sad that I couldn't score the neon "Brad Street Hotel" sign for Tim. Should've taken Ray Stevenson up on his willingness to create a diversion for me. Sorry, Tim!

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Hey, ya tried! Which is more than I did.

Maybe if I'd have been a bit more proactive I could have induced the owner to lay it on me.

Then I'd be sitting here in my studio backlit by the neon sign hung in the center of my bar.

 

Alas

 

Alas and forsooth.

 

- TB

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