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The Punisher: WarZone

Tim Bradstreet

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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 and forsooth.


- TB


You know, Tim, you really missed your chance. I am absofookinglutely SURE that, had you brought me into your scheme, I could have made away with the goods.


You blew it, you two!





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SHH interview with Lexi:


Exclusive: Lexi Alexander on Punisher: War Zone

Source:Edward Douglas December 3, 2008



It's been just over three years since Lexi Alexander's debut feature film Green Street Hooligans was released after winning many awards at various film festivals, and while that movie about British soccer gangs was shamefully ignored by the public at large, Alexander will definitely get attention with her new movie, Punisher: War Zone, revisiting the Marvel Comics vigilante for a third time. This time, the Punisher and his alter ego Frank Castle are played by Ray Stevenson from HBO's "Rome" and he's taking on the villain most closely associated with the comic character, Jigsaw, as played by Dominic West (HBO's "The Wire").


Superhero Hype! got on the phone with Lexi, talking to her towards the end of the film's L.A. junket earlier this week.


Superhero Hype!: Last year you did a conference call towards the end of production, which was actually almost a year ago. Have you been working on the movie this entire time since then?

Lexi Alexander: I have, yeah. It took a while. It was interesting because we didn't get all the budget approved right away for visual effects and stuff, it was kind of like a process. It seemed like we had a lot of time, then all of a sudden there was a big rush, like we have to get it done now. It had to do I think with international distribution so I went from just chilling every day two hours at the editing room to all of a sudden working every day twelve hours a day.


SHH!: When you came on as director, did they already have a script and did they already decide Jigsaw was going to be the villain? What was actually in place when you came on board as director?

Alexander: Well, they had two scripts and one better than the other, but both not very good. That was actually the reason Ray Stevenson's agent passed, and they basically brought me on and they said, "We understand we have to rewrite the script. We want to bring these new guys on, these Marvel writers"--those were the guys from "Iron Man" --"and we want to have a new vision." Jigsaw was in one of the scripts, not in the other. "LBJ" (Loony Bin Jim) was in one and not in the other, so I took the parts that I liked and got together with these two guys and we created a script that then changed many times during production, but really that's what we did.


SHH!: You must've known about the character, but had you read any of the Garth Ennis comics before?

Alexander: That's when I got the offer, but then when they tried to convince me that it is a good thing and I can do a reboot and a new vision of it, they sent me I think two boxes of comic books all about "The Punisher" - the old ones and the new ones and the MAX series, and when I saw the MAX series, I said, "Yeah, that's something I would like to do and that hasn't been done in the 'Punisher' genre."


SHH!: How long did it take you to read all those comics?

Alexander: Not long, like a weekend maybe. That's the great thing about comic books, it's not like there are pages of dialogue, you know? (laughs)


SHH!: You basically got completely absorbed into the world of "The Punisher" in just one weekend.

Alexander: It really was. I was literally dreaming about it at one point because… I don't know if you've ever opened the MAX book of "The Punisher," but it's pretty visual and violent.


SHH!: Yeah, well it definitely carried over to the movie. Hopefully you were able to get away from that and don't still have dreams of that kind of violence now that you've finished the movie.

Alexander: During the production I had a lot of violent dreams, and then I just had violent dreams about studio executives… (laughs) just kidding.


SHH!: Marvel's obviously more involved in the movies these days so when you were putting this together was Marvel very vocal about which parts of the comic they wanted to use?

Alexander: Well, Marvel on this one was basically involved, but not as involved as they are on like "The Hulk" or "Iron Man" because Lionsgate was in the lead definitely on this one. I had to deal with all of them really. It was a big collaboration.


SHH!: How was that coming off of "Hooligans" which was very much personal project in some ways, very independent and a labor of love? Was it very different doing this studio kind of movie and working with bigger crews?

Alexander: Yeah, it basically was a learning experience. I mean, you really have to get used to people telling you what to do and what not to do and then making sure that while they do that, you don't lose concept of what's important to you, what needs to go on the screen, you know? I mean, it's a tough thing. You don't want to be an *sshole and not collaborate, but at the same time, you're responsible what comes onto the screen. Nobody's going to say, "Oh, I'm sure she had eight executives who disagreed." It's a very thin line and I'm not sure if I learned it on this one and how to walk that thin line, but I think I'm getting better at it.


SHH!: That's good to hear. I know that (Punisher cover artist) Tim Bradstreet was somehow involved with the visuals. Did he actually do paintings or storyboards or anything like that or did you just work from what he had already done on existing covers?

Alexander: No, he wasn't that much involved. I think he did a few posters for Lionsgate – like a few concepts posters. My DP and I got on the phone with him in prep for the movie and we talked to him, and he talked us through what he does and what he thinks about Castle. Then I think my DP got more on the phone with the other colorists on the actual pages, because Bradstreet does all the covers and then there's all the other guys who do the actual book.


SHH!: Let's talk about Jigsaw. I actually own the comic in which he first appeared, I never remember a specific origin story for him, so was that invented for the movie?

Alexander: As far as I understand it... I mean, listen, I just had these friends over who have been "Punisher" fans for fifteen years, they would be able to tell you exactly what issue he came up first. I can't do that, but we copied the Billy Russoti -- "Billy Russo" actually, like he was called in the comic book -- to the morphing into Jigsaw exactly like it was in the story, other than how it actually happened. I think he's one of the better villains in "The Punisher" series. I think the other ones are all a little bit too cartoony.


SHH!: Well definitely he is the "Punisher" villain if you think about it. I mean he was introduced in the second Punisher appearance and he's been plaguing him ever since.

Alexander: Correct, and I remember that he, in some of the books he had that over the top goofy eye, remember that? That was a big thing, because I said, "I don't want to have that. It just doesn't look good. I want it to be a little bit more evil." That's tough when you actually take license with something like that, but he had so many looks that it was really a challenge to find a look we all agreed on.


SHH!: What about the Punisher's costume? That's also a very interesting approach, going more for a military look, less spandex than we've seen. Can you talk about that?

Alexander: Well, it's funny because I never in a million times thought when I took on this project that a costume could be talked about for so long. I thought, "My God." First of all, Ray isn't the type of actor who says "yes" to a spandex movie, and I didn't want him in spandex. It would've been weird. It would've been some kind of Sacha Baron Cohen kind of spoof seeing Ray in spandex. So we definitely said we wanted to go more the military route. We had to deal with the skull. I didn't want it too bright. I see now some fans are saying, "Oh, I wished it would've been brighter." Personally, I thought it was silly, it almost looked a little bit pre-schoolish to me to have that skull so bright. There's different opinions about it, but it was a long back and forth until we all agreed on the uniform.


SHH!: I guess that's one of the other things, you're collaborating not only with the studio and with Marvel, but also with the fans. You have to do something that also appeals to them and is also logical as a filmmaker, right?

Alexander: Right, and you know what? (Ray) also had some input in it terms of like he has to do a lot of crazy action and I didn't want him in something that he's going to be miserable in, you know, especially since we had such a brutal schedule.


SHH!: As far as the weapons the Punisher uses, I know that a lot of the writers on "The Punisher" comics did a ton of research into weapons and I was curious about your own research, because you had him using a lot of different kinds of weapons as well.

Alexander: Well, I immediately brought onto the project a military advisor and gun advisor. There's a company called GUNMETAL, and they're marines and Special Forces guys. I basically let them take the lead and they showed me weapons and they showed me choices, and they put them in front of Ray and me and then I visually said, "I want this one, this one, this one," and then Ray said, "Well, I really think we should use this one, this one." And that's what we did. I think there was a real mix between guns look cinematically great and guns that work really well in terms of reloading and that look really cool, and it was good that we all collaborated on that.


SHH!: I want to talk about the violence in the movie because obviously you really went for it and you didn't mess around. Did you have a problem with MPAA at any point as far as how violent the movie is?

Alexander: No, they were actually quite cool. I was surprised myself. I think they have more problems with sex and nudity than they have with violence. I never had to speak to them. I mean, I don't think they would've given it a PG-13, but they've never given us any problems about an R-rating.


SHH!: How do you feel about the fact that violence is okay, as opposed to sex and nudity? I mean, obviously you've made action movies before on both sides of the camera, but doesn't that seem strange to you?

Alexander: For the kind of filmmaker I am, I'm really pleased that they're so casual. I think it sucks for some other filmmakers. I think that, you know, when you have a pair of breasts up there and you get a rated R, that's a little bit exaggerated. Then I go to Europe and of course for example, I think in Great Britain and in Germany it got an NC-18 or something, like you can't go see it under 18 because of the violence. So on this side of the pond it's completely different than there.


SHH!: That's really interesting. I'm curious how this movie might play over there. I'm sure the comics can be found over there, but the Punisher has always felt like the kind of character that could only appeal to Americans.

Alexander: Being into comic books is definitely an Americana thing. I think that the mainstream ones like "Batman" and "The Hulk" and "Iron Man" have definitely crossed over, but something like "the Punisher"- we'll see. Sony International did not want to release this theatrically, and only after they saw the director's cut did they decide to instead of going to DVD internationally to go theatrical. So that's a leap of faith. Obviously, they think that something is going to spike people's interests, which I am excited to see.


SHH!: One thing that's interesting is that it does take place in New York, but besides the opening scene, it's very much a stylized New York. Was that influenced by how New York is depicted in the comics?

Alexander: Yeah, I mean, first of all I wasn't shooting in New York so already, when you are in a town that is all French you are limited and you go to these places that every filmmaker goes to that has to shoot Montreal for New York, and you end up with a look that been in all these movies, so what do you do? I discussed it with Marvel and Lionsgate, and I said, "Look, can I not make this film look exactly like in the comic book? Why don't I make a New York that is like a MAX New York, but not a real life New York?" And they said, "Cool, go for it." But we also wanted to make sure that's it's also not Gotham City.


SHH!: You mentioned the director's cut, and I was curious whether that was very different from the American cut that opens on Friday? How is it different?

Alexander: No, it took a lot of fights, but it's not that different anymore. (laughs) It's pretty much what's on screen as my cut. I think there's maybe eight minutes or so, not violent scenes or action scenes, more like quiet scenes, more stuff between Castle and the little girl and Castle and Soap that got cut out. But now, I think what you see on screen oddly enough is as close to a director's cut as you will get.


SHH!: Obviously a lot of people ask you about being a woman director. Most of them probably haven't seen "Hooligans," so they don't know that you're capable of handling tough and violent material.

Alexander: Right, you know, thank God it hasn't come up a lot because the truth is I know it's a story… I can't say it hasn't come up -- it has come up all day today -- but in the actual process of hiring me and me working, there wasn't a lot of talk about it, which was really cool. Honestly, the executives at Lionsgate came to me not because I'm a woman or anything other than "Hooligans." That's what they responded to, and my first film "Johnny Flynton." I think that's the way it should be. I don't think gender, color, or anything matters anymore. I think you just have to see if you have the chops.


SHH!: Absolutely. Now, I wanted to ask you about the flipside of that – do you think as a woman you're able to bring something different to this as an a violent action movie that maybe a male director might not be able to achieve? Maybe something you brought that your female sensibilities might have helped achieve?

Alexander: I don't' know if it's a female thing, but I'm definitely a storyteller. That's I think why "Johnny Flynton" may have opened a career. I told a story in thirty-eight minutes that people were kind enough to nominate me for an Oscar for, and it's the first time out of the gate. So I can do that and I don't lose concept of it just because I do "The Punisher." I think those are the biggest compliments I've gotten that yes, there's over the top violence, yes it's cartoon, you know, lots of comedy moments, but essentially it's a told story with emotions and with the point of no return and the redemption and all of it. I think sometimes maybe that male directors get caught up into the atmosphere of style and violence, and I don't think I get caught up in that.


SHH!: Do you have any idea what you're going to do next? After having this experience working with a studio, do you think you'll go back and do another independent film next?

Alexander: I think I'll do something like this again next, yeah. I'll probably work with a different studio and just to check out the rest of the town, but I definitely think that I am happy to be in the studio world at this point.


Punisher: War Zone opens everywhere on Friday, December 5.







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Q&A: Alexander On Punisher Rumors


The saga of Punisher: War Zone has been fraught with more drama than Frank Castle's backstory. His crusade to punish the criminals who evade the law can be summarized in one line. See the previous sentence. The second Lionsgate Punisher film (not counting the 1989 straight-to-video film by New World pictures) is more complicated.


When previous writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh and Frank Castle actor Thomas Jane declined to return after their 2004 film, Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) won the task of continuing and restarting the franchise. After she convinced Rome's Ray Stevenson to play Castle, the Internet documented her struggles with Lionsgate studio brass. At one point, rumors suggested she might go the "Alan Smithee" route and remove her name from the film.


A former stuntwoman and kickboxing champion, Alexander isn't afraid to say what she thinks. She even introduced the press screening of the film by announcing that she pushed her ideas on the studio. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of a one-on-one interview with Alexander on Dec. 2 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Punisher: War Zone opens Dec. 5.

How important was it that the film's outrageously violent kills all had a certain sense of humor to them?


Alexander: Well, I think if I would have read the MAX series [of Punisher comics] and taken that violence that was pictured there seriously, I think I would have wanted to commit suicide. You can't take it like that: People's pieces of flesh falling off when their head gets shot off. You have to laugh.

What is the true story about your possibly removing your name from the film?


Alexander: Oh, I wasn't, no. No, no, I never was going to take my name off the film. Let me say this. Harry Knowles [of Ain't It Cool News] is one of the greatest people I know. He's a great supporter of mine. I'm his biggest fan, not because he supports filmmakers, [but] because I think he fights for film. Sometimes he nails the filmmaker if they f--k up, like he did with M. Night [shyamalan], and sometimes he nails the studio. I think in this case, what happened is when the first trailers came out, I think he knew and he's been told there was kind of trouble. So he wrote, "F--k, they should have just let her do it, and she was pushed aside." [That is] true. He did write the right thing, and he stood up for me and for this film. I think that each Internet site that took it on brought it to a new level. By the time it landed in Germany, my mother saw it and thought I was fired, tarred and feathered out of the country. [What Knowles wrote] really is the correct thing. I was never fired, and I never wanted to take my name off.

When you said you pushed your ideas on the studio, what were those ideas you meant?


Alexander: Well, between the look of it and the comedy of it and the violence, it's a very distinctive voice. Not everybody goes with that kind of voice from a young filmmaker. I did get tapped on the shoulder [and asked], "What the hell are you thinking?" Some of it I pushed more. Some battles I lost. When I talked these actors into joining me, when they all passed one after another, I said, "OK, no, this will not be Punisher 2. This will be something very special, and here's how it's going to be special." I make very sure that I deliver that. Imagine [if] I would have to sit next to Ray during a press conference, and it's a s--t movie. He would sit there going, "I hate her for f--king talking me into this." To be honest, I'd rather have him as a friend than anybody else out there I had to battle.

Did you get to set up stunts the way you wish other directors had when you were a stuntwoman?


Alexander: I was always on very safe sets. There were a few stunts where I had to stunt-double for women who didn't wear a lot, because it's always the women who have lingerie on and have to fall down stairs. So I said to myself, "If there is a woman dying, she won't be dying in her lingerie, because I know that's painful for the stuntwoman." Other than that, I think I treated my stuntmen a lot like I'm used to, because we stuntmen are not very daredevil-ish actually. They're not very kamikaze. They're very mathematical and very safe.


What were the challenges of shooting that opening sequence with the red light and the Punisher hanging from the chandelier?


Alexander: First I had to sell the idea to the executives that the red thing, the torch, is going to work. [That's] a hard thing to explain when you've never seen it. I've seen it a lot, because I worked with military before, so I knew exactly in my head what this would look like. When you're not used to [the light], you get blinded very easily, and you lose complete concept of where any kind of balance. Any kind of geography, you lose concept. The guys, when we were discussing it in development, didn't quite understand what "all red" means. I think the challenge was to sell the idea before so I can actually shoot it.


We know you're considering Jonah Hex. Are there any other Marvel properties being offered to you?


Alexander: You know, I think they are focusing a lot on PG stuff and PG-13. They haven't come to me for anything. I'm not familiar with the Marvel catalog, really. I know I've been sent a Dark Horse property and something I'm really interested in from a company called Radical comics. You've got to check it out. They're a new company on the street. I love them. I think they have great stuff, so I'm going to meet with them and discuss their properties. Yeah, I would say it's probably more likely I will end up with a different kind of outlet. --Fred Topel


Source: http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?c...=3&id=62533

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From CinemaBlend.com

Reviewed by Josh Tyler


This is Hollywood’s third stab at making a movie out of the Punisher, an ultra-violent comic book character known mostly for his love of guns and a tendency to kill criminals rather than bothering with expensive things like fair trials. Each attempt at bringing him to the screen has been slightly better than the last, but only slightly. Thomas Jane’s version was marginally less awful than Dolph Lundgren’s 80s abortion and this latest, Ray Stevenson starring incarnation is incrementally less laughable than the one Jane fell into. Should this trend continue, by the character’s tenth iteration I will be able to give a Punisher movie a good review. Let’s hope it never comes to that.


Yet credit where credit is due. This is an improvement. Thomas Jane should have been the perfect Punisher, but he was wasted on a movie helmed by a Travolta-humping buffoon. Ray Stevenson fares slightly better in War Zone, he’s nearly credible as the gun-toting character and that’s due almost entirely to two, specific things Punisher: War Zone does better than any of its previous Punishing brothers.


First, it doesn’t waste time trying to explain or make us feel bad for Frank Castle. When we meet Castle he’s already The Punisher: a black-clad, heavily-armed vigilante who has spent the past five years roaming the streets and murdering bad guys while a grateful police force gleefully looks the other way. The movie spends no more than two minutes, spliced throughout the film, explaining his origins. Since his origins are the boring, re-treaded stuff of every other revenge story, it’s a blessing.


Second reason, and this is the one desperate Punisher fans are most likely to latch on to, it’s violent. Ulta-violent. Not just violent, but also gory. Over the top, completely ridiculous, people’s heads explode in a shower of goo every time they get shot, gory. I’m not endorsing violence in movies here, but the one thing that set The Punisher apart from the other comic books out there jostling in line, waiting for Hollywood adaptation, is that he’s a super-violent, psychotic killer. He’s not Batman or Superman or Spider-Man. He’s not trying to bring anyone to justice. He simply wants the bad guys dead. He only goes after criminals, sure. But he’s not nice about it. If you’re going to bother making a Punisher movie in the first place, then you need lots of violence. For the first time a Punisher movie gets that right.


Unfortunately those two things are just about the only things Punisher: War Zone has going for it. In nearly every other conceivable facet director Lexi Alexander’s movie is a failure. The problems start with the movie’s script, which doesn’t really have a particularly interesting Punisher story for us to ride shotgun on. It’s a small, small story. This seems like it might be a Tuesday in the life of The Punisher, not some special event worthy of telling in a movie. Maybe they were shooting for something intimate and deeply personal but this movie doesn’t have the kind of emotional depth necessary to connect on that level. Brief moments in which Alexander seems to be grasping for more, as in a scene in which Castle convincingly growls “sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God,” hint at the tantalizing possibility of something deeper here, but the film always quickly snaps back to the world of the absurd.


Absurdity, though clouded by dim lighting and deadly serious line delivery, is absolutely the order of the day. This is a movie in which a chair leg is shoved through a man’s head, not an intimate story of redemption. This is the sort of movie in which dropping a bad guy into a vat of broken glass won’t kill him, but instead form him into a super-villain who will inevitably rename himself something appropriately comicbooky, start wearing costumes, monologuing, and then set out for revenge against our hero. That villain is a man who eventually chooses the name Jigsaw and is played by baddie default Dominic West. I guess they couldn’t afford Sean Bean. West’s performance as Jigsaw is eerily similar to what Tommy Lee Jones did as Two-Face in Batman Forever, and if that comparison hasn’t made you vomit a little… wait there’s more!


Punisher: War Zone’s set design also has a weirdly Batman Forever feel. Frank Castle is properly dark and gritty, yet the rest of the movie is entirely slathered in strange lighting colors which simply do not exist in nature. The fog always seems to glow hot pink or green, depending on what hue will seem most striking in the shot behind Punisher. Maybe this movie exists in the future, after a nuclear holocaust when our precipitation has all gone radioactive. I don’t know, I’m guessing. Except that doesn’t explain why Wayne Knight, as the movie’s de facto superhero weapons dealer, insists on lighting his gun cabinets with purple fluorescents. It doesn’t seem to be the best way to show off your merchandise. Who wants to buy an AK-47 when it’s the same shade as the Grape Ape? It’s as if someone saw Batman Forever and then thought: “Hey I wonder what this movie would look like if it were rated-R,” and then designed their sets accordingly.


Look we’re three separate Punisher movies into this character. I know Punisher fans don’t want to hear it, but I think it’s time we all step up and accept that this particular hero simply wasn’t meant for Hollywood. I’m sure the comics are fantastic, but the idea of a revenge-driven vigilante has already been done to death in American cinema and it’s been done without the need for silly, skull-head logos and villains with goofy names like Jigsaw. Kill Bill still has the revenge flick market cornered for at least another ten years, and that’s probably as close as we’ll ever get to seeing something which hits the mark these Punisher movies are shooting for. The notion of a proper, violence soaked revenge tale is too much at odds with Hollywood’s expectations when it comes to a standard superhero film. It’s never going to work. Punisher: War Zone will almost certainly win the award for best use of a rocket launcher (should such an award ever be given), but sadly that’s all this latest Punishment has really accomplished. It’s time Frank Castle called it quits.


Source: http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Punishe...-Zone-3570.html

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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



Silly over the top action? Sounds like Shoot em' up to me. (I hated that movie)

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Roger Ebert's review of War Zone: Punisher.


Punisher: War Zone


December 3, 2008


by Roger Ebert


You used to be able to depend on a bad film being poorly made. No longer. "The Punisher: War Zone" is one of the best-made bad movies I've seen. It looks great, it hurtles through its paces and is well-acted. The soundtrack is like elevator music if the elevator were in a death plunge. The special effects are state of the art. Its only flaw is that it's disgusting.


There's a big audience for disgusting, and I confidently predict the movie will "win the weekend," if not very many hearts and minds. Here you will see a man's kidney ripped out and eaten, a chair leg pushed through a head via the eyeball, a roomful of men wiped out by the Punisher revolving upside-down from a chandelier and firing machine-guns with both hands, a widow and her wee girl threatened with mayhem, heads sliced off, victims impaled and skewered, and the villain thrown into a machine that crushes glass bottles in much the same way concrete is mixed.


The glass-crushing machine caught my eye. Billy (Dominic West) is socked into it by the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) and revolves up to his neck in cutting edges while screaming many, many four-letter words, which, under the circumstances, are appropriate.


What confused me is that nearby in the same factory, there is a conveyor belt carrying large lumps of hamburger or something. I expected Billy to emerge as ground round, but then I thought, how much ground glass can you really add to ground round? It's not often that you see meat processing and bottle crushing done in adjacent operations in the same factory. I was looking for the saltwater taffy mixer.


Billy survives his ordeal and announces to his henchmen, "From now on, my name is 'Jigsaw.' " This is after he has had operations, apparently lasting only minutes by the movie's timeline, to stitch up his face with twine. He now looks like the exhibit in the entrance lobby of the Texas Chainsaw Museum, and one eye looks painfully introspective.


The movie is not heavy on plot. By my Timex Indiglo, there was no meaningful exposition at all during the first 15 minutes, just men getting slaughtered. Then things slow down enough to reveal that the Punisher, a.k.a. Frank Castle, who avenged the murder of his family in an earlier film, has now killed a good guy who was father to little Grace (Stephanie Janusauskas) and husband to Angela (Julie Benz), who will Never Be Able to Forgive Him for What He's Done, nor should she, but she will.


The city, Montreal playing New York, has a small population, consisting only of good guys and bad guys and not much of anybody else. I'd get out, too. It's the kind of violence the president should fly over in Air Force One and regard sadly through the window. It goes without saying that the bad guys are unable to shoot the Punisher with their machineguns. That's consistent with the epidemic of malfunctioning machineguns in all recent super-violent films. Yet the Punisher kills a couple dozen hoodlums with his machineguns, while spinning upside-down under that chandelier.


Now pause to think with me. Everyone around the table is heavily armed. More armed men bust in through the door. The revolving Punisher is suspended in the center of the room. Because of the logic of the laws of physical motion, most of the time, he is shooting away from any individual bad guy. How can they possibly miss hitting him? It's so hard these days, getting good help.


"The Punisher: War Zone" is the third in a series of Punisher movies. It follows "The Punisher" (1989) starring Dolph Lundgren and "The Punisher" (2004), starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta. Since the second film has the same title as the first, it's hard to tell them apart, but why would you want to? My fellow critic Bill Stamets, settling down for the screening, shared with me that he watched the 2004 movie for his homework. I did my algebra.

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Following the Thanksgiving holiday frame, the North American box office should hit the brakes and see sharp declines in ticket sales. The action offering Punisher: War Zone is the only major film going into true wide release which means most of the top five should look familiar. Also opening nationally but in a more limited run is the music industry pic Cadillac Records which will try to make its way into the top ten. Leftovers from turkey weekend like Four Christmases, Bolt, and Twilight should remain among the most popular titles at the multiplexes as the marketplace takes a breather before a new wave of holiday films hits next Friday.


Lionsgate unleashes an action sequel aimed at young men for the second time in as many weeks with Punisher: War Zone which follows up on The Punisher which was released in 2004 back when the distributor went by the name Lions Gate. That film starred Thomas Jane and John Travolta, opened to $13.8M, and found its way to a respectable $33.7M. This time, Ray Stevenson picks up the title role and fans will be asked to disregard the swapping of actors and to come out and buy a ticket because of the brand name.


The R rating may cut out those 14-year-old boys, but it will give young males some bang at a time when there are no R-rated actioners for this audience. Lionsgate's PG-13 pic Transporter 3 should fall hard in its sophomore session, but it will still provide some direct competition. Ticket buyers haven't exactly been craving a new vigilante flick from this punishing series so business may come from frequent moviegoers who just don't have anything else to do or see. Debuting in 2,508 locations, Punisher: War Zone might gross about $9M this weekend.


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Just a heads up -

For those with interest.

I'll be posting an interview I conducted with Warzone Composer Michael Wandmacher very soon.

Be on the lookout.


- TB


That is simply fantastic, Tim. It was very clear to me on Monday night that you and Michael hit it off right from the beginning.


*whispers to Tim* Other than Ray, Michael was the hottest guy at the premiere. Lord have MERCY!!! :P


But YOU, Tim, are clearly the best hugger...even better than Ray! ;)




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Now THAT'S a positive review ;)


Raff - Oh, I've been savin' a hug for you. Sopranos style.




- TB


If Raff gets a hug from you Tim, I am going to get mine too...just so you know... :lol: :lol:

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Guest AdminGuyX
Just a heads up -

For those with interest.

I'll be posting an interview I conducted with Warzone Composer Michael Wandmacher very soon.

Be on the lookout.


- TB


Awesome. ;)


Can't wait.


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Punisher: War Zone is proof of just how tenacious the people at Marvel Comics are. They're going to keep remaking and rebooting their characters' franchises whether anyone likes it or not!


This is the third time they've taken a stab at Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, the sourpuss vigilante who's been murdering villains in comic books for over 30 years. The first film, in 1989, starred Dolph Lundgren. It turned out as well as could be expected, considering it starred Dolph Lundgren. The reboot, in 2004, starred Thomas Jane and was ridiculed by critics and ignored by audiences.


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