It's Ray Stevenson's turn to wear the skull in Punisher: War Zone - here's our review of the 4K Ultra HD combo pack!
This review covers the 4k/Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo Pack
After “The Punisher” Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) leaves a mobster (Dominic West) horribly disfigured, he must then contend the criminal’s new persona of Jigsaw.
2008’s Punisher: War Zone was the third big-screen incarnation of the Marvel anti-hero, with Ray Stevenson donning the skull shirt, following Dolph Lundgren in 1989 and Thomas Jane in 2004. War Zone may be the most faithful adaptation of the graphic novel visually, but its characterization of Frank Castle is as thin as a comic book page.
That’s not to say that Stevenson (who would go on to portray Volstagg in Marvel’s Thor film series a few years later) doesn’t make for a decent Punisher - he very much fits the role. At least physically. For some inexplicable reason, the script doesn’t have Stevenson say a word until nearly half an hour into the film. Instead, we get a series of shootouts and bloodbaths that look great, but carry little emotional impact or resonance.
Director Lexi Alexander seemed to make the one crucial mistake that Jonathan Hensleigh made in directing the Thomas Jane film - inconsistent tone. Alexander mixes what should be a gritty action film with stylized, gruesome violence, and then buries it under dark comedy.
That’s not to say those elements cannot be mixed - in fact, plenty of films balance those elements well. Punisher: War Zone, however, doesn’t. Stevenson is on point as Frank Castle, but the villains are cartoonish buffoons. The overacting and scene chewing mocks the grounded performances given by Stevenson, Julie Benz (who plays a widow of an FBI agent Castle mistakenly killed), and Colin Salmon (an FBI agent out to bring Castle in).
The problem with Alexander’s approach is, after about 30 minutes of extremely graphic violence, the viewer becomes numb to it, and it carries little impact the rest of the way. Every exploding head and splatter of blood actually becomes boring. When sympathetic characters die with no consequence or even a moment of reflection by anyone, the whole film becomes moot. If the characters in the film don’t care who dies, why should you?
Despite the uneven tone, the film’s saving grace is Stevenson himself, who makes the most of a criminally underwritten role. He injects a good measure of humanity even when the script asks him to do little more than shoot a gun and react to the antics of Dominic West’s Jigsaw.
Despite the issues I have with Punisher: War Zone, I recommend it mostly because of one scene. One scene that makes me laugh hysterically in its audaciousness. In a film with pointless, over-the-top violence, it offers up one scene of brutality that is so perfectly executed, it makes the whole film worthwhile. It involves Frank Castle, a bazooka, and an annoying villain who likes to show off his parkour skills. Those who have seen the movie know the scene I speak of. For those who haven’t, I won’t spoil it. But you’ll know it when you see it.
Punisher: War Zone is far from perfect, but even with its faults, it still manages to entertain, thanks mostly to Ray Stevenson. His reign as the Marvel vigilante may have been short, but it was a wild, violent ride.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer for Punisher: War Zone is solid, rendering a dark, deep color palette with all the detail you would want to see, with minimal film grain. Each of the film’s scenes highlight a single color, and the disc captures the look well.
Audio is a fantastic Dolby Atmos track, which separates the music, dialogue and sound perfectly, under-laid with a thundering bass.
Most of the extras on the disc are comprised of featurettes, which provide a satisfying look behind-the-scenes of the film. A trailer and an audio commentary are also included.
The special features included on the disc are:
“The Making of Punisher: War Zone” featurette. Director Lexi Alexander, Ray Stevenson, and members of the cast and crew discuss the making of the film. Running Time: 9:02
“Meet Jigsaw” Featurette. Dominic West explores the over-the-top character of Jigsaw in this featurette, which even features how they pulled off the grotesque makeup. Running Time: 3:34
“Weapons of the Punisher” featurette. Paul Barrette, the film’s weapons supervisor, and military adviser Jon Barton explain the choices of weaponry in the Punisher’s arsenal. Running Time: 4:39
“Training to Become the Punisher” featurette. Director Lexi Alexander and Ray Stevenson are shown undergoing military weapons training to prepare for the film. Running Time: 5:47
“Creating the Look of the Film” featurette. Director of Photography Steve Gainer and other members of the crew explain how they retained a comic book-look in their live-action film. Running Time: 2:46
Theatrical Trailer. Running Time: 1:08
Audio Commentary. Director Lexi Alexander and Director of Photography Steve Gainer provide an informative commentary, explaining their approach to each scene.
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with services like VUDU and Fandango, is included. The code does not provide a 4K digital version of the film in VUDU, however; it is only in HD. It does appear, however, that the code will redeem in 4K from Fandango. Lionsgate has previously said that 4K codes will eventually upgrade redeemed digital copies from HD to UHD. Until that has been confirmed, however, we recommend waiting to redeem a code to VUDU. Lionsgate films do not port to Movies Anywhere.
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Running Time: 103 minutes
Rating: R (Strong Violence, Profanity, Drug Use)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 DTS-HD (Blu-ray only), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: Five featurettes, theatrical trailer, digital copy
Audio Commentary: With Director Lexi Alexander and Director of Photography Steve Gainer
Suggested Retail Price: $22.99