Punisher: Warzone (2008)

Priest: God be with you Frank                                                                                    

Frank Castle: Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God

The Punisher Is one of my favorite comic book characters.   Not sure why, but I just love the guy's straight forward, one man war on anything evil.  The Punisher (1989) with Dolph Lundgren was a great 80's-tastic  action movie, but could have been better.  Just like The Punisher (2004) with Tom Jane was a good  spaghetti western, but not a great Punisher movie.  Both had there faults, my main problem was that it felt like we weren't getting the whole Punisher.  Dolph was a good "dark" Punisher, and Tom Jane was great, but he was just starting out and we never really get to see him in full "Punisher" mode. With Warzone, we get it all.

Quick rundown for those who somehow do not know Frank Castle.  He is a Special forces solider/ cop who's family gets murdered after seeing a mob murder. He goes insane and starts a war on "evil", doling out justice pure vigilante style.  

Warzone is a reboot that starts out 4 years after the murder of Frank Castles family.  Important note for comic fans: we get the right family.  Frank's daughter was not in the 2004 movie- we killed like 20 members of the Castle family but a daughter is too much?  Anyways, Frank has been Punisher for 4 years so he is in full vigilante mode.  Four things that made me love this movie in 20 minutes:

  1. Frank (Ray Stevenson)  looks like Frank from the comics.
  2. A 15 man body count in 10 minutes.
  3. Frank fixes his broken nose with a number two pencil.
  4. Frank DOES NOT speak for twenty minutes.

You might be asking why these things are important, and I answer with "because it makes a great Punisher movie".

The movie is fairly basic in the plot, much like the comics,  but it does the formula well.  Stoic vigilante, bad guys, girl, side kick, Agent with grudge against vigilante, ect...  In this movie it is the details that make or break it and they got those all right.  I read the reviews and I am left asking if I saw the same movie they did, and I finally had to understand that these people have never read any Punisher comic ever.  As I said, they got the family right, it was not an origin story, it is R-rated violence (yes, it is necessary), and all the little details and Easter eggs.  We finally get a cop from the comics with Dec. Soap, we get Punisher's sidekick/ tech guy/ buddy with Micro, and the shout out to Tim Bradstreet (cover artist for many years) made me giggle (the name of the hotel at the end).

Another item that makes this movie far better than the others is the villain: while yes Punisher does regularly go after gangsters, he has a rouges gallery that movie wise has been ignored other than the Russian for one fight.  Yes, it is straight out of the comics, but it is still one fight.  Off the top of my head we have Bushwacker, Ma Gnucci, Hitman, Barracuda and Mr. Payback.  This movie gives us his number one though, Jigsaw.  Jigsaw is one of Frank's worst villains mainly because he has a psychotic grudge against him after Frank disfigured his face, hence Jigsaw.  At one point he even started wearing an outfit just like Punisher's with the skull disfigured like Jigsaw's face.  While the anti-Punisher suit does not make it in the movie, I feel Dominic West did an awesome job with Jigsaw.  The second he entered I was eagerly awaiting his disfiguring and the movie did not disappoint.  He was wonderfully sadistic, and humorously psychotic.  

It is hard to go through this while still leaving something for you to watch.  Needless to say it works out for Frank in the end, though as I'm writing this there are no plans for a sequel  which makes me sad.   Though you can find Ray Stevenson in other Marvel works (Volstagg in Thor & Thor 2, Punisher on Super Hero Squad), he is the best Frank Castle to date.  As a Punisher fan I had my list of things I wanted in Punisher movie and this delivered all plus some, which is surprising considering it was supposed to be a sequel to the 2004 movie that almost went to development hell before getting reworked into a reboot.  It was quietly done, not getting much attention while it was being made, and I feel it never got it's fair chance.  Many people were confused as to whether this was a sequel or a reboot, and going up against Batman: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Taken, and Speed Racer probably did not help it at all.  Again, greatest Punisher movie to date, severely under-rated and deserves another chance.