“Who Punishes You?”

That line is spoken by Julie Benz in Punisher: War Zone, and the only one with any thought, care, or logic in the entire movie. As the third attempt by Hollywood to make a film about Marvel Comics anti-hero, War Zone fails too, although in a different way.

For instance, take the lead villain, Jigsaw. Played by Dominic West, the character is campy and over the top, while West gives him the most embarrassing accent you could possibly imagine. It’s painfully cheesy.

On the other side, you have a script that expects the audience to feel sympathy for the Punisher as he blows off people’s heads, or explodes them with a rocket launcher. Is this movie even trying to establish a tone, or does it not care that the audience can’t latch onto these characters amidst the extreme violence?

The dark humor of the gruesome murders is completely off track with the cornball dialogue that tries everything to be even remotely funny. It fails. This is a movie where bandages apparently make sickly noises as they’re removed from a mans face, though whether that is supposed to be funny, disgusting, or someone thought bandages sounded like that remains a mystery.

War Zone is one of those action movies where the good guy isn’t actually great at what he does. It’s that his foes are so completely inept it makes him look better. It’s utterly amazing how Frank Castle can plow through 50 or 60 people with the bare minimum of bullets fired, yet the bad guys can’t even land one of their thousands of rounds on target. Ray Stevenson was the right call for the role, but this film does nothing to make him a lethal vigilante other than offer up some increasingly violent deaths.

There’s no question the only thing worth mentioning is the extraordinary level of violence displayed. It’s mere minutes into the film before the first decapitation, and seconds later before the death count reaches double digits. This is accurate to the source, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The issue with War Zone is everything that surrounds the kills makes no sense.

As far as incoherent stories are concerned, War Zone does pretty well for itself. There’s the mob involved in some form of biological weapon deal that’s never fully explained, the FBI agent working with the inept cop to capture Castle, Wayne Knight as a weapons handler who has zero character development but supports Castle’s cause, a bunch of free runners doing… something, and a wife grieving over her dead husband. There’s more but that covers most of it.

Punisher: War Zone doesn’t do anything right, save for its sadistic (and admittedly entertaining) violence factor. It’s campy yet serious at the same time, and had it settled on either tone, maybe there could have been something here. As it stands, the only thing worth watching for are the imaginative kills. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

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Lionsgate delivers a gorgeous AVC encode for the Blu-ray release of the film, with only intermittent problems. Detail is simply outstanding, revealing individual pores, hairs, and the excellent make-up job on Dominic West. Sharpness remains crisp without wavering. War Zone is a dark movie, so some black crush seems intentional.

Blown out whites are an issue, completely wiping out faces into a white blob. One particular scene, the funeral at the 18-minute mark, is especially bothersome. Intentional? Probably. Distracting? Absolutely. A few moments of minor noise are forgivable. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

A loaded DTS-HD Master 7.1 track delivers on all levels. Gunfire rings out in every speaker during the action scenes. Each bullet packs a deep punch in the subwoofer, delivering a powerful boost to the low end. The highs are clean and without distortion as with any modern film. There’s wonderful immersion inside a mental hospital with patients screaming out in all seven channels. The stereos nicely come into play during non-action, with characters throwing objects around with the audio tracking perfectly. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Extras are weak, likely due to a poor box office. Director Lexi Alexander and cinematographer Steve Gainer deliver a running commentary, offering the best this disc has to offer. A making of is nothing more than a blatant promo. Four meager featurettes total around 15 minutes, focusing on the make-up, weapons, training, and the look of the film. Lionsgate offers the usual MoLog BD-Live garbage, along with some trailers. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Audio]


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