Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Castle Clash!

Director: Lexi Alexander
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchinson, Colin Salmon

In his third big-screen adaptation, Frank Castle (Stevenson) wages a one man war against a disfigured mobster known as Jigsaw (West). The results leave an initial feel of something stooped in gritty realism, which clashes with parts that feel more over the top. As a result, Lexi Alexander's film suffers from this tonal confusion.

To his credit, Ray Stevenson manages to be one of the few members of the cast that actually takes their role seriously. He embodies the Punisher with a sincere delivery of his lines, and an effective glare that lends credence to him portraying a vigilante murderer. In short, he makes a good fit for the role.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his antagonistic co-stars. Dominic West hams it up while putting on a thick accent, but it's Doug Hutchinson who takes things to Gonzo levels. His wacky rendition of the sensitively named "Loony Bin Jim" pushes things into cartoonish territory.

Get ready for a Punishing Dance-Off (sorry)

West's character, Jigsaw, feels derivative of the many "wacky" comic-book villains that have made the leap to the big screen, while LBJ comes off a generic mash-up of the wacky sidekicks. What doesn't help is West's prosthetics looking too fake to be taken seriously, or how much of a leap is made in him taking on the name "Jigsaw".

Very few of the other cast members are notable, with the only part of Colin Salmon's generic cop worth mentioning being his accent that's caught between British and American.

It's pointless to complain about the excessive gore, as that's a staple of both the genre, and The Punisher comics. But that can't be said about the needless insertion of "parkour" (remember that?), and many of the scenes which fall flat, including the unsubtle sight of Jigsaw calling various gangs to arms while the American Flag waves in the background, But, credit where it's due, the final assault is handled well.

In recent years, director Lexi Alexander has commented on how Lionsgate had final say over her on the film. It's one thing to wonder of results had the director been given the final say, but it's wholly unfortunate this was the final product. At best, Punisher: War Zone is yet another lesson on what not to do when adapting the character.