Of all the Marvel Comics comic book characters history and the film industry has been the most unkind to The Punisher. The anti-hero one-man killing machine with no superhuman powers or abilities is the least flashy when compared to Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, or even Blade, so why make a third film based on the character? Simply put, because third times a charm and PUNISHER: WAR ZONE actual tries to finally get the character right after the previous missteps.
It’s fair to say that 1989’s Dolph Lundgren fiasco wanted nothing to do with the character from the comic other then call Lundgren’s character Frank Castle and the 2004 Thomas Jane version, while retailing the signature costume, wanted to play up Castle’s strategic prowess rather then his vengeful one. The 2004 version was light on violence, which cannot be said of the all-new re-imagined Ray Stevenson Frank Castle. Stevenson’s Castle (whom does take a few liberties with the costume) is the perfect embodiment of Marvel’s anti-hero.
The Punisher is a one-man killing machine out to rid the city of all criminal elements. When he accidental kills an undercover police office he wonders if it is time to hang up the hat and move on, but when a mob thug Billy Russoti (Dominic West), whom he thought he killed returns from the dead looking for a little payback (and his stolen money) all bets are off. The vain Russoti with his disfigured façade now goes by the name of Jigsaw and with the help of his mental patient brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson) they plan to put the city aflame and get what belongs to them even if they have to kill the Punisher to get it.
One of the faults of the previous two films is the lack or willingness to faithfully go the distance from the source material especially in terms of villains and violenc, which this film does not disappoint. West’s interpretation of Jigsaw is down right spot on and the violence and carnage is more then all of the other Marvel comics-based films combined. It’s a shame that this film has so much baggage that came before it as I’m sure that audiences would appreciate the journey it took to finally bring the “real” character to the big screen. This version is by no means a perfect film as at times it borders on camp and the use of a child as a way to bring sympathy to Castle’s more sensitive side is far from original. I’m sure that the film will find its audience once the naysayers give it a chance when in comes to DVD.