You can’t keep a good vigilante down, or a bad one for that matter. So as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to be penned out, and Marvel movies in general are starting to show up more often, the work on a new Punisher movie started up. While it was initially supposed to be a sequel, things changed and it wound up becoming it’s own movie and would be the first movie under the Marvel Knights promotion. Many people didn’t care to see the Punisher rebooted a second time but let’s see if it is as bad as people thought as I watch today’s movie, Punisher: War Zone.
The plot: During a party for aging mob boss Gaitano Cesare, Gaitano gets into an argument with Billy Russotti, his top earner, over a shipment Billy has arranged to have come into Queens. Billy’s temper flares when Gaitano insults his brother Jimmy, who is locked away in an insane asylum, but the rest of the group calm them down and they head down to the dinner. Meanwhile, Detectives Martin Soap and Saffiotti are staking out the place believing that Frank Castle, the vigilante known as the Punisher who has been killing off criminals for the past 5 years, will show up. As the dinner commences, the lights suddenly go out and a flare is lit, revealing Castle standing on the table. Castle quickly goes over and kills Gaitano and several other people sitting at the table and when the light’s come on, he hangs down from the chandelier and proceeds to shoot the rest of the people, as well as the guards that start coming in, but Billy and his crew manage to escape. Soap and Saffiotti climb the fence and split up as they head towards the house and Saffiotti runs into Castle but instead of arresting him, he tells him where Billy is heading and tosses him his car keys, then punches himself in the face to make it look like Castle had assaulted him. Billy heads to his glass crushing plant, joking about how he didn’t have to get his hands dirty to take over the family, and gives some money to Maginty and his crew with some instructions. Castle makes his way into the plant and kills one of Billy’s men, Nicky Donatelli, which alerts Billy and the others. As Billy tries to escape from Castle, Castle shoots out a guardrail, causing Billy to fall into the glass crushing machine, which Castle then starts up. As the rest of Billy’s men start shooting at Castle, he takes cover behind Nicky’s body and discovers that he is an undercover agent, just as the FBI storm the plant and start arresting Billy’s men. Castle manages to escape and heads back to his headquarters while the FBI discover that Billy is still alive, though severely wounded. At the funeral for Nicky, his partner Paul Budiansky asks their boss why they aren’t doing more to catch Castle and he tells him they are focused on bigger threats than Castle and says they should be focusing on what Billy has planned. Paul goes to Nicky’s widow, Angela, and promises to get Castle, unaware that Castle was at the graveyard and had observed the funeral process. The next day, Paul goes to the police precinct as an FBI liason and the chief, annoyed with the FBI’s disrespect towards them, sends him down to the “Punisher Task Force” which consists solely of Detective Soap. Meanwhile, Billy is at his hideout and has his doctor brought in to try and repair his face but as the doctor removes his bandages, one of his men, Ink, vomits on seeing his face and his father, Pittsy, chastises him. Later, they head out and Billy, now calling himself Jigsaw, says they need to find out what happened to his money that Nicky took and that they need to kill Castle. When he says that they will break Jimmy out of the asylum to deal with Castle, Ink questions freeing “Loony Bin Jim”, causing Jigsaw to grab him and tell him only to refer to his brother as James. The three head to the asylum and free Jimmy, who promptly attacks and kills the nurse that was feeding him, then starts eating parts of his body. Back at his hideout, Castle is met by his associate Micro, who helps pick up weapons for Frank, and Micro tries to help Castle deal with the guilt he is facing for killing Nicky. Castle later goes to Nicky’s house, intending to give them some money to help them out, and ends up talking to his daughter, Grace until Angela pulls a gun on him. Realizing who it is, she threatens to shoot him, and he points the gun at his chest and tells her to do it but when Grace asks her to help find a pen, Angela turns around and heads inside. Jigsaw, Jimmy, and head to a new hideout and meet with Crystu, who is worried about the protection of his merchandise and, after killing one of Crystu’s men that insulted him, Jigsaw says that things are still good but it will cost $12 million instead of $10, due to the heightened government presence in the are because of the biological material. Castle heads towards Micro’s apartment and witnesses a gang banger buying some guns and taking them into Micro’s apartment. When Castle confronts him, Micro introduces him as Carlos, a reformed gang banger who helps him get the weapons he gives to Castle. Castle says he is planning on leaving but when Micro convinces him that Jigsaw will go after Nicky’s family, Castle agrees to stay and kill Jigsaw. When he mentions Maginty, Carlos says he will take Castle to where his gang is and the two leave. Castle waits in the car while Carlos goes into a bar and learns that MAginty and his crew are hitting a convenience store. Elsewhere, Paul meets Soap at a local bar and questions him on where to find Castle and Soap suggest listening to the radio to see if any crimes come up. As Maginty and his crew race across the rooftops, Castle kills Maginty’s men, then shoots Maginty in both legs and asks him about Jigsaw. When Maginty tells him that Jigsaw is going to see Angela and Grace, Castle throws Maginty off the roof, impaling him on a fence below, then drops down and breaks his neck, right in front of Paul and Soap. Paul chases after Castle and fights with him but Castle gets the better of him but as he goes to pick up Paul’s ID, Paul handcuffs him and as he reads Castle his rights, Castle warns him that Jigsaw is going after Angela and Soap. At the Donatelli’s house, Jigsaw, Jimmy, Pittsy, and Ink show up and begin trashing the place, killing two cops that show up to check on the place. When they don’t hear back from the officers, Paul has Soap drive them over to the house and he goes inside, but as soon as he leaves, Castle tells Soap to uncuff him and Soap reveals that he has been working with him. Paul ends up being captured by Ink and Pittsy but Castle kills Ink and then Pittsy after Paul restrains him. Castle takes Grace and Angela with him for safekeeping while Paul and Soap deal with Jigsaw and Jimmy, who end up being arrested. At the station, Paul is surprised to see his boss, Agent Miller, there and learns that Jigsaw worked out a deal to get immunity for him and his brother in exchange for helping bust the deal with Cristu. When the deal goes down, the FBI arrest Cristu, and then Agent Miller gives Jigsaw the information that they have on Castle, including his known associate Micro. The next morning, Castle can’t get in touch with Micro so he has Carlos watch Grace and Angela while he goes to see him. Meanwhile, Jigsaw and Jimmy have kidnapped Micro and Jimmy goes to capture Grace and Angela while Jigsaw goes to a new hideout and gets ready to recruit some men to deal with Castle. When Castle arrives at Micro’s apartment, he find Micro’s mother dead and rushes back to his hideout to find Carlos mortally wounded and, at his request, shoots Carlos so he doesn’t suffer. Castle heads to a church and speaks with the priest, who is an old friend, before Paul shows up. Castle tells Paul about Jigsaw having Grace and Angela and that he wants to exchange them for Castle, and Castle wants Paul to help set up the trade. Paul wants to do things by the book but Castle doesn’t want to wait. Meanwhile, Jigsaw and Jimmy begin recruiting from all of the local gangs to get an army to deal with Castle. Paul gets Soap and they go to see Tiberiu, Cristu’s father and works out a deal for him to kill Jigsaw. As Tiberiu and his men enter the building, Castle meets up with Paul and Soap and knocks out Paul to keep him from following him inside. As Tiberiu and his men begin shooting Jigsaw’s army, on the ground floor, Castle climbs up the building next door and leaps through the window to begin attacking the men on the upper floors. After killing off the men, Castle encounter’s Jimmy, and the two fight but when Castle gets the upper hand, Jimmy runs off. Jimmy runs back to Jigsaw and when Castle gets there, he finds Jigsaw holding a gun to Micro’s head while Jimmy holds one to Grace’s. Forcing Castle to drop his gun, Jigsaw picks it up and shoots Castle with it several times until there is only one bullet left. He then tells Castle that he has to shoot one of the hostages and and he will let the other go and when Castle doesn’t choose, he threatens to kill them both. Castle tells him to stop but he shoots Jimmy instead and, as Jigsaw kills Micro, Castle jumps in front of Grace to shield her from Jigsaw’s bullets. Castle and Jigsaw start fighting and when Castle gets the upper hand, Castle quickly frees Grace and Angela, then impales Jigsaw with a metal rod and pushes him into a fire pit, watching as he catches on fire. Grace and Angela make it outside, where they run into Paul and Soap, and when Castle emerges, Paul tells him to leave before the cops get there and Soap helps him walk away. Angela stops him and tells him that she had argued with her husband about him and that Nicky felt that Castle was one of the good guys, while Grace waves goodbye. As Castle and Soap walk past the church, Castle disappears and Soap gets attacked by a mugger. Soap calls out for Castle to help him and Castle shows up at the top of the stairs and shoots the mugger.
Punisher: War Zone received the least amount of favorable reviews out of all three Punisher movies, holding a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Punisher: War Zone recalls the excessively violent, dialogue-challenged actioners of the 1980s, and coincidentally feels two decades out of date.” The movie was originally scheduled to be released in September but ended up being pushed back to December due to the rumors of director Lexi Alexander being removed from the film but she confirmed that this was not true. The movie was a box office bomb, earning $10.1 million off of a $35 million budget, making it the lowest grossing movie based on a Marvel comic property.
Despite what the critics said, I enjoyed this movie because this actually felt like a comic book movie. No offense to Dolph Lundgren or Thomas Jane, but Ray Stevenson was the best one of the lot as he actually looked like Frank Castle from the comics and did a great job in the role. Dominic West (Jigsaw), Doug Hutchison (Jimmy), and Colin Salmon (Paul) were also good and I was surprised by how good Wayne Knight was as Micro. The story was pretty good, showing Castle as more than just a brutal killing machine and showcasing some of the humanity that he buries down in order to do what he does. The action scenes were over the top and this is my biggest issue with how the critics take this movie. This is based on a comic book and the action SHOULD be over the top at times. Case in point, Castle using a grenade launcher to kill one of Maginty’s crew mid-leap between the building was something that would totally happen in the comics so it being in the movie makes perfect sense. A bloody, but fun movie to watch.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5