Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On DVD: Punisher War Zone (2008)

Four years after Marvel Comics' The Punisher had been rebooted for the big screen, Frank Castle is back in action, but for the third time in as many films, a different actor essays the part in "Punisher War Zone".

Wikipedia claims that "War Zone" is another reboot, more so than a sequel, largely because the lead was recast. Irish actor Ray Stevenson takes over for Thomas Jane as Castle in what ended up being the weakest of 2008's field of comics movies. It certainly was the weakest of Marvel's lot.

Considering that DC was represented by "The Dark Knight" that same year, it's easy to assume that the producers subconsciously had that in mind when they chose Castle's nemesis, Jigsaw, to be the villain of this piece. Dominic West plays his part well, but the origin given to Jigsaw, in which he had his face destroyed in a glass cutting machine, is a gross parallel to the better known story of the Joker, Batman's chief antagonist. It is clear that Marvel and/or Lionsgate wanted "War Zone" to be their "Dark Knight", but somewhere along the way, the idea fell off the rails.

Sitcom star Wayne Knight (currently on TV Land's The Exes, but better known for Seinfeld & 3rd Rock From The Sun) plays it straight as Castle's armorer and confidant, Microchip, who was being posited here, as in the comics, as Alfred to Castle's plain-clothed Batman. For those of you who might think this was a bad case of miscasting, I'd disagree. Knight acquitted himself well, and you'd have to go back to the first "Jurassic Park" film for another instance of Knight in a dramatic role.

Overall, however, "War Zone" lacked distinction and originality. Luckily, Marvel's movie division has the rights to Punisher and are planning another reboot. Perhaps they'll get it right this time.

Here's the trailer:

And you wonder why this movie doesn't air that often on TV.

Rating: D.

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