Punisher: War Zone (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon
Directed by Lexi Alexander
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
I know what you're thinking -- "What the fuck is a review for Punisher: War Zone doing here on Dread Central?" You have every right to think that. In fact, I thought long and hard about whether or not to cover it. But here are the facts -- Punisher: War Zone features a crazed disfigured psycho and his cannibalistic sidekick and just as much (if not more than in some cases) violence and gore as any grindhouse release from yesteryear. Frank Castle punishes true maniacs in this movie that are straight from the loony asylums that keep them off our streets. Looking at it that way, although a bit fringy, this movie fits right in.
The Punisher in this flick is played by Ray Stevenson, whom you may remember from the sleeper genre sensation The Outpost (review here). After his family is brutally murdered, he makes it his mission to be the vigilante that we all need. One who will deal with society's psychos when no one else will. Unfortunately during his latest mission he accidentally kills a fellow cop who was undercover and leaves his main target (West) horribly disfigured but still alive. Grief-stricken over his mistake, Castle tries to make amends with the fallen officer's family, but they're having none of it. Just as things seem like they couldn't get more complicated, the scum he assumed was dead breaks his cannibal brother out of the loony bin and comes back to take revenge on The Punisher by attempting to bump off the untimely widow of the man he killed and her little girl. Of course this will not stand with our hero, and that's when things go completely insane.
Punisher: War Zone erupts in an orgy of violence. Faces are punched in, heads are blown off, body parts are severed, and it all happens at a truly manic pace. It's so very over-the-top that it's near impossible for even the most jaded of grue-hungry horror fans to not enjoy this masterpiece of bloodstained goodness. One viewing and you won't question why we covered this ever again. It's that damned good and that damned violent.
The DVD and the Blu-ray are pretty packing, too, but before we get to all that, let's talk about the picture and sound. While the DVD edition is more than satisfactory, the Blu-ray totally steals the show in terms of quality viewing. The filmmakers wanted the look of the movie to mirror the comic so we do have a bit of a limited color palette to work with, but man is it sweet to behold. The black levels are strong and solid from start to finish, and the colors, when they are there, are eye-popping. Plus, the movie sounds even better than it looks. I swear to god I have never heard a soundtrack this chaotic, crisp, and clear. Bullets will be whizzing by you from all angles of your 5.1 (or better) set-up, and the sound of burning and tearing flesh will have you either begging for more or begging for mercy.
In terms of supplemental material it should be noted that with the exception of two items the features on both the DVD and Blu-ray are identical.
Things kick off with a sadly by-the-numbers audio commentary with director Lexi Alexander and director of photography Steve Gainer. Honestly, there's nothing here that you won't get out of the myriad of special features so let's move along, shall we? Also by-the-numbers are the five behind-the-scenes featurettes. They range between two to nine minutes long, and if you look at their titles below, they're exactly what you'd expect them to be. Special kudos to Ray Stevenson though. As you'll learn from watching these, this guy put himself through some tough stuff to assume the role. I can only hope he'll be back for a sequel. Add on a trailer and a standard definition digital copy, and we're pretty much done.
In terms of Blu-ray exclusives you can create and add bookmarks to your favorite scenes and also access the new MoLog Movie Blog Network, which allows users to insert and animate shapes, text, audio, and images directly into the film. The feature also enables you to compose and share blogs with others registered on MoLog. Nifty, but will you use it? Probably not.
Considering this flick underperformed so drastically at the box office, I can only hope it finds its audience at home. Throw your reservations out the window and leave your inhibitions at the door. Punisher: War Zone is a genre-bending thrill ride that offers wall-to-wall gruesome for your viewing pleasure. See it asap!
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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