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Movie Review

Punisher: War Zone

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use.

Reviewed by: Ryan Callaway
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
December 5, 2008 (wide—2,400 theaters)
DVD: March 17, 2009
Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate Copyright, Lionsgate
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lionsgate

REVENGE—Love replaces hatred—former israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with jesus

Anger in the Bible

About murder in the Bible

VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem?

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn't this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

Featuring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Julie Benz, Stephanie Janusauskas, Mark Camacho, Romano Orzari, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Larry Day, Ron Lea, Tony Calabretta, T.J. Storm, Carlos Gonzalez-vlo, David Vadim, John Dunn-Hill, Niko Nikolov, Aubert Pallascio, Francis B. Goldberg, Pat Fry, Robert Harrop, Linda Smith, Lynne De Bel, Bill Hall, Matt Holland, Bjanka Murgel, Brent Skagford, James Murray, Cas Anvar, Ethan Gould, Michael Paterson, Kane Chan, Steven P. Park, Edward Yankie, Tracy Phillips, Giovanni Cipolla, Andrew Farmer, Jean-Loup Yale, Miro Bedard, Edouard Keller, Marco Desjean, Lise Sita, Nick Sita, Oleg Popkov, Eric Dauphin, Stéphane Byl, Jon Barton
Director: Lexi Alexander
Producer: Lions Gate Films, MHF Zweite Academy Film, Marvel Enterprises, Media Magik Entertainment, Red Corner Productions, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Avi Arad, Kevin Feige, Ogden Gavanski, Oliver Hengst, Gale Anne Hurd, Bill Johnson, Stan Lee, Jack L. Murray, Michael Paseornek, John Sacchi, Wolfgang Schamburg, Ernst-August Schnieder, Gary Ventimiglia
Distributor: Lionsgate

Based on a comic book character by Marvel Entertainment

“Vengeance has a name.”

“Punisher: Warzone” is the second reboot of the franchise starring Ray Stevenson as The Punisher. Although I enjoyed the other two films, I do believe that his portrayal was the best by far. The movie opens with him interrupting a dinner attended by a mob family and killing everyone in sight. Of course, he does it in style, as we'd expect from Frank Castle, hanging upside down on a chandelier, shooting with two automatic weapons. His night shift doesn't end there, as he then pursues Billy Russoti, played by Dominic West, and his accomplices. He again kills everyone, except Billy, who he feeds into a glass recycling machine. As he is leaving, Frank discovers a wire on one of the men he shot, and realizes that he is an undercover agent.

Although he mercilessly slaughters over a hundred criminals in the film, Frank Castle's humanity has not been lost. He is deeply sorrowful about his mistake, and especially after he learns that the agent he shot left behind a wife, Angela, played by Julie Benz, and a young daughter—interestingly enough—named Grace. Ray Stevenson is a talented actor as he convincingly demonstrates Frank's inner turmoil. His guilt drives him to attempt to right the wrongs by giving money to Angela's daughter. Angela intervenes, and when she realizes who he is, she threatens to shoot him. Frank actually helps her point the gun at himself and tells her to do it. This clearly shows that Frank intends to keep killing until he himself is killed. Angela, after deliberation, cannot do it and tells him to leave.

Frank decides that his one respite is to quit and leave town for good. His side-kick and arms supplier Micro, argues with him that he is still needed. Wayne Knight does an excellent job in portraying this character, and brings some much needed levity to the film. Micro tells Frank that in war, casualties happen, and mistakes are made. Frank still, resolves to leave.

Meanwhile, we find out that Billy survived the glass recycling machine, though he is horribly mangled, and now goes under the moniker of Jigsaw—a name that fits his new visage. He breaks his brother, Loony Bin Jim, out of the mental institution where he's held, and the two determine to kill Frank Castle once and for all. Once Billy finds out that an undercover agent was involved in the operation, he targets Angela and Grace as well. Micro, letting Frank know that their lives may be in danger, convinces him to stay to protect them.

I liked “Punisher: Warzone” far more than I expected. From the trailers I knew it would be an overly violent film, but hoped there were some redeeming qualities. One aspect that I enjoyed was Frank's relationship with Grace. His own daughters were murdered years before, which began his war on crime, and he becomes something of a father figure to her as the movies goes on. Their exchanges are touching, and even Angela eventually warms up to Frank, although there is no romantic storyline. Which is more realistic and for the better.

Another part of the movie I found interesting, was that the heroes were of a religious background, while the villains were decidedly not. Before the death of his wife and children, we learn that Frank was once in seminary studying to become a priest. One scene takes place with him going to a Catholic Church and sitting in the pews to pray or contemplate. He is joined by a priest he once knew, and shortly afterward a cop who is hunting the vigilante throughout the film. It is during this conversation that the priest says, “God be with you Frank,” and Frank responds, “Sometimes I'd like to get my hands on God.”

In the trailer, I was highly offended by this line, but in the context of the conversation it makes sense. They are the words of a desperate and, at times, depressed man. Not excusable, but understandable.

We all know what would happen if Frank or any human got near God outside of His grace. The cop later tells Frank he didn't know he was a religious man. He then says, “I believe they were called the Ten Commandments not the Ten Suggestions,” of course, hinting at Frank's multiple offenses of Number 6. This could lead to interesting discussions on the difference between murder and killing in the Hebrew language. Frank, however, would be guilty of both by this point.

The villains in the film, showed their atheism very clearly. Jigsaw questions Angela about something at one point, and she says, “I swear to God.” He then turns to little Grace and asks, “Would you like to swear on an imaginary friend too?” I was bothered by this initially, but again, in context of the film I thought it was fitting. He is a villain after all—why wouldn't he deny the existence of the God he will answer to one day? It is noteworthy that toward the end of the film, Frank sets someone on fire and while watching him burn, says, “This is just the beginning.” An obvious reference to that person's eternity.

There is also an instance where one of the good guys who is dying, tells Frank that he will see him in hell. Frank says, “If I see you anywhere near that place I'll kicked your (butt) out of there.” Frank's compassion on the “innocent,” and his swift judgment of the guilty, I think is interesting. In one way it can show us how God can be so loving and SO good, much more merciful and kind than any human—yet send the unrepentant to a horrible place like hell. So in that, I do think the film brings up some great spiritual topics.

For the moral rating, I'd say no one under 17 or 18 should see “Punisher: Warzone.” There are more F-words than I could keep up with, some blasphemy, and graphic violence from beginning to end. To name a few, and please don't read the rest of this paragraph if you are younger, or easily offended. A character picks up a wooden chair as a weapon and Punisher kicks it back into the person's face, sending one leg into his eye. Loony Bin Jim tackles an employee at the mental institution behind a desk, and pulls his insides out. We don't see that, but the employee's screams and the sound effects are bad enough. The camera does show Jim EATING some of the insides. Multiple people are shot—close to a hundred. Several are stabbed. One has his throat cut open in a gruesome fashion. Another is cut into pieces with an axe and lives anyway. One unfortunate bad guy has his skull literally punched in. There is more, but that is pretty much the worst of it all. This is a violent film. If you are offended by violence, or have a weak stomach, don't see it. Even I wanted to turn my head a few times.

Overall, I'd say if you enjoy action movies and can stomach the violence, you may enjoy “Punisher: Warzone” for its positive elements. I'm not sure if I could recommend it to any Christian, however. If you already planned on seeing the movie, now you know what you're in for. Personally I don't think it's sinful to see violent movies, as violence is a part of our existence and even the Bible contains it. The problem comes in when we glorify violence, and no one should go to see this movie because they want to view the gore. The story is compelling, the acting is well done, for the most part, and Punisher to me was a decent hero. I found myself at times hoping he would show up in time to save the day. Fortunately, he almost always did.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive

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Neutral
Neutral—If you are a fan of The Punisher comics, this is a faithful adaptation to film. If you are looking for a wholesome family movie with morals, look elsewhere as you don't need to go down a sewer to know that it stinks.

The story line does not appear to link with the last Punisher (2004), it seems to be a separate movie of it's own with a different director and cast. It is a much darker film than the last one. The Punisher himself is on a vendetta to kill the bad guys, namely those involved in organized crime. Killings are faithful to the comic book series with lots of blood and heads blown off. The weapons used in the movie are very real e.g., modified M4, Smith and Wesson 500 etc etc. The combat and martial arts are excellent. Killing people is more blatant and not as ingenious and calculated as “The Punisher” (2004).

Some of the characters in the film are interesting to watch but the Punisher himself is very stoic. He does show remorse at one stage in the film but revenge for his murdered family is what drives him. I thought Thomas Jane as the Punisher (2004) had a better script to work with and expressed inner conflict and emotion so that one felt for him.

As a christian, this movie is an escape for 100 minutes and so I'm not getting too carried away with it. Like so many movies today, it's a study in human nature. It does pose the question, how should evil, irreconcilable men be treated in this world? One things for sure, "vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord" Hebrews 10:30. Not only does revenge never satisfy, it's hardly overcoming evil with good. The Punisher himself has become that which he is trying to eradicate the world of; he's a murderer. If you look at the Punisher's motive, does murdering evil men eradicate the world of evil? Even God himself tried that in the flood. Did it work? Temporarily, but it didn't get to the root of the problem which is man's sinfulness. It is only in accepting what Christ did for us on the cross; taking the punishment which we deserved and being led by the Spirit of God that we can put to death the deeds of our sinful nature.

By loving God and loving others we can make a difference in someone's life and that's a whole lot more useful than permanently blowing someone's head off. Let's not forget Punisher: War Zone is fiction based on a comic book and I give it 3 out of 5 stars overall because it was the director's intention to make a movie faithful to the Marvel Comics character.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—MC, age 39 (Australia)
Neutral—…I saw this movie last night. But before telling you how why I feel mixed feelings towards it, it is imperative to know a little about me. Before coming to Christ, and being born again, I was an avid “Punisher” comics novel fan (am I still? I wonder about that myself…). I was enthralled with the character. I had also enjoyed the 2004 “Punisher” movie (starring Thomas Jane and Travolta)—however, in the comics (mainly the “Marvel Knights” mature-themed comics)—the Punisher's development was growing into an ever increasing violent one.

While feeling that it was growing “over the top violent,” at times, I had found interest in the pondering questions and deliberations inserted into the series by it's storywriters. These deliberations asked the question: HAS HIS RAGE AND UNYIELDING QUEST TO PUNISH THE GUILTY, LEFT ANY SANITY IN FRANK CASTLE ANYMORE? IS THE PUNISHING AND PUNISHMENT-DELIVERING LIFE OF CASTLE, COSTING HIM HIS VERY SANITY?

Like I said above, I was very fascinated with Castle's character, and I have to admit this; there were many times, while reading the comics, that I actually admired the (violent) way in which Castle dealt with the awful sinners he meets. This was, I guess, somewhat of a (at a lack of other words) “guilty pleasure,” of sorts. Coming to Christ, I had learned that Punishment and Judgment are prerogatives of God and God's chosen, and not of… well… self-appointed judges and executioners like Castle. This is what the Good Book teaches us.

But then again, and this depends on your character, I guess… but still, you could not help it but feel good(?) when Castle got rid of a deplorable bad guy. So for a Christian, it's kind of a dilemma, you see? You want to admire Castle, and you (often) do, cause he gives bad guys their due… and bad guys getting their dues gives comfort and relief to anyone who cares about what is correct, fair, honest or just. But is Castle going too far?

The Good Book tells us to leave punishment and retribution to God. Does the Bible say this because it knows of the cost an avenging soul pays? It knows what it does to one such's sanity?

In the new Punisher movie (“Warzone”), there is an interesting scene where a cop says to someone:
“He (Punisher) does to them (evildoers, criminals) what we (law-abiding, fed up and angry about evil) can only fantasize about doing to them.”

Interesting thing he says, right? The Punisher takes the mantle of punishing, but he is, in a way, actually working “in the name” of all those who are fed up with deplorable bad guys, who operate without fear of law or justice, and get away with it (until Punisher walks in their alley, that is).

I was hoping the movie would raise more of such questions and ponder more on such deliberations. That's what makes Punisher an even deeper (and human?) character than he is now, in the movies.

The “Warzone” movie, shows some brief flashbacks of Castle, holding the dead corpses of his children, who were murdered by gangsters (origins of the Punisher). Although the flashbacks scenes are brief, I applaud Ray Stevenson's acting abilities in them. You see his tears filled eyes, staring into nothing in particular, and you realize that something shut down inside Castle. What was it that shut down inside him? Opinions may differ between viewers: maybe, his ability to compromise—maybe, his very sanity.

Yet again, these flashback scenes are too brief and few in between.

I understand the movie went thru considerable trouble during production… Were decisions made to cut such scenes and give emphasis on the violence instead? If so it's unclear why. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel toward The Punisher nowadays. Christ teaches us many teachings which are clearly contradictory with how Castle views life, bad guys and retribution. I love Christ. He has saved my life. I care about what Christ says. Yet, I find it hard not to admire Castle and the fact that he punishes the criminals who abuse human rights in order to continue their sinning and bad deeds, and hurting the innocent.

When law-enforcement officers's hands are “tied”… The Punisher, in many ways, helps them. This is something which is hard to ignore. In any case, I had wished the “Warzone” movie would had given more emphasis on the moral questions and Castle's character. Instead, though Ray Stevenson embodies the Castle character, remarkably, and to the best of his abilities…the new Punisher movie gives emphasis more on violence than on character.

I had thought (and I still) do that a Punisher movie could have been done SO much better. I don't wish to sound like a pessimist, but as a Christian (unsure about how to view Castle as yet), I was hoping for a more character-layered Punisher adaptation.

And I hope that in some phase, Castle get's some comfort and solace from God. God does care about him. Castle just needs to know that again, and still. The scene where Castle is in the Church is also good, and I was positively surprised when he recognizes Scripture. But again, such scenes are too brief.

In any case, don't let kids see this movie. It would be too violent for even some grown ups. Ok. That's what I thought. I hope you enjoyed reading my review. Thanks and good day to you all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Solomon Sasson, age 33 (Israel)
Negative
Negative—Watched part of the movie last night. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me this was not pleasing to him. The violence and profanity was way over board. I expect some profanity from a non-christian film but, enough is enough. The violence was very graphic. The movie left me empty and sad. I believe reading reviews can help us make better Christ like choices. Thanks for your web-site.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Darlene, age 42 (USA)