Grade B

An action-packed, bloody, violent movie that comes closest to a faithful adaptation of the comic book character, but still misses the mark.

The third movie about Marvel Comics’ Punisher character stars Ray Stevenson, who is far and away the better actor for the role than Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane ever were.  “Punisher: War Zone” takes place in NYC — or more to the point, what could barely pass for NYC in Canada — where Stevenson and a new, disfigured (thanks to Stevenson) mob boss go head to head for control of the city.  Both men are monsters in their own right: Stevenson is a fearsome monster to the bad guys, a vigilante who kills criminals by the hundreds after his family is killed by gangsters; and Dominic West (playing mob boss Jigsaw) is a homicidal maniac who preys on civilians, cops, and other gangsters to attain more power and money.  With their goals at polar opposites, only one will come out alive.

I like the dark look, the large assortment of guns, and hyper-violence of this adaptation which closely resembles what I remember seeing in my issues of The Punisher comics from the late 80s to early 90s.  At one hour and forty-three minutes long, “Punisher: War Zone” moves along fairly quickly, albeit at the cost of not showing enough of The Punisher’s murdered wife and kids, which prevents the audience from connecting deeper with Stevenson’s character and really getting behind him in his quest for vengeance and justice.

Similar to the two previous Punisher movies, this one also contains shenanigans that really stick out like a floating turd in a swimming pool.  The NYPD cars are the wrong color; the cops who show up at the house of the family of the deceased FBI agent after a tip about a possible break-in and kidnap attempt go into the house as if they’re looking for a lost cat (of course, the stupid cops get killed); and Stevenson walks around Manhattan wearing his full Punisher gear and no one notices!  Yes, it’s night time, but we are talking about Manhattan: a borough that never sleeps, with many people walking around at all hours of the day and night.  Stevenson is a wanted and famous man, and not one person notices this big dude in full body armor carrying numerous guns out in the open!  Get the hell out!

Before my mind explodes from the absurdity of how these shenanigans got through the screenwriting and editing process, let’s discuss my memorable, movie moments of “Punisher: War Zone.”  Third place goes to the scene when we first see Microchip, Punisher’s intel/weapons procurement guy.  Finally, this crucial character from the comic books is given life in the big screen!  Second place goes to the scene when West is having a meeting with Russian gangsters.  After the Russians speak among themselves in their native language, West tells them “You’re not in Transylvania anymore; we don’t talk vampire.”  Ha ha!  First place goes to the scene when Stevenson punches a hole in a gangster’s face, then blows off the face of the gangster’s father!  It was the sudden, back to back, son/father facial destruction that made my jaw drop.

I recommend this movie to any Punisher fan.  I doubt many of you will be very happy with it, but I’m confident many of you will be satisfied with “Punisher: War Zone.”  Repeating what I stated at the end of my previous post, Punisher fans must see “Daredevil” season 2 for the best version of the Punisher character ever.

— M