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Film / Punisher: War Zone

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The third film adaptation of The Punisher, directed by Lexi Alexander and released in 2008.

Ruthless vigilante-hero Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson), waging his one-man war on the world of organized crime, sets his sights on overeager mob boss Billy Russoti (Dominic West). After Russoti is left horribly disfigured by Castle (who accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent during his attempted hit), he sets out to get revenge on Castle under the alias of Jigsaw. With the "Punisher Task Force" hot on his trail and the FBI unable to take Jigsaw in, Frank must stand up to the formidable army that Jigsaw has recruited before more of the mobster's evil deeds go unpunished.

A critical and financial failure upon initial release, the film nonetheless has a small cult following, chief among them Patton Oswalt who gave it a Colbert Bump in this blog post. Having more in common with Garth Ennis's run on Punisher MAX than the last movie, the film could be described as a giant monument to violence, stupid fun, masculinity and balls-out insanity.

This is only one of two films (the other being Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) produced under the Marvel Knights banner, which was intended to be a cinematic equivalent of the Marvel Comics imprint of the same name. Though not an entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film is also a co-production between Marvel Studios and Lionsgate.

This film has the examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Frank goes through one after learning that he killed a FBI mole. He actually tries to quit his job as a Vigilante Man, but he's persuaded to continue in order to protect the Donatelli family from Jigsaw's wrath.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The film uses characters from both the mainline Punisher comics (Jigsaw as his presence in the MAX series only came about a few months before the release of the movie, Detective Soap, Carlos Cruz, and Microchip) and The Punisher MAX (The Bulats, Pittsy and Ink, Maginty, Paul Budiansky, and Don Cesare).
  • Abled in the Adaptation: Downplayed. Don Cesare is still wheelchair-bound, but cognizant enough to still run his family.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Jigsaw's last name is changed from "Russo" to "Russoti".
    • Massimo Cesare's first name is changed to "Gaitano".
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the comics Microchip eventually became an enemy of Frank before his death, while here he remains an ally to him throughout all the way to his murder.
  • Adaptational Job Change:
    • In the comics, Paul Budiansky was a member of the NYPD like Martin Soap. This version is an FBI agent.
    • In the comics, Carlos Cruz was an ex-gang member and ex-Navy SEAL who temporarily took the Punisher mantle when Microchip and Frank had a falling out. In this movie, Carlos is a former gang member who helps Microchip procure guns for Frank.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The Bulats are Russian here, not Romanian.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: To some degree. A couple of characters (Cristu Bulat, Tiberiu Bulat, Pittsy, Ink, Carlos Cruz, and Maginty) are In Name Only and not as nearly as horrible as their comic book counterparts.
    • The Bulats serve as normal Russian criminals types, and Cristu is also a smuggler in New York City though Tiberiu is referred as being a Retired Monster. In the comics they were former war criminals who became human traffickers. Additionally, unlike the comics, this version of Tiberiu loved Cristu enough to seek revenge on Jigsaw for having him arrested, whereas both father and son in the comics pissed each other off enough that they've tried to kill each other.
    • Pittsy and Ink are now father and son rather being those two henchmen and serve as Jigsaw's more sane underlings. In the comics they were equally as unhinged as their boss in the comics, Nicolas Cavella.
    • Frank and Carlos Cruz had a blatant animosity in the comics up to the point they were constantly fighting each other during the latter's appearances in the mainline comics. In this movie, the animosity was toned down since Microchip and Frank remained permanent allies, and Carlos was never hired to replace Frank as the Punisher.
    • Finally, Maginty is now the gang leader in a Urban Freeflow Gang who do their thing with Le Parkour. In the comics he was involved in a gang war where he kidnapped an elderly former "cleaner" for the Irish Mob and made him slowly slice up a living rival.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Inverted when Jigsaw — a villain who, in the comics, was part of the mob family involved in the Castles' death — becomes a straightforward example of Create Your Own Villain.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Martin Soap is less depressed and more chipper despite his Butt-Monkey status.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Carlos Cruz, Pittsy, Ink, and Maginty, are lacking in the badassery their comic book counterparts had.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jigsaw and his appropriately named brother "Loony Bin Jim".
  • Big Applesauce: War Zone moves Frank back to New York, as Marvel probably caught on to the whole every hero in New York thing and decided to start expanding a bit, like they did with Iron Man.
  • Bottomless Magazines:
    • Averted. Punisher is almost constantly reloading during his firefights — either conventionally or in the "New York" fashion.
    • There's also a very rare example of character changing mags before they went dry just to make sure he won't run out of ammo in the middle of shootout.
    • Also Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim surrender only because they run out of ammo and they apparently haven't brought spare mags.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The orderly really should have been nicer to Loony Bin Jim...
  • Canon Character All Along: Inverted; Nicky, one of Jigsaw's goons (who's actually a mole for the FBI) is not Nicky Cavella, fan-favorite villain from The Punisher MAX.
  • Canon Foreigner: "Looney Bin Jim", the brother of Jigsaw, and the Donatelli family.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: The NYPD are just making a token effort to catch the Punisher. The Punisher Task Force only consists of Detective Soap who is later revealed to be feeding Castle information, and Detective Saffiotti not only lets Castle escape, he gives him his car keys.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the 2004 film, adding Bloodier and Gorier to boot. The film is one of the darkest Marvel films ever created, if not the darkest. So much so that Marvel created an entire new film subsidiary, Marvel Knights, to place its future dark films under to establish them as something a little more edgier than the usual Marvel fare (the only other film to date to use this banner is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance).
    • Despite this, the film is also a bit Denser and Wackier compared to the last two Punisher films thanks to elements like the unrealistic, over the top violence and Jigsaw's antics.
  • Diagnosis from Dr. Badass: Loony Bin Jim, during his fight with Frank Castle in the bathroom, begins to say what is wrong with the Punisher during each blow:
    Loony Bin Jim: Blood in the urine, an early indicator of kidney failure.
    Loony Bin Jim: You should be seeing double right about now.
    Loony Bin Jim: That would be a torn meniscus.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim genuinely care for each other. Also the Bulats, unlike their comic counterparts.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While he is a crime boss and as mentioned below under "Politically Incorrect Villain", a bigot towards anyone of Middle-Eastern descent (and his stance against helping importing biological agents is probably Pragmatic Villainy as someone who's constantly dealing with the FBI and NYPD probably doesn't want Homeland Security on top of those agencies), Gaitano Cesare doesn't approve of Jim being an Ax-Crazy, cannibalistic sadist, as he mentions having Jim locked up.
  • Extreme Mle Revenge: Frank delivers a brutal beatdown to Jigsaw in revenge for him killing Microchip.
  • Facial Horror: Jigsaw's face, as always; after being mangled in a glass-crushing machine, he endured such serious damage that even extensive plastic surgery was unable to do much for the mess that his appearance had become.
  • Fake in the Hole: Inverted. The Punisher puts a grenade inside a paint tin and kicks it inside a room. A mook is relieved to see it's only a tin, so he doesn't kick it back out again. Then it explodes.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Billy "Jigsaw" Russoti, though he does really seem to care for his brother.
  • Flag Drop: Jigsaw wants an army to take on the Punisher, so says he'll do what Uncle Sam does and recruit from deprived neighbourhoods. Cue Jigsaw standing in front of a projection of the US flag while giving a Rousing Speech to various street gangs, with stirring music and culminating an OH-RAH!
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Loony Bin Jim kills the orderly, only his screams and the sound of his guts being ripped out are heard, but at one point Jim can be seen pulling out his kidneys.
  • Groin Attack: A rare example where it's the hero who's on the receiving end; where the fight between Frank Castle and Looney Bin Jim has the latter dishing out nutshots twice on the former.
    Looney: [after striking Frank in the nuts] "Won't be replacing that son of yours anytime soon."
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Punisher uses both pistols all the time until he is out of ammo.
    • Given how inept Soap is with a gun, Budiansky just takes the pistol off him and covers Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim with a gun in either hand.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: It initially seems that the movie will be about saving the city from a biological weapon that Jigsaw is smuggling on behalf of the Russian mob. But then, Jigsaw betrays the Russians to the authorities in return for an immunity deal and information on Frank for his personal vendetta.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim threaten Castle to kill either the Donatellis or Microchip, Micro immediately tells Castle to shoot him even though he only knows the Donatellis indirectly, explicitly saying "She's just a kid, Castle". Castle shoots Loony Bin Jim instead as he was threatening the Donatellis, but this leaves Micro to be shot by the rest of Jigsaw's goons before Punisher can take them out.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Implied with Jigsaw when he mockingly tells Grace Donatelli that her mother is swearing to an "imaginary friend" when she swears to God that she doesn't know where his money is.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted; During Castle's attack on Jigsaw's hideout, Castle uses an M4 variant with a suppressor. The gunshots sound more like muffled cracks than a "fwip". Also, the Smith and Wesson model 500 he uses is fitted with a suppressor which makes the shots sound like loud thuds.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The first thing Loony Bin Jim does when he's busted out of the mental hospital is eat an orderly's kidneys.
  • Karma Houdini: Tiberiu Bulat, one of the comic's notable monsterous characters, was last seen overseeing a Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work to pave way for the Punisher. On the other hand, considering the big shoot out that ensued, it's very likely that he was killed by one of Jigsaw's men.
  • Large Ham: Dominic West was surely having a ball as Billy Russoti/Jigsaw.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: After getting a look at his mutilated face and seeing a jigsaw puzzle, Billy decides to adopt this as a new moniker.
  • Made of Iron: Frank Castle.
  • Made of Plasticine: Anyone who is not Frank Castle. Some bad guys are gibbed in ways that should not be possible; early on, Frank headbutts a Mook so hard it pulls skin off of his face, and a mob boss is beheaded with a tactical knife.
  • Mercy Kill: Frank inflicts one on a mortally wounded Carlos, after the latter begs him not to let him bleed to death.
  • Mistakenly Attacked Mole: Good chunk of Frank's actions are motivated by his horrified reaction to killing a mole for the FBI and not realizing it until it was too late.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The plot of the movie is kicked off by Frank killing one of Russoti's men, Nicky Donatelli, only to find a wire on him and realize that Donatelli was really The Mole for the FBI and thus Frank shot an undercover agent.
  • Narcissist: "Billy the Beaut" Russoti is introduced checking out his reflection in a car rear view mirror. He doesn't take his disfigurement well, at one stage breaking down in tears on seeing his reflection. His Loony Bin Jim shows his brotherly affection by smashing every mirror in the room, and every other mirror he comes across so his brother won't be bothered by his looks again.
  • One Last Job: The Punisher intends to retire out of guilt after killing the undercover FBI agent Nicky Donatelli, however he's persuaded to continue "punishing" after Donatelli's family is endangered by Jigsaw. By the end, it's clear that despite killing a majority of the criminal element in Jigsaw's ill-fated "Punisher party", there are still criminals that need to punished and Frank's not stopping any time soon...
  • Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You: When Frank shoots a Mafiosi who turns out to be an undercover federal agent, he brings the widow a duffel bag of money in compensation, but reacts calmly when she draws a gun on him instead, even advising her to aim at his heart and squeeze the trigger. She only stops because her child walks in on them, though she doesn't make another attempt to kill Castle, only refusing to accept his money.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Both Gaitano Cesare and Jigsaw himself refer to the people they suspect are getting the package the latter's shipping in for the Bulats as "the ragheads in Queens".
  • Related in the Adaptation:
    • Jigsaw is presented as the nephew of Don Cesare, as Jigsaw calls him "Uncle" and Pittsy says "I'm sorry about your family" after the Punisher kills Cesare.
    • Those Two Guys Pittsy and Ink are depicted as father and son.
  • Sadistic Choice: Jigsaw and his Ax-Crazy brother Loony Bin Jim give Frank a literal one in the form of a Shoot the Dog scenario: if Frank chooses between killing either the Donatellis or Micro, the brothers release the ones who were spared, otherwise they just kill all three hostages. Although Micro offers himself to Frank to spare the Donatellis, the latter instead elects to Take a Third Option. He kills Loony Bin Jim instead, and Jigsaw retaliates by killing Micro. Although given Frank's last words to Micro ("You won't feel a thing, Micro") coupled with Micro's nod to Frank, it seems as if they both understood that no matter who Frank choose, all of the hostages would have been killed anyway; by eliminating Jim, it gave Frank a brief window of time to save the Donatellis. Once they are out of harm's way, he then brutally makes sure that Jigsaw pays for Micro's death.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In this poster, Frank Castle is in a war zone and about to shoot you.
  • See You in Hell: Used in the final exchange between a mortally wounded Carlos, and Frank.
    Carlos: I'll see you in hell, Frank.
    Punisher: If I see you anywhere near hell, I'll kick your ass out.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spiritual Successor: This film is apparently both a sequel and reboot to the 2004 film, the same way The Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance were to Hulk and Ghost Rider, respectively.
  • Take That!: According to the director, the scene of the parkour practitioners being brutally killed was a dig at the overabundance of parkour scenes in action films at the time, such as in The Incredible Hulk and Live Free or Die Hard.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    Jigsaw: Billy is dead. From now on, you call me... Jigsaw.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Frank kills a guy using a rocket launcher.
    • Frank kills Jigsaw via both impalement and immolation at the same time. Justified, as Frank is absolutely furious over Jigsaw killing Micro.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • You expect this from Loony Bin Jim right off the bat... but Ink takes one of the Donatelli wall mounted swords, stabbing a female officer before going back to snort coke.
    • In the opening fight sequence, Frank kills a mob boss' wife by snapping her neck when she tries to shoot him.
  • You Have Failed Me: After the plastic surgeon informs him that the damage to his face was too severe for any serious repair work to be performed, Jigsaw stabs the doctor in the head with a pair of scissors.