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Punisher: War Zone (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Netflix recently scored itself another hit Marvel television series with a brand new adaptation of the popular vigilante hero The Punisher. It marked the first “pure Marvel” take on the character. Prior to that, he’d been in the cinematic landscape with efforts from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures to Lionsgate, played by someone new each time; Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson. Lionsgate is looking back upon its output and upgrading them both to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, boasting new and improved picture to go with a fresh new Dolby Atmos track to blast up and down your viewing area. Both are getting released on September 25th and have a DYNAMITE price to lock in for a pre-order currently ($14 & $16 bucks, are you kidding me?). This review tackles my personal favorite Punisher outing of all time, turning 10 years old this year. The low-key, super pulpy War Zone.

Film (RT & Sane People) 

Me 

Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, turns the streets of New York City red as he wages a one man war against the crime syndicate responsible for the death of his wife and two kids. Aided by his trusted sidekick, Microchip, he almost kills Billy Russoti and leaves him horribly disfigured. Billy renames himself Jigsaw and with the help of his crazed brother Loony Bin Jim, recruits criminals from every corner of the city to do battle with Frank.

I’ve made no secret of the years that I unapologetically love Punisher: War Zone. Its completely unique unto itself in the comic superhero genre with its pulpy, grindhouse nature. This film is here to shock and sizzle and does not give a flying F*** what you think. And it winds up being a very true Punisher film in both its presentation and as a sort of satirical look on just “how” the character operates. The film is filthy, grimy, imperfect and just a flat out, cranked up piece of exploitative entertainment. Not even the new Punisher reaches these highs and quite honestly, its likely afraid to approach them. Quite frankly, there’s nothing at all quite like it and its decades removed from an era where it might’ve been “just another weekend at the movies”.

Lexi Alexander rocks. People will promote what they want to and ultimately (Constantly) forget some fact just to fit their narrator. Remember how highly touted Wonder Woman was for being the first female superhero-led movie (It wasn’t) and helmed by a female director (It also wasn’t). Apparently, they all forgot when Lexi Alexander jumped into the most testosterone fueled, machismo-driven, male-action fantasy world and made them all look like wimpy amateurs. Her film is unapologetic and ruthless. From the opening scene, she kicks down the door and says “Don’t fuck with me”. This movie will do the unexpected, go where you refuse to believe it will and is totally soaked in more gore than a lot of Saw movies. All the while she fuels a narrative tells a terrific deconstruction of the usefulness of Frank Castle’s vigilantism. Somehow, this manages to be a complete blast of fun entertainment for adults.

Ray Stevenson will forever be #MyPunisher after this film. Thomas Jane is a good posterboy, but Stevenson’s Castle is the down and dirty, real deal. He huffs running down the streets, is incredibly brutal to his targets and struggles with his own humanity. Dominic West takes a left turn here and becomes a cartoon version of Jack Nicholson’s Joker (Even borrowing his origin story from the Burton movie). He’s over the top and light hearted (Deviously) that counters Stevenson. To add to all of this insanity going on, we have a CHARACTER CALL ‘LOONEY BIN JIM’. Come on, this movies is just balls to the wall. Any more that takes a parkour asshole and blow him up with a rocket mid jump gets a high five in my book.

With this recent viewing, I had an idea for the perfect double feature in my head. Punisher: War Zone and the 1986 Sylvester Stallone film Cobra. I know, you’re thinking “Holy shit, that’s perfect!”. Or perhaps I’m slow and you thought of it 10 years ago. That’s how I’d recommend this movie to people. Did you like Cobra? How would you like to see Cobra with 10x the cocaine? I would loved for THIS iteration of the Punisher to continue via straight to video sequels (Lets just see how crazy we get the lower the production is), but alas, it has just be come a special little blip on the supehero radar. A entry and feat that will likely never again happen or achieve such highs. I’m happy its happened at all, and and I’m extra tickled its already made it to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray!

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Punisher: War Zone’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut full represents the look and feel of this blood drenched Frank Castle escapade. The film was mastered with a 2K DI, but there is indeed a pretty nice upgrade over the standard Blu-ray. It features a much more bold, full look in terms of color and skin tones. Details are stronger and the image is crisper. This thing really has a grimy glow, popping with some good neon. Fans of the film should be pretty happy with how this turned out.

Depth:  Solid depth of field work here. The camera and character movements see a definite boost in confidence here. Spacing between foreground and background see an uptick as well.

Black Levels: Blacks are plenty deep and natural look, maintaining great detail even though this movie is super dark and has a lot of people wearing black clothing. One cool aspect is in the opening sequence when power is cut to the house and you can still make out things, including Castle in the background standing on the table, waiting to pounce.

Color Reproduction: This is a dirty, grimy movie but it is littered with some beautiful neon stinging colors. Background lighting, neon signs, filtered scenes all have some good reds, blues, greens and yellows that look lovely without bleeding and now have some better definition to the characters in them. Much of the sewer, subway tunnel and seedy streets of the city scenes feature some real cool use of the HDR. One nice moment features a snowglobe that has a nice pop to it. And there is also an amazing scene in a church with neons, colored candle lights and more that looks fantastic.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent for the entirety of the film. Facial features like make-up lines, moles, stubble, lip texture, wrinkles, bags under eyes and more come through clear from any given (reasonable) distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digtial

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Punisher: War Zone has an awesome new Atmos track to help bruise you while enjoying some head shots and parkour assassinations. This is a wonderfully layered and balanced track with accurate to environment reproductions. Its a ruthless action movie that comes off as it should be; LOUD. Like the other Punisher movie, you’ll be blasted away when cranking this one up!

Height: Above you get some complimentary stuff, with a couple bullets whizzing and debris crumbling in explosions. It works in a natural occupancy of the space, not going overboard, but never forgotten.

Low Frequency Extension: Once again, loud punching guns, rockets, fist connecting and explosions all rock your subwoofer. Hell, a trunk shutting (Done for effect) shakes the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: The room is well thought out with a fine attention to detail. Directional action is accurate shot to shot and the motion utilized is consuming, full and drives the film. Rear channels do get their own contributions and also help bolster the overall big moments.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Punisher: War Zone 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Lexi Alexander and Director of Photography Steve Gainer

The Making Of Punisher: War Zone (HD, 9:02)

Meet Jigsaw (HD, 3:34)

Weapons of The Punisher (HD, 4:39)

Training To Become The Punisher (HD, 5:47)

Creating the Look of the Film (HD, 2:36)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:08)

Summary 

I love Punisher: War Zone. I make no secret about it. Its filthy and brutal in an over the top and enjoyable way. It also doesn’t give a f***. Lionsgate DOES give a f*** about its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray which sees a very nice improvement in audio and video. They port over all the extras and top it off by adding the trailer to it as well. Even if I wasn’t doing the review for the film, it has a lovely initial price point and would be an instant Day 1 pickup for me because I’m the weirdo that doesn’t just like, but loves the film.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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