Punisher: War Zone Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £24.99
PicturePunisher: War Zone comes blasting to Blu-ray with a decent enough video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Although significantly enhanced by the power of 1080p High Definition, the rendition is still somewhat flawed, but perhaps this is more a limitation of the material than the technical capabilities. Detail is generally strong, with nice touches - like warm breath steaming out into cold air - coming across clearly throughout. The gritty look of the film can sometimes, however, be unforgiving, and whilst some scenes look both dark and clinically clean, others are peppered with a heavy grain that is clearly way beyond that which was intended. Softness is largely eschewed, and there is little sign of any digital tinkering, but those sporadic moments of unnecessary grain can be somewhat annoying. The colour scheme is bright and vivid - the church looking more like a night-club, the movie really looking like a comic-book brought to life, and New York coming across like the antithesis of the monochromatic portrayal it so often gets in serious dramas (like CSI: NY). Blacks remain powerfully solid (again, with exception to those moments where grain rears its ugly head) and overall this is a strong presentation, brought down by unnecessary lapses.
SoundSimilarly strong in aural terms, the Blu-ray release of this movie boasts a noisy DTS-HD track, of the 7.1 variety no less. Far from a dialogue-driven affair, the words spoken definitely take second stage to everything else on the track, even the ambient atmospheric effects (the noisy Police precinct, the busy New York streets) taking precedence over the often clunky dialogue. Of course, effects are normally larger than life, the ever frequent gunshots sounding out across your living room and reminding you why you placed your surround speakers so carefully about it. Every blow hits hard and hammers home, windows smashing, noses breaking and bones crunching painfully as the criminals go down. A few explosions also give the LFE channel something to do apart from just enhance some of the more powerful gunshots and this track really showcases what loud, bullet-based action movies can do in terms of sound design alone. The score is quite thematic, also adding to that comic-book feel despite never really breaking free from being one of those generic comic-book hero scores, the likes of which you would have assumed to have accompanied the previous Punisher interpretations. Overall it is a blunt, noisy track, often devoid of style or depth itself, instead showing us what bombast can do for the right sort of movie.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary by the Director Lexi Alexander, one of very few female action Directors out there (and even Kathryn Bigelow had the advantage of having been married to James Cameron). Accompanied by her cinematographer, we get background into how some of the action sequences were shot, and the track can often seem a little dry and technical coming from these two, but at least Alexander has the ability to critically analyse her own work, often pointing out some scenes which could have been done better (although you do have to wonder why, if she could see that they could have been done better, she - as Director - did not choose to reshoot/rework them at the time). In terms of Featurettes, the offerings here are all fairly short and flimsy. We get just under ten-minutes' worth of behind the scenes comments and footage with The Making Of The Punisher: War Zone, a brief five minute look at Training to Become The Punisher, which shows us the combat training Ray Stevenson embarked upon (including working with US Marines), The Weapons of The Punisher takes a similarly brief look at his massive arsenal, Meet Jigsaw only spends three minutes dissecting the make-up work done to bring Dominic West's villain to life and Creating the Look of The Punisher spends even less time discussing the style and look of the movie. The disc is rounded off with a bunch of Trailers for recent and upcoming blockbusters, like the marginally disappointing Terminator: Salvation and the slightly unnecessary Tony Scott remake of The Taking of Pelham 123.
VerdictPunisher: War Zone is a silly, no-brainer action movie, which eschews characterisation and decent dialogue in favour of comic book fun and no-holds-barred violence. Forgiving its faults you find a non-stop actioner, bereft of PG-13 limitations and thus packed with bullets, blood and guts. The movie would have been hailed had it been released in the late 80s/early 90s but in the new generation it just does not have enough depth for the majority of viewers. If you can switch your brain off, however, it is immensely entertaining, and probably the best interpretation of the vicious anti-hero character that has yet hit our screens. On Blu-ray the video flips from perfect to flawed, mostly falling in the former category, and the noisy soundtrack certainly packs a punch, even if it has little depth. With a few extras to round off the disc, this purchase should content most fans, but likely only entice newcomers to a rental for a drunken night in. Silly but enjoyable.
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