PUNISHER WAR ZONE 2-Disc Special Edition Studio: Lionsgate Year: 2008 Rated: R Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.35:1) Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish Release Date: March 17, 2009 THE MOVIE ( ½ out of ) Punisher War Zone is the story of Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson), aka the Punisher, a vigilante who wages a war on organized crime after his family is brutally slain by mobsters. Frank is assisted in his war on crime by Linus Lieberman aka Microchip (Wayne Knight), an armorer and confidant who serves Frank in the same manner that Q provides assistance to James Bond or Alfred Pennyworth helps Bruce Wayne. Frank’s major nemesis is Jigsaw (Dominic West), a mobster whose face was hideously disfigured after the Punisher threw him into a bottle-crushing machine. Assisting Jigsaw is his brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) after Jigsaw extracts Jim from a mental hospital. Punisher War Zone is the third live-action movie made about the Marvel Comics vigilante. They say that the third time is the charm, and this is arguably the best movie adaptation of the Punisher to date. The screenplay does an admirable job of culling from the best of the Punisher comics and melds its source material into an action movie that is more true to its source than any previous movie incarnation of this character. One of the screenwriters has previously written for Law and Order and The Sopranos (Nick Santora) and the other two writers also received screenwriting credits on Robert Downey’s Iron Man (Art Marcum & Matt Holloway). The Punisher and his rogues’ gallery bear more than a few similarities to the Dark Knight detective: both are vigilantes without superpowers who have a fragile relationship with law enforcement, both had their families slain by criminals, and both have secret hideouts where they are provided gadgets and assistance from confidants who know their secrets. Those viewers who are familiar with the comic book origins of the Joker will also see some similarities in the Punisher’s rogues gallery of Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim. If you are a fan of either violent, balls to the wall action movies or of the original Punisher comics, then it does not get much better than this. VIDEO ( out of ) The movie is in 1080p high definition in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Most of the movie takes place at night or in dark places and the color palette is limited deliberately for dramatic effect, and red and blue are the dominant tints. The production designers made an aesthetic decision to have no more than 2 or 3 dominant colors in any one scene, which gives the film a unique look. Detail on shadows and fine objects is excellent without any perceptible compression artifacts. As with most Lionsgate transfers, an appropriate amount of grain is apparent with no overt edge enhancement or DNR marring this Blu-Ray transfer. It would be a stretch to call this reference quality, but it is not far off. The clarity in shadow details compare favorably here to the excellent quality of the Dark Knight Blu-Ray transfer. AUDIO ( ½ out of ) The English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio tracks make excellent use of all speakers for an immersive experience. The gunshots, explosions, and music make this film a prime candidate for testing or showing off the range of your sound system. Dialogue tracks come through strong and comprehensible here, which is sometimes a problem in films with this much ambient surround sound. SPECIAL FEATURES ( out of ) The special features are located exclusively on disc 1. Disc 2 consists of a digital copy for transfer to portable media device. The special features are all in 1080p and include all of the following: Audio Commentary: The commentary is provided by director Lexi Alexander and director of photography Steve Gainer. The Making of Punisher War Zone (9:02): Cast and crew are interviewed regarding making the movie along with some behind the scenes footage. Meet Jigsaw (3:44): Dominic West talks about the challenges of acting in the elaborate makeup necessary for portraying Jigsaw. The Weapons of Punisher (4:39): Technical advisers talk about the selection of firearms for Frank Castle and for the various factions in the film. Training to Become the Punisher (5:47): Ray Stevenson is shown in boot camp training with firearms and in martial arts in preparation for the film. Creating the Look of the Film (2:46): The production designers talk about the aesthetic color choices made for various scenes in the movie. Also From Lionsgate: Trailers for Crank 2, The Haunting In Connecticut, Transporter 3, Saw V, The Burrowers, The Spirit, and Hulk Vs. These trailers also show automatically at the beginning of the disc. A theatrical trailer for Punisher: War Zone (1:08) is also included. Molog: This feature allows users with internet connections to post their own blogs onto the screen in the form of animated shapes, text, and graphics to share with other BD Live users. This feature was not available at the time of this review. CONCLUSION ( ½ out of overall) Casual movie viewers may be thrown off by the over-the-top violence in Punisher War Zone. Fans of the Punisher comics will appreciate the efforts made here to give Frank Castle his due, as the movie succeeds admirably in recreating the mood of the Punisher stories written by Garth Ennis and Mike Baron. As action movies go, Punisher War Zone is better than average, and you do not need to have read the comics to be entertained by the slam-bang action in this film.