Marvel’s angel of vengeance leaps off the comic pages and onto the big screen once again. Distributed by Lionsgate, Punisher: War Zone enters the fray just ahead of the holiday blitz with no other new wide releases to compete with. Appealing mainly to fans of the comics and those in the market for a mindless shoot-em-up, the pic is not likely to be another Marvel blockbuster on par with Iron Man or even The Incredible Hulk.
War Zone stars Ray Stevenson from HBO’s Rome as Frank Castle, a former government agent who has become a ruthless vigilante after the violent deaths of his wife and child. In this third screen iteration, Castle faces off against Jigsaw (Dominic West), a vengeful mob boss whom he disfigured, and his army of goons. The film is directed by Lexi Alexander, who garnered critical acclaim for her feature Green Street Hooligans after working for years as a stuntwoman and fight choreographer. Nick Santora, Kurt Sutter, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum wrote the Punisher screenplay and CIS London handled the lion’s share of the visual effects.
The Punisher was created by comic-book writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru. The anti-heroic character first appeared in a Feb. 1974 issue of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man and eventually became the star of his own comic books and graphic novels before making it to the big screen in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren (Universal Soldier, Rocky IV) in the title role. That version did very little business in theaters and the 2004 Thomas Jane incarnation made just $54.7 million worldwide.
With the latest Marvel pic getting a fairly conservative launch in 2,500 theaters, the weekend is likely to be won by a holdover. Contenders include last week’s champ, Warner Bros.’ Four Christmases, as well as Disney’s animated Bolt and Summit Ent.’s teen vampire romance, Twilight. Films opening in limited release include Freestyle Releasing’s Nobel Son and Sony/Columbia’s Cadillac Records.