Punisher: War Zone

  • Review Date: December 5, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Violent vigilante comic book story is gory, grim stuff.
  • Review Date: December 5, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 100 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film's "hero" is a vigilante who fights New York's organized crime figures after his family is executed for accidentally witnessing a mob execution. His murderous work is in many ways secretly approved of by legitimate law enforcement personnel. He shoots and kills an undercover FBI agent and is tormented by this. Discussion of terror plots and biological weapons (which are to be sold "to the ragheads in Queens"). Some discussion of God's mercy and forgiveness and plan; the main character rationalizes his work by explaining that "someone has to punish the corrupt." A criminally insane character is referred to as "Looney Bin Jim."


The movie's body count is in the dozens, with constant, extreme, and bloody/gory violence -- including shootings, fights, bare-handed neck-breakings, decapitations, several point-blank shotgun blasts (viewers see the victim's face obliterated), stabbings, death by explosion, and more. A man stabs another man through the neck with the stem of a broken wineglass. A man is killed by having a chair leg thrust through his face. A man is seen devouring another man's kidneys after murdering him. A man is hurled into an industrial glass crusher; viewers see his face, stripped bare of skin and pouring blood (later his face is a grotesque patchwork of scars, grafts, and transplants). Several extremely detailed special-effects deaths -- like when the "hero" punches someone so hard that he penetrates their skull. A man is hurled onto the sharp metal posts of a wrought-iron fence.


A brief refrence to "screwing hookers."


Constant strong language, including "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "crap," "c--ksucker," and more. Some Italian vulgarities.


Some brands -- Range Rover, Krispy Kreme, Beretta -- are mentioned by name.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters smoke, drink hard liquor, and are seen snorting cocaine. References are made to crystal meth and anti-psychotic drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this over-the-top action movie is unrepentantly violent, with a body count in the dozens and constant extreme, grisly depictions of hand-to-hand combat, gunshot wounds, explosions, industrial accidents, and much more. The movie's tone is also very moody and bleak -- it may be based on a popular Marvel comic book character, but it's not kids' stuff. It's more akin to the adventures of Dirty Harry than those of Spider-Man. Not only does the film tacitly endorse the vigilante "hero" and his violent methods, but so do law enforcement characters -- who either turn a blind eye to his activities or actively help him. Characters also use extremely strong language, drink, and use drugs (some are shown snorting cocaine).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Based on a popular comic book character first introduced in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man in 1974, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE revolves around ex-Marine/Special Forces instructor Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson). When Frank's wife and children are slain after witnessing a mob execution, Frank begins a one-man war on New York's underworld, unimpeded by due process and the rule of law. Frank's most recent assault on crime boss Bily Russoti (Dominic West) not only sees Frank killing an undercover FBI agent but also leaves Rusotti grievously wounded, insane with rage, and even more dangerous. As Frank tries to atone for his acts to the agent's wife and daughter, Rusotti breaks his criminally insane brother, "Looney Bin Jim" (Doug Hutchison), out of the asylum to pull off a bioweapons-smuggling scheme -- and exact personal revenge.

Is it any good?


There's no denying the vim, verve, and energy that director Lexi Alexander (Hooligans) brings to Punisher: War Zone; there's also no denying the movie's extreme gore and violence. This film marks the third time that The Punisher's come to the big screen -- previous iterations have starred Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane -- and unrepentant fans of hardcore action cinema will enjoy it. In many ways, the filmmakers were even right to make the film so over-the-top; a sanitized, PG-13 version of a film about a semi-insane vigilante who murders criminals might be even more upsetting than the atomized flesh and spraying blood on display here.

Stevenson is easily watchable in the lead role -- tormented when he needs to be, lightning-fast and unhesitant when in action. And West (best known for his work on The Wire) grimaces, giggles, and glowers out from under disgusting make-up and prosthetics as the mutilated villain, who goes by the name "Jigsaw" (in many ways, Jigsaw is a modern -- and disgusting -- nod to classic Dick Tracy villains like Flatop, the Brow, and other deformed, demented pulp fiction criminals). Punisher: War Zone is going to appeal to a very limited audience of older action fans, but they'll love its high-adrenaline, gore-heavy approach. If you go in expecting the glossy, "biff bang pow!" bloodless action of recent comic book adaptations like Iron Man or Batman Begins, you're going to get a rude, gory awakening.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of extreme violence on screen. What draws viewers to this kind of movie? What are the effects of watching so much grisly violence, even if it's intended to be deliberately over-the-top and cartoonish? Families can also discuss the film's endorsement of "going outside the law" to punish criminals who've evaded the consequences of their actions. Do the ends ever justify the means? What other recourse do people have when the system doesn't work?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 5, 2008
DVD release date:March 17, 2009
Cast:Dominic West, Julie Benz, Ray Stevenson
Director:Lexi Alexander
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use

This review of Punisher: War Zone was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byMattF December 17, 2009

perfect for anyone who is mature and knows real from fake. or who has a gut.

I've read punisher comics since i've been a little boy. it shaped what I like today. You can call me rude, obnoxious or whatever other stereotype you get from that comment. I don't care. it's true to fans, and honestly, it's pathetic you guys are freaking out saying it isn't a kids movie. it has a rating of R for a reason.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 17 years old Written byHopeless July 1, 2009
Well...this movies almost as gory as it gets, decapitations, heads exploding and even a wine stem getting stabbed through a guys throat, the language was ridiculous..it almost seems as if they threw "F bombs" in to fill up the dialogue, and one character loves to snort cocaine...the story is..somewhat engaging..especially if you like..senseless violence?..and liam, seriously 8 your olds cant see this..parents should definately be concerned about the violence and profantiy, the violence is brutal and graphic, the "F bomb" appears regularly in the dialogue as well as various other colorful words.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byilikemusik23 May 1, 2009

The Punsiher Is Back (ADULTS ONLY!)

If you think your just seeing another Punisher movie like the orginal, THINK AGAIN!!! This sequal is way more violent than the orginal with loads and loads of blood and gore. It even made me feel sick a few times. The movie on the other hand is not as good as the orginal but still a fun violent comic book movie for adults. The film also feels more like a Punisher movie which helps a bit. I highly dont reccomend watching it if you have a weak stomach though. ADULTS ONLY!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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