Punisher: War Zone Gets R-Rating

For a comic book film based on a Marvel character, official updates on the status of Punisher: War Zone remain few and far between. Back in August, rumors circulated that the December release from Lionsgate would be re-cut for a PG-13 rating. No word from the studio was released to confirm or deny this. Today, CHUD says the film has received an R-rating from the MPAA for “pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use.”

Director Lexi Alexander has kept mum about her apparent severed involvement with the production. The last update on her once loud-and-proud War Zone-centric blog begins: “Sometimes you have to remind yourself of the past to create a happy future.” Some sites have reported that there is no problem(s), basing this on the optimistic words of the film’s DP, Steve Gainer, who claims that Alexander is still on board. Weirder still, I’ve come across blogs that say this is all a publicity stunt. Have we reached the point where spray painting “Who Knows?” on a turtleshell passes for marketing savvy? If so, I’d rather see clips of people getting shot.

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Lionsgate Gunning For a PG-13 Punisher: War Zone?

Slowly but surely, Punisher: War Zone is being lowered into a grave of WTF by Lionsgate. First, Lexi Alexander, director of the gorey Marvel actioner, was seemingly kicked off the project. We still don’t know what happened exactly. Her candid, rah-rah website was suddenly wiped clean of all prior updates on the film, save for a cryptic “see, hear, speak no evil” monkey post, which was later replaced by a detached entry about a friend’s Bugatti. Today, Latino Review hears that Lionsgate might edit the film for a PG-13 rating. The site speculates that The Dark Knight‘s money volcano was an influence. Strange since Lionsgate is moving forward with an R-rated Conan reboot, also being compared (of course) to TDK. But if true, this is beyond absurd. We’re almost intrigued to see them brick, given that Alexander enticed fans with boasts of hardcore bloodshed and Castle-worthy violence for months—later confirmed by this entertaining, head smashing red band clip.

If Lionsgate is reading this, all it takes is a short statement to the fans clarifying your flick’s status. I was just interviewed by a mag about the detrimental impact a studio’s silence in 2008 can have on a movie generally perceived as troubled. War Zone is becoming a prototypical botched case. Current online perception is that there are two bad-buzz nails already in this film’s coffin, and buzz wasn’t too hot to start with. All it takes is one more, like star Ray Stevenson issuing a quiet diss, and this December outing will meet a worse fate than the prior Thomas Jane Punisher. That would make Frank Castle, a character that is, uhhh, not a “college educated Ferrari engine,” 3-for-3 for movie wipeouts.

I’ve put out the word for further confirmation from our staff—against terrible odds of hangovers and lipstick shenanigans—but a rumor is quickly circulating that Lionsgate/Marvel has kicked director Lexi Alexander off Punisher: War Zone. The film, which opens this December, is finished filming but apparently HUGE creative differences arose over…final cut? There’s a lot of speculation going around. Over at AICN, Knowles says the film’s composer is off the project as well, and Lionsgate is now transplanting the score with shitty heavy metal—as we suffered through yesterday while watching the rather kickass and ultra violent footage from Comic-Con.

Apparently Alexander’s candid potty mouth is contractually wired shut for the time being. Producer Gale Anne Hurd even announced that Alexander was on her “honeymoon” yesterday at a CC panel. Hah! Worth noting: Punisher: War Zone is probably the last R-rated film for a Marvel character we’ll see for sometime. I know that many of our readers were and remain highly skeptical of this flick, but my take is that it looks like unapologetic fun, a nice option for a double feature with Rambo or Commando. It’s also welcome—too welcome for 2008—to hear a female director speak her mind and take on the action genre. Oh, well. More as it develops….

Judging from the number of heads that explode, collapse and squirt in this new Comic Con footage for Punisher: War Zone, I imagine these luminaries attending a press screening: Rambo, Ricki-Oh, Lucio Fulci and the “Crushing Your Head” guy from Kids in the Hall. When the first trailer hit and underwhelmed fans, director Lexi Alexander responded with…

“I’ve been told that you can’t even show heads blowing up in red-band trailers. I hope that’s not true because that would suck. It’s weird to see Castle shoot all those bullets and not see the thugs who are catching them. That’s the best fucking part about it!!!”

Well, she certainly got her sick wish. The Lionsgate/Marvel film opens in December and looks like a pulsing guilty pleasure, unless you were expecting The Dark Knight via Frank Castle. Some guy down below will declare, “Aim higher!” And by aim higher, he means this film’s rival, a PG-13 Max Payne. So be it.

Warning: This footage is backed by the worst song I have ever heard. I recommend turning down your speakers and playing Misfits, Sabbath, Pissed Jeans, John Mayer anything but this. Also, the grindhousey faux-scratches are the size of dead twigs in a storm. Totally unnecessary.

via: IGN

Punisher War Zone Movie Poster

With the boffo box office and good worth of mouth for Wanted, we look toward the next violent and proud, R-rated comic book adaptation, Punisher: War Zone, opening this December. IGN received a new teaser poster for Lexi Alexander‘s Marvel/Lionsgate reboot starring Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle, and besides the Indiana Jones rip-off tagline (look for future “LOL: Subway Vandals” Slashfilm posts), what’s not to like. Eyeballs equal overrated.

Discuss: Improve the poster’s tagline or ditch it and come up with a better one.

Update: /Film reader, Wizard in Tights, suggests, “I have a grenade.” Haha. Good job.

When I posted the teaser trailer for Punisher: War Zone last Thursday, the 70+ comments from you guys were impressively heated and divisive. Until then, the R-rated Lionsgate/Marvel actioner from director Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans, karate) had flown under the radar, with many pegging the movie as a star-less runt in Marvel’s newly consolidated, unpredecented game plan. And many fans still do, even after the teaser, but Alexander appreciates the early attention and welcomes the hate. She was surprised, albeit pleasantly, by the teaser’s release, and once again, she’s emphasizing her flick’s generous helpings of violence and mayhem. Not to be sexist, but it’s pretty strange and cool to hear the rare female director who’s more excited about a comic book film filled with carnage than most geeks. From her blog

“I’m not sure what kind of impression I would get from this trailer if I didn’t actually know the film. I am utterly impressed, though, they managed to find that much PG rated action footage at all. It had to be a challenge to cut a trailer from our action stuff without showing any gore and blood.

I’ve been told that you can’t even show heads blowing up in red-band trailers. I hope that’s not true because that would suck. It’s weird to see Castle shoot all those bullets and not see the thugs who are catching them. That’s the best fucking part about it!!!”

Of course, many fanboys would respond, “Big whup. AVP: Requiem had a lot of gore, an R-rating, a lot of hype and it still sucked ass. Takes more than that to make a good genre movie.” Thankfully, Alexander has clarified a few of the questions/criticisms brought up in our comments section. Many fans have taken issue with the film’s heavily stylized scorched neon color palette, comparing it to Joel Schumacher’s Batman Nipples and Robin Nipples. Personally, I dig the retro ’80s look so far. It looks like the poster for Cobra meets laser tag. And yes, that is cool. But Alexander is all, “Wait a second, I’m lifting the look directly from the comics. You guys read Punisher comics, right?” She includes various stills from Punisher: MAX (part of Marvel’s adult imprint) like the one seen here for reference.

“I’m very happy that the hardcore Punisher fans recognized the lines taken directly from the comic books (all credit goes to Ray Stevenson for that), and that MAX fans appreciated the color theme that was also directly copied from the books.”

Another gripe, which probably started with outspoken screenwriter, Kurt Sutter, is that the criminal element in Punisher: War Zone is not stapled to reality a la Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or David Chase’s The Sopranos.

“Every director has to make a call on the vision and style of a film and putting The Punisher in a realistic and gritty setting would be like having Det. Vic Mackey of THE SHIELD run around with a big ass skull on his chest, or Ray Liotta’s character in NARC suddenly go: “Hey, I think I just saw a guy whose face looks like a Jigsaw puzzle.” Ha, ha.”

What surprised me most about the reaction to the teaser was the number of readers that expressed fond memories for 2004′s The Punisher with Tom Jane (who fit the part, yes) and John Travolta (I’m still not sure what the hell was up with that). The movie plays on insomniac cable quite a bit, and maybe when bunched in with guilty pleasures like Executive Decision and other Die Hard knockoffs, it grows on some. I dunno. Alexander says she doesn’t aspire to ”become a member of the Dolph Lundgren or Thomas Jane fan club. This film is about the mythology of FRANK CASTLE, it is ultra violent…”

She compares her movie’s trajectory to The Incredible Hulk, which she thought rocked. But unlike that late-blooming film, her’s has months ahead of it (opens in December), and I’m already optimistic (though I don’t think Peter is).  

Discuss: What do you make of Lexi Alexander’s comments? Will she walk the talk? Do you think she’d talk up her Punisher with this amount of enthusiasm if it was a cheesefest? Does she seem like that type of director? Does the R-rating actually turn off, not just a lot of parents and politicians, but genre fans, have we reached that point?

  

Punisher: War Zone Movie Trailer

Opening with a scene/yelp recalling The Bride’s headshot in Kill Bill, the teaser trailer for director Lexi Alexander‘s Punisher: War Zone plays it hard and fast underneath cyber-noirish lighting (Swordfish, much?) that is sure to turn some people off. However, besides an emasculated bit of firearm ballet atop a chandelier (re: marketing dept., ditch it!), there are hints that War Zone could be a solid R-rated action entry free of the sarcasm seen in Crank and Shoot ‘Em Up and much rougher than the barcoded dork-out that was Hitman. One film that seems to have inspired the editing here, per Frank Castle’s light flickering intro, is The Crow…if set inside a laser tag arena.

Actor Tom Jane was a dead-on looker for Castle in the absolutely dreadful, Florida-set 2004 Punisher, but Ray Stevenson (Rome) has a grittier, crazed appearance that nicely compliments the vigilante’s signature, mob-ridden cityscape. Earlier in the year, some readers were fond of saying that Stevenson looked too much like Steven Seagal, but I don’t think the snark/comparisons hold up after this. What about you?

The teaser barely shows us Dominic West (The Wire) playing Jigsaw (a split second outside a hotel) or much of the graphic violence that Alexander has boasted about on her blog (a red band trailer surely awaits), but War Zone definitely looks like an improvement. Bonus points for not having an aloof John Travolta with a villainous hair-don’t. As an early supporter, I’ve found it surprising how many people have dismissed this flick and Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) from day one, and I think the trailer will put some on pause until the next one.

After Iron Man, isn’t it odd/cool to see the Marvel logo on a trailer for an R-rated flick? If this flops it’s probably the last time to boot. Good thing or no?

Punisher: War Zone opens on December 5th.

Discuss: Thoughts on the first teaser trailer? How does this compare to when you saw the trailer for 2004′s The Punisher (if you can remember that, ha)? Do any of you guys/gals like the chandelier scene (I mean, really)?

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Confident female action movie directors with veddy dirty mouths rock. Lexi Alexander (above), the candid director behind Punisher: War Zone, has posted an update for the semi-quiet Marvel reboot on her tidy official site. She informs that the film was screened for studio brass this month, that it went reasonably well, and she seems cool with the flick now moving from its original September 12th release to December 5th.

Ms. Alexander on the “studio experience”…

“Well, thank God [the screening] went well and, although I’ll probably have to compromise on a few minor notes, it’s not nearly as bad as some of my filmmaker friends predicted it would be. I guess I got away with an actual okay studio experience (knocking on wood since it’s not quite over yet).”

And her NSFW thoughts on Frank Castle (played by Rome‘s Ray Stevenson, above right with his stunt double) now raining/reigning blood during the jolly holidays; she includes a nice shout to the comic book/action fans rah-rahing for a hard R-rating (the kids are getting restless)…

“[The studio] also moved our release date to December 5th, which is, according to my reps, a much, much better date. I myself would have thought that people will think twice about going to see an extremely violent movie the closer it gets to Jesus’ B-day, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever other holy holiday you’re celebrating. Well, the box office records prove different and instead, all you sick fucks get more blood thirsty that time of year. (And I say that with lovingly affection, cause I’m relying on all the sick fucks to show up).”

We haven’t seen much at all from the latest Punisher, but I really like Alexander’s attitude thus far. She just kinda gives ‘r and if I had to choose, after being strapped to a lawn chair, between watching Punisher: War Zone or the similar Max Payne (which is rumored to be going PG-13: Rockstar Games, wassup with that?) 100 times in a row, I’d choose the former off loony intuition. Crush much?

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