The Real Punisher War Zone Story

Published 7 years ago by , Updated September 12th, 2013 at 1:52 pm,

punisher war zone2 The Real Punisher War Zone Story

Thanks once again to Screen Rant reader “Nomad” we have another inside scoop on what’s been going on behind the scenes of Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: Warzone (aka Punisher 2). Nomad says that although the source cannot be named, they are HIGHLY reliable.

What follows are the details of what’s happened behind the scenes of the production from the first draft of the screenplay, to the Comic-Con, PG-13 accusations and the revelation that yes, the movie will be rated R. I’m posting what I was sent unedited for the most part, and have added my thoughts here and there.

Keep in mind I really don’t have any bias towards this film one way or another…

Punisher: War Zone rumors deconstructed

I have a very dear friend who’s been around Hollywood for a long time. He’s a unique person here, because his ethics are still intact AND he still has his sanity. (Which means he’s NOT rich!) I think you’ll agree that’s a unique combination here! So I asked him to check out Punisher: War Zone, Lionsgate, and all the surrounding hoopla. He did, bless his sweet heart, and he wrote a fooking dissertation! Well, he’s brilliant, too. Did I mention I adore him? I do!!!

What follows is his report, which I have NOTedited, even though it conflicts with some of my own previously held opinions. At the end of his letter, I’ve attached a bit of a time line he wrote, so people can follow what happened and when.

No, I will NOT tell you who he is. So please don’t bother asking. His credibility is in what he writes, which is balanced and fair. You’ll decide on your own, neh?



Sorry it took so long. I think I’ve read enough on “Punisher: War Zone” and Lionsgate Films (hereafter PWZ and LGF for brevity) now to offer an educated analysis of what may have happened and why you shouldn’t worry too much.
First I want to dispel a few MISPERCEPTIONS about PWZ, since those have unfairly put some people off.

MISPERCEPTION #1: “PWZ is a sequel whose script was so horrible that star Thomas Jane walked away from it.” Not quite! Per PWZ co-writer Kurt Sutter in a interview: “Nick Santora and myself, whose names were on the second big draft, got caught in the crossfire when Tom Jane was growing dissatisfied with the turn Punisher was taking. Tom lashed out at the script using it as his scapegoat for exiting the project. [...] I like Tom Jane, I’ve had lunch with him, think he’s a decent guy. But I always felt that if Marvel really wanted to re-invent the franchise, you’d have to re-invent the Punisher”. And PWZ did in fact morph from sequel to REBOOT, so recasting was likely inevitable anyway to avoid confusion. Tom himself said that his reason for leaving was that LGF rejected Walter Hill as director and he stood by Hill — but I think he saw the writing on the wall and left before he could be recast. Tom strikes me as generally bitter about his parting with PWZ and even told fans at July 2008′s San Diego Comic-Con that PWZ is a “piece of s***” (though he has no way of knowing this), but to his credit he later wished new Punisher Ray Stevenson well (“He sounds like a cool guy [who] loves the character and wants to do him justice. For his sake I hope the movie doesn’t suck.”).

Sutter, whose draft began the shift towards rebooting and was cited as Tom’s other reason for leaving, ultimately removed his name from credit arbitration because so little of his work remained; credited writers are Santora, Marcum & Holloway (the latter two are Marvel’s “go-to guys” whose “Iron Man” later did big business). The only person who HAS seen the actual shooting script AND publicly commented on it is Kurt Sutter. His verdict per his blog: while it was obviously not HIS vision, he graciously said it was “tight”, “followed the perfect comic book formula”, and he predicted “true fans of the Punisher comic books will enjoy this movie” and “it will open huge”.

How will that shooting script translate to the screen? “The Spirit” producer Deborah del Prete has seen Lexi’s rough cut and said she loved it and thought it would please fans. We’ve no word yet on how much of Lexi’s cut remains intact, but PWZ cinematographer Steve Gainer said that the August 16 cut that he viewed was “something wonderful” that he “loved” — he sounded proud of the results. [From what I've seen of "The Spirit" so far, I don't think I'd take del Prete's comment as a ringing endorsement. - Vic]

MISPERCEPTION #2: “Nobody will see PWZ because there’s no star power in the cast.” PWZ is probably relying not on big names but on a high concept designed to appeal to a niche audience of Punisher fans as well as a general action fanbase. Punisher ’04 had a bigger budget but higher overhead because of big names like John Travolta, and it performed poorly, so I can understand LGF refining their strategy and leveraging their risks. In any case, PWZ’s cast are all experienced actors, if not widely known. [I honestly don't believe that anyone ever expected this to be some huge blockbuster seen by "everyone." - Vic]

Now I want to discuss the RUMORS about PWZ that have unfairly put some people off. LGF could put an end to all of the bad publicity pretty easily with a press release, but for whatever reason they haven’t, so I’m simply going to analyze what is known and how it may affect the finished film; the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

Many agree that PWZ director Lexi Alexander is a tough cookie whose enthusiasm for her work is infectious. Cast members Ray Stevenson and Dominic West both attested to being uninspired by early drafts they read, and Lexi talked them into doing the film based on sheer enthusiasm. Crew member Tom Book hadn’t cared for the project at first, but he attested that Lexi soon inspired everyone to believe they were working on “a masterpiece” so they worked diligently through the packed 40-day shoot consisting of mostly wintry Montreal nights. Her blog inspired the many Internet-savvy Punisher fans to get excited about the film as well.

On the flip side, I believe Lexi’s made her fair share of enemies (and who in Hollywood hasn’t?). The IESB source who slammed Lexi’s rough cut as “one of the worst movies ever made” strikes me as just some malcontent Lexi pissed off, especially given that UGO’s more impartial “Detective Soap” said that in spite of Lexi’s “Jekyll/Hyde” personality, her footage was fantastic. It hasn’t escaped me that Lexi’s “Hooligans” co-writer Dougie Brimson popped out of nowhere on the FilmSchoolRejects comments section just to retort to Tom Book that Lexi was “disloyal” and “devious”, adding “trust me, Im far from alone in thinking that way.” [I have no opinion on this as I'm not privy to the details. Personally all I care about is the final product and even directors and actors with bad attitudes who are disliked can produce a great film. - Vic]

(Click to continue reading “The Real Punisher War Zone Story”)

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  1. I want to thank Nomad for his extraordinary reporting on this matter.

  2. HER extraordinary reporting! Nomad is a chick!! *snigger*

  3. FYI, I’ve updated the post with my thoughts highlighted throughout.

    Thanks again, Nomad!


  4. Vic! He said EARLY drafts of the script.

  5. @Nomad

    Gotcha, edited the post to reflect that. I had interpreted it to mean the re-penned script, but I guess that wasn’t the case.



  6. I stand corrected Nomad.
    Sorry about that!

  7. To Gary: It’s all right, Sugar! How would you know??

  8. Great reporting, thank you

  9. Wow. Maybe not the REAL Punisher War Zone Story unless the author of the letter is keeping anonymous because he knows more than he is letting on, but the timeline and sources help make the case. And a very interesting look at how a studio’s evolution can frustrate just about everyone involved. In spite of all the hullabaloo it does sound like they’re getting it right though. Just give me a good movie, damn it!!!!!

  10. Vic said “I think that Hollywood directors are starting to leverage the power of the online movie community to influence things in their direction. Jon Favreau dabbled in a bit of this with the stories that he had not been contacted to direct Iron Man 2 a couple of months ago.” I haven’t heard about this. Vic, can you give me a link or tell what happened? (and yeah, it does appear Alexander exploited the power of her blog)

  11. Nevermind, I found it…
    I’ll shut up now.

  12. All right! Nomad, great work! A major tip of the hat to your contact who found all this out.

    I heard one of the reasons Midnight Meat Train was shelved, essentially, was because the new studio head didn’t want it competing with his film, The Strangers, which MMT was to open in the same month (May 08).

    I have a Punisher tattoo on my leg, and I have high hopes this film will rock, and not make me hide the tattoo until the next reboot. Punisher is a great character (that got old in the 1990s with 4 or 5 comic book titles), and if the movie’s done right, we’ll be able to say, “Hey, it’s better than the guilty pleasure Tom Jane Punisher movie.”

    Also, in a DVD re-release of the 04 Punisher, writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh said the budget was HALF what was reported. Around $15 million (Travolta plays villains for real cheap), with $1.5 million going just to the completion bond to ensure the movie got made, no matter what.

    Fingers crossed this movie rocks! There’s nothing finer than watching Frank take out bad guys!


  13. I laughed for a very long time at this part

    ” attested that Lexi soon inspired everyone to believe they were working on “a masterpiece” ”

    Seriously how stupid do you have to be that you can be fooled in to thinking this will be a masterpiece. Ok my personal belief that this film will be absolute crap aside I can understand being fooled in to thinking it might turn out good or even great but to use the word Masterpiece is complete BS.

  14. Nice coverage Nomad, however this film even if done right (IMO) has a small fanbase, and will come and go.

    ?? A Decemeber release date dosnt seem like a good month to release this kind of film ,,, ?? 8-)

  15. I agreed, a December release date for this movie won’t help either from all the bad PR no matter how decent the movie may turn out, remember ‘Blade: Trinity’ was released on December 2004, it was the lowest domestic grosses of the trilogy…

  16. December, works great for films like LOTR, and fantasy films, but (IMO) most movie goers want to save their holiday money for better things than a vigalante film,,,
    This release date sounds like a setup for failure.

  17. I hear you, guys, and I initially thought the same thing, as apparently did Lexi. We can’t look at the blog entry in which she discussed this, coz it’s gone now, but she said that apparently films of this nature do quite well between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By December 5, Quantum of Solace should have been out two weeks. There’s still some jostling going on with opening dates since Harry Potter went to July 2009, but I don’t think there’s much out that will compete for the PWZ audience. But is there anyone here who thinks the original date, 12 September, was good? Burn After Reading with both Brad Pitt AND George Clooney and Righteous Kill with both Robert DeNiro AND Al Pacino are opening that weekend. So moving PWZ was a GOOD thing.

  18. The Bond films have a larger fanbase, the release date dosnt matter,and if their factoring in the Bond franchise as a base point in the scheduling of Punisher, their clearly delusional.
    Two different films all together.

    The Punisher should come out in January or later in the Summer 09. Perfect the film, and come up with a cool viral marketing plan.
    If they did that the film would earn an additional 10 to 20 million. ;-)

  19. Nomad, you’re Lexi, aren’t you! :)

  20. The first Punisher opened against Kill Bill 2, if I’m not mistaken. Even Avi Arad admitted that was a big mistake.


  21. Wow Nomad, thanks a lot for finally setting it all straight. I heard so many contradicting rumors it was making my head spin! LOL, well, I actually do more research than that and knew in general what you have said but you actually covered WHY those things happened, I just knew they happened.

    And about the director being a pain to work with, sometimes this could mean bad films because they are not open to criticism and it’s always harder to get people to do what you want them to do if they resent you, but on the other hand, sometimes this persistance can be a good thing and could result in films that are made that fit their vision, perfect example would probably be James Cameron. I think it’s pretty universal that he’s not easy to work with, and probably not the greatest of personalities, but his movies are almost unrivaled in my opinion.

    Hopefully Lexi falls somewhere in the middle and not one the extreme negative of this spectrum. Although I do have high hopes for the film because of Ray Stevenson.

  22. I’m glad that PWZ won’t have a metal score.

  23. Well, first of all, there is a difference between mainstream hard rock & heavy metal. Get that right, first. I play black metal, hate hard rock, and don’t want it lumped in, and don’t want to be discriminated against by people who might find Jack Johnson to be genius.

    Having said that, I am glad they aren’t using this film as a chance to sell records for Sony or something. A soundtrack should further a film, shouldn’t date it, shouldn’t just seem like a big commercial. It ruined Daredevil, and kind of appeals to jocks or Republicans anyway. I thought it was what totally sucked about the Spider – Man franchise. People get to hear this crap plenty on the radio. If they are oversaturated with the music, they get tired of the film.

    Remember that Evanescence song from Daredevil? The song had a longer shelf life than the film, and it outlived the film. That isn’t supposed to happen. The music is supposed to serve the film’s purpose.

    Film soundtracks are an art form. Dark Knight is a classic, and that is one of the many resons why.

  24. First off lol I love how you use this as a chance to insult a political party because it just has so much to do with the subject.

    There is nothing wrong with Rock being used in a film in my opinion. Certain films it works with. However films like The Dark Knight shouldn’t have it that’s for sure. While I don’t think that it would ruin the film or really hurt it all that much The Punisher should probably not use rock however it wouldn’t be a big deal.

  25. So you’re saying it isn’t true?

  26. It’s as true as democrats loving to chase ambulances. ;-)

    Quit your whining and crying and stay on topic.

    Anyway, I am glad they are not going to use some stupid screaming metal for the soundtrack. Putting orchestral music to action has been kind of a gimmick as of late, but if it’s done well, it adds to the mood of the scene.

  27. I have to say…that was a great article. Knowledgeable, well thought out, and clearly well written. Brava! I will, without a doubt, look forward to more from “Nomad.”

    I do find it funny, however, that all of this “hoopla” is over a Punisher movie that won’t gross nearly as much $$$ as people would like. The character himself is just not as marketable as some of Marvel’s other properties. Frank Castle is great, don’t get me wrong…I used to read the comic all of the time (long ago…)…but no matter how many times you “reboot” something…if it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work. Let it go and move on to something else…like, Moon Knight, or something.

  28. daviedave_47,

    That is why it doesn’t have a $150 million budget. The budget of the film seems agreeable with the projected take at the box office, IMO.

  29. I don’t know why though. I’ve always liked the heroes without powers more than the ones that do, because it seems like their actions are far more honorable since their lives are literally on the line each time they go out. Superheroes like Superman or Spiderman has all of these fancy powers that make them mostly invulnerable to most people, so to me it’s not that brave for them to go out and fight crime. It’s the LEAST they can do with their powers. I mean, I respect them for not using those powers to do bad, they are definitely honorable people, but I feel that those “normal human” superheroes are far braver and I can relate to them more.

    The Punisher is one of those. If he takes a bullet to the head, he’s dead, and he knows that, but he goes out and takes out the trash anyhow.

    So I don’t know why The Punisher is not a much bigger franchise. Personally I think it is a bad-ass idea for a vigilante to take out the bad guys that our stupid pro-criminal courts let out every year.

    My favorite comic book heroes are Iron Man, Batman, and The Punisher. But that last movie was a major let-down.