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 still don’t understand this part:

    “Lionsgate is doing its best to deliver a compromise that will please both hardcore Punisher fans and general action fans”

    Wouldn’t both of those demographics appreciate a violent, not entirely mainstream Punisher movie? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great news to hear that there won’t be a heavy metal score and that it wasn’t the primary cause of the bad relations between director and studio, but why is “compromise” even needed?

    Even if it’s a compromise between Lexi and LGF the question remains.

    If GAH was justified in believing that Joe Drake might dump an ultra violent PWZ, then what was LGF’s response? “Okay. Make it more mainstream or else we WILL dump it?”

    If LGF was pleased with Lexi’s cut, why not just release that?

    Given Joe Drake’s position, it’s not hard to figure out why there hasn’t been any press release clearing up the confusion and controversy. The bad press this film gets suits his personal agenda.

    This article was definitely informative and filled in some of the blanks, but it only leaves me with more questions about LGF’s actions than it answered and how much of what we saw from Comic-con (motivation and violence) will still remain intact before PWZ is considered “mainstream” enough to not get “dumped” in the eyes of Hurd and Drake.

  2. Hi Ken,
    I agree with you about the super power thing. Frank is my fave because, when all is said and done, he’s just a man. But what a man! Do you think part of wehat keeps The Punisher from being really popular (besides the two bad films we’ve already had) is the level of violence? I say that only about the MAX series, because that’s the only series I’ve read. The earlier versions of The Punisher, ther ones where he wears tights and white boots and gloves, does NOT interest me. Anyway, a Batman movie can get away with being PG-13. To me, a Punisher movie will always have to be rated R.

  3. Hey Nomad, glad to see you’re still reading through our stupid comments, haha.

    I never understood comic books’ obsession with tights. I’m glad Lexi decided to make Ray Stevenson wear body armor painted with the skull instead of just some tight shirt (or worse, spandex tights). It shows how human he really is, that he needs to be protected from enemy fire. And it adds a sense of realism in a movie full of outrageous action scenes.

    But you’re definitely right about the ratings. For a Punisher movie to be true to the comics (MAX series mostly, that’s what I’m familiar with too), it has to be rated R. Coming from me, that’s quite a statement, because all of my friends know that I’m 100% against movies that try to use sex, foul language, and excessive violence as a gimmick to draw viewers. But if it’s actually necessary in the telling of the story, then I have no problem with it.

  4. Oops, I meant to say “And you’re definitely right about the ratings.” not “but” because I was never disagreeing with you before that in that post, lol. I just read it and realized how it sounds…

  5. I love how the GPA has become the devil in this battle. We spoke our mind. Funny not one internet rag site bothered to ask any of us what we were doing or why. Sorry you didnt like our tatics. The time line sounds pretty good in this story. But it smells of positive spin, just like the last thing steve gainer said.

  6. I don’t believe my post had much in there about the GPA, much less did it make you out to be the villains. Actually, I thought you got away without much of a mention at all, which surprised me when I first read it. Let’s not fight, Sugar. I promise you that civility works better than incivility, unless you’re Frank Castle. But he’s a special case. ;)

  7. Watch out for tha Warriors !! :-)

  8. Finally some clarification.
    thanx,cant wait for this film.

  9. @GPA

    Hey bro, I’ve never even heard of “GPA” until your comment here, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to…


  10. It’s the Global Punisher Army. They have a very interesting and attractive website celebrating all things Punisher. They have one section that is devoted to this film and trying to get Lexi Alexander’s vision out there. I agree wholeheartedly with the goal, but not with some of their methodology. In any case, the part of the site I and others objected to is gone. I think, after reading my friend’s report, that the Lexi version is lost to us as far as the theatrical release is concerned. Hopefully, we’ll get it on Bly-ray in a director’s cut. OOF! I can’t wait to see both versions!

  11. If you’re a Punisher fan, you should definitely visit the site.

    I just think those of us who’ve been waiting through several movies would like to see a good Punisher in theaters, not a watered down, half-hearted version. I don’t know why anybody has written it off already, unless the Punisher isn’t really their thing.

  12. Nomad, is this new film going to be an Origin story or take off from the last film ?????

  13. Rampage-

    You do make a point. Why would Drake permit all this bad publicity if he weren’t thinking about dumping the film? It would certainly make him look justified later! But . . . on IMDB someone pointed out that LG’s The Midnight Meat Train was competition for a film Drake produced (The Strangers) so that’s why he dumped it. If there is ANY truth to that, then that would bode WELL for Punisher, wouldn’t it? At least we’d know Drake isn’t dumping ALL of his predecessor’s films out of spite.

    All of the bad publicity simply begs the question of who was actually benefiting from it? Either Drake or . . . Alexander. It would seem she and the fans are the only ones even paying attention to the internet. If you think about it, the only time insiders get frustrated and angry enough to contact the media is when they want to put pressure on someone who isn’t otherwise listening. The only remotely credible insiders did it twice. Once when Lexi was fired and the movie was supposedly to get a metal soundtrack, and the other when the film supposedly got a PG-13 rating. And the updates made to IMDB, apparently NOT by LionsGate, were about the film’s running time and the composer, both of which turned out to be false and both of which lent credibility to the theory that Hurd was butchering Lexi’s film.

    So I simply don’t buy that LionsGate is manipulating the online public in order to get their opinions on soundtracks and running times and ratings. The only thing which would consistently explain everything is that Alexander got either fired or pulled off the project and has been cleverly manipulating people in order to pressure LG to reinstate her. After all, the rumors only began after Alexander was fired. Unfortunately they have only eroded faith in the film.

    I guess fans can go on believing that their outcry has actually influenced Lionsgate to ditch the PG-13 rating and the rock soundtrack, or they can believe that those things were never on the agenda to begin with and they’ve simply been manipulated by someone whose methods have damaged the very film they want to save!

    Whatever. I just want it all the garbage to stop, and give me a good movie!!!!!!

  14. GPA owenstar said “But it smells of positive spin, just like the last thing steve gainer said.” Got to agree with that!

  15. Punisher War Zone is a total reboot, a total re-imagining, from the last two films. It assumes that the audience for the most part knows the origin story, but there are flashbacks of Frank, in the park, holding the bodies of his children. So people new to the Punisher will have SOME clue as to WHY Frank Castle would choose the life he’s chosen.

  16. Like Nomad said complete reboot. Not even gonna feature the same origin or lead actor or really much of the same emotion. The 04 version tried to balance the violence with an emotional plot this version will try to balance Violence with Violence and a flashback of an emotional moment then they may add in some violence and gore.

    Think Saw but with the Punisher in it.

  17. Well, I don’t know if I agree with Daniel’s conclusion at all. We’ll just have to wait until 05 December to find out.

  18. Sounds good, I might have to check this out after all,,, 8-)

  19. wow this was alot to read but well worth it. i happen to be a huge punisher fan and collector. i’ve been punishing pretty much since the mid 1980′s and have had to go through two punisher films that just did not live up to the comic and the stories themselves just did not work for even a non comic film. i just hope that i can finally watch a punisher film that i can brag about later to all my friends since i’ve had to go through two huge raggings from the previous films.

  20. I think the Tom Jane version balanced violence with boring, but the scale tipped a bit more toward the boring side…

    I’m sorry, I normally don’t like movies with violence for violence sake, but this is The Punisher for goodness sakes. He don’t waste his time plotting some overly complicated scheme that greatly relied on chance before he strikes at his victim. He doesn’t spend half the freakin movie fixing up a car that only lasts half a minute in one lousy excuse of an action scene. He is THE PUNISHER. I didn’t see any “punishment” in the last movie except to my wallet when I paid for the ticket.

  21. Vic the GPA was mentioned in the article you printed, ha ha!
    “Because Marvel fans seem to live on the Internet, Lexi’s blog worked wonders in garnering their support. I can sympathize with her frustration with LGF, but her unprofessional blog stunt fanned a s***storm that eventually only served to torpedo PWZ’s image and, oddly enough, stroke Lexi’s ego — Punisher fansites lit up with “Bring Lexi Back” campaigns including a petition and a devoted website (GPA’s pwztruth), the latter attacking Gale Anne Hurd as a no-talent butcher of Lexi’s film. ”

    I don’t think he’s saying GPA is the devil.. he’s just saying it was never gonna acomplish anything

    GPA owenstar, your with GPA. waht did you acomplisH? Tell the other side of the story

  22. AHAHAHAHAHA! Cank Frastle! [rofl]


  23. I’m curious to know why her co-writer on Hooligans popped up with such an obvious attack. What’s that all about?

  24. KJ I think the Hooligans cowriter popped up cuz the crew member had been gushing about the director and that burned the cowriter who strongly disagreed

    Nomad thanks I thought it was funny :)

  25. Thanks for the info cank.

  26. Zach, it can and it doesn’t. It really depends. Rock music can definitely add to the mood of the scene if that’s what it calls for, but to have an entire movie’s soundtrack consist of nothing but screaming black metal gets very old very fast and has been done so many times before because it seems like the easy way out.

  27. Wow, I’m sad to hear so many people talking so negatively about a metal soundtrack. I think the music was what helped make the new red band footage so awesome. But I happen to be a fan of rock and think it helps out an a violent action flick, and I know a lot of people disagree with that.