This is not the best of the Punisher movies, though it is the closest to the story as presented in the comics. For one thing, Frank Castle is an ex-Marine and not a cop as in the other movies. The main villain is Jigsaw, a comic-book character who tangled with several other Marvel superheroes, including Spider-Man. In fact, Thomas Jane passed up the chance to reprise his Castle role because the script was too comic-book-like and not enough of a police procedural for his taste. War-Zone has been marketed as a sequel to The Punisher, but it is not. It was originally supposed to be, but when Jane declined to star, the script was rewritten to conform even more closely to its comic-book origins--mostly Punisher Volume 6. It was directed by Lexi Alexander, whose credits are mostly in TV, but she was a karate and kick-boxing champion, which I'm sure had an influence. It was produced, like the previous Punisher film, by Gale Anne Hurd of Terminator and Aliens fame.

In the opening scene, there is a big fancy dinner at the Russoti mob's mansion. The Punisher Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) literally drops in unannounced and kills nearly everyone in spectacular fashion. He does not say a word for the first 35 minutes of the movie. The cops on stakeout outside let him go in pursuit of those who have escaped, which includes Billy Russoti (Dominic West) the main baddie, and he follows them to a recycling plant and shoots his way in. One of those he kills is actually undercover FBI Agent Donatelli. Billy Rusotti is tossed into a glass-crusher and Castle leaves, returning to brood in his lair in the subway, which is supposed to be in New York, but is actually the Montreal Metro.

Billy, who is early on established as extremely vain (He is always looking at himself in the mirror) , is pulled barely alive from the glass crusher, but his face is destroyed. A plastic surgeon does his best to patch him up, but he looks like a jigsaw puzzle, so in comic-book fashion he re-names himself Jigsaw and shoots his doctor. Then he breaks his brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) out of the asylum to help him get revenge.

Castle watches Agent Donatelli's funeral from afar, then visits the graves of his own murdered family. Also attending is FBI Agent Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon) who wants castle to pay for killing Donatelli, but secretly blames himself for Donatelli being there in the first place, so there are bitter enemies who actually share the same deep feelings, and the audience knows damn well they will team up eventually.

Castle visits Donatelli's family--wife Angela (Julie Benz) and daughter Grace (Stephanie Janusauskas). He wants to help and tries to leave them money, but he is rebuffed at gunpoint in a powerful scene. He wants to quit the whole vengeance business but learns from his tech-wizard friend Micro (Wayne Knight) that Rusotti is actually alive and will surely come after Angela and Grace. Eventually, of course, they and Micro are taken hostage and Castle has to fight a virtual army of gangsters in an abandoned hotel in an attempt to rescue them and take out Jigsaw.

What we have here is not a series, but three different takes on the same story with three different actors playing the same protagonist. All are chock full of action and violence and do their best to make the Punisher human despite his twisted soul, with tender moments between the bloodshed. I believe the 2004 offering succeeds, and the 2008 offering comes in second.