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“It still makes me laugh thinking that Punisher: War Zone was unspooling in theaters while outside people were Christmas shopping,” says Patton Oswalt, Emmy Award-winning comedian, writer, actor, and author. “I don’t think they were doing any kind of courageous counter-programming…It felt like a studio dump.” One of the film’s loudest champions and everyone’s imaginary internet bestie isn’t wrong.
The film landscape in late 2008/early 2009 was interesting. There was lots of Oscar bait in theaters, like Danny Boyle’s ultimately triumphant Slumdog Millionaire and Kate Winslet’s post-Nazi love story The Reader, but weirdly wedged between them, Punisher: War Zone. Yup, in the lead-up to the Academy Awards, you could catch a Harvey Milk biopic or watch Ray Stevenson shoot a henchman out of the air with a rocket launcher.