confidentialToday sees the release of Marvel and Madhouse’s new full-length anime movie, Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher. The film is directed by Kenichi Shimizu from a screenplay by Mitsutaka Hirota based on a story by Marjorie Liu. The film’s subtitular characters are voiced by Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and Brian Bloom. You can guess which is which. Marvel’s first anime film, Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, had a bit of a mixed reaction. How does the sophomore presentation fare?

Punisher is out there doing what he does best. He’s tracked down an arms shipment and plans on taking everyone involved down. The problem is that the people he’s just slain were being watched by S.H.I.E.L.D. The organization had planned to follow the deal up the food chain until they found the supplier. Frank Castle doesn’t play the long game, he thinks it leaves too many dead bodies. That one mission brings him into direct conflict with Nick Fury and Black Widow. After the obligatory fisticuffs, Widow and Punisher team up to track down Leviathan and shut down their latest development. They have some pretty high-tech weapons, both guns and humans, so it’s vital that it’s brought to an end. Can Widow and Punisher get their hands away from each other’s throats long enough to strangle the bad guys? What secret projects are Leviathan really working on anyway?

black widowThe movie is easily Marvel’s most mature and violent animated effort to date. There aren’t scenes of full-on blood and decapitations from Punisher, but very few punches are thrown. We get some flat-out violence followed by some quick cutaways and scenes of implied violence. This film shows you how to do a PG-13 Punisher (not that you should do it often). Brian Bloom is a fantastic Frank Castle. He’s gruff, he’s hardened, he’s a no-nonsense guy who has a mission and plans on seeing it through. Jennifer Carpenter’s Widow is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall it’s good, but for the majority of the story Carpenter is rather flat and sounds sort of bored with the whole thing. There’s a lot of character development and great action, but the line delivery feels off. The addition of a love story for Widow feels like it takes some of the badass-ness away from the character. It often tiptoes on cliché territory, but by and large it is handled well. There is plenty of action the entire way through, something that usually only comes in spurts and starts with similar movies. The addition of The Avengers (as seen in the trailers so don’t get all ‘Spoiler!’ on me), feels slightly like it’s just to show face but it actually makes story sense and provides for several great minutes of addition action. Having Amadeus Cho, a fan-favorite character who hasn’t been seen much outside of the comics, is a nice little bonus as well.

The DVD has two special featurettes, Espionage and Punishment and The Vigilante VS. The Spy the Blu-ray disc contains an exclusive concept art presentation as well. The two featurettes are exceptionally well done. One gives you a quick rundown of each character, their backstories, their motives, methods, and how they have teamed up in the past. Black Widow and Punisher haven’t teamed up that much, but this movie will probably make a lot of fans get loud about seeing the two partner up in the comics sooner rather than later. The other featurettes looks at the characters and how they work together in the film. The quickest way to sum it up- Black Widow is a scalpel and Punisher is a baseball bat.

Bottom Line: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is a fast-paced, action-packed, mature anime that delivers on all fronts. The story has very few things that distract from the overall enjoyment and other than some occasional wooden dialogue, there’s not an awful lot not to love about this movie. Anime, especially Marvel’s anime features, are an acquired taste, but this is easily one of the best efforts to date. 4/5

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