The Punisher Review

On the eve of his retirement as an undercover Federal agent, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is involved in a sting operation gone wrong which results in the death of the son of a wealthy, money-laundering banker. The boy's parents, Howard and Livia Saint (John Travolta and Laura Harring) vow to even up the score by killing Castle and everyone he loves, which they accomplish in horrific and bloody fashion at a Castle family reunion. But, despite being shot, blown up and almost drowned, he survives. After recovering from his injuries, he outfits himself with a black t-shirt bearing a white skull logo and a black duster and moves into a rundown warehouse loft where he goes about planning revenge on everyone responsible for his family's massacre. It's not enough just to kill them... they have to be punished.

Once ensconced in his shabby new surroundings, Castle puts together an impressive arsenal of weapons, drinks copious amounts of Wild Turkey and deals with the neighbours: Joan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a sweet waitress with a history of drug abuse and abusive boyfriends, Spacker Dave (Ben Foster) a guy with a penchant for face piercings and Mr. Bumpo (John Pinette), overweight, effeminate and a bit of a recluse. The four of them band together and become an extended family of sorts. In the meantime Castle lets Saint know he survived and begins dishing out his methodical punishments...

Marking his directorial debut with The Punisher, writer Jonathan Hensleigh makes a second attempt to bring the Marvel Comics' vigilante antihero to big screen life - the first attempt was a 1989 lackluster affair starring Dolph Lundgren, that although faithful to the comic book, disappointed fans and was universally slated. Hensleigh had the best of intentions and an admirable resume of film credits under his belt, but not a lot to work with. The Punisher first appeared in 1974 when vigilantism in the United States was a popular theme for books and films, so an everyman turned widower turned vigilante serial killer comic book character was received favorably at that time, but what passed for entertainment in 1974 is a bit dull in 2004, especially for younger audiences who want heroes with superpowers, the bigger the better. Hensleigh, not a stranger to action films (Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Armageddon), instead focused on the body count, the methods of death and gave the film a relentless pace and nonstop violence. He added some memorable bad guys to the mix as well.

Hensleigh also gets it right with the cast. Thomas Jane was a good choice as he physically looks the part with a handsome face and buff body - gravelly-voiced, he has little dialogue, but he makes the part his own. John Travolta (looking slimmer and younger in the film) has some nice moments as the grieving and ruthless Howard Saint. There is an interesting subplot between three of the leads, as a jealous and possessive Howard starts to suspect his wife Livia is having an affair with his lawyer Quentin Glass (Will Patton). Kevin Nash, a former wrestler with the WCW and WWF plays The Russian, a 6ft 10inch blonde henchman, who has one of the best fight scenes in the film with Castle. Roy Scheider and Samantha Mathis round out the cast as Castle's doomed father and wife..

Unlike the other recent comic book-to-film adaptation Hellboy, this one offers little in the way of comic relief. The comic book Punisher was hardcore, but Garth Ennis infused him with humour and spirit, both of which are lacking in the film. I also have a problem with the eclectic neighbours/extended family subplot which is more of a distraction than plot-enhancing. The characters work well together in the comic book, but never quite gel on film. That said, I'm still going to recommend The Punisher. Given its title, I went expecting to see lots of violence and that's exactly what I got. Castle is a take-no-prisoners kind of guy and when the motive is this personal, you just know you're going to see things blown up and people disposed of in nasty ways. The disjointed editing and fast pacing of the film only help to add to the comic book feel and the cast is excellent. While not the best film in this popular new sub-genre, it nevertheless has a lot to offer and I absolutely adore the music from the Soundtrack, especially Seether's Broken featuring Amy Lee.



out of 10

Last updated: 07/06/2018 12:36:04

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