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Punishment Is Pain
The Punisher (DVD)
Member Name: utero
The Punisher (DVD)
Date: 18/03/05, updated on 24/03/05 (78 review reads)
Advantages: Gritty, Great Ending, Does what it says on the tin
Disadvantages: A few duff moments
The Punisher is from the Blade family of Marvel comics, heís a dark character certainly not out to save the day with his superpowers. In fact The Punisher has nothing super about him. Heís just an ordinary man intent on dishing out justice to those that go un-punished by law. The character has been made into a film once before with beefcake Dolph Lundgren taking the role. Needless to say itís not a film that many talk about.
But with Marvel in the ascendancy it was time to revisit The Punisher and give the Blade crowd something dark in taste. Iíve read a lot of comments on the movie that range from indifference to complete loathing. Well I have to say that this was a movie that actually turned out a lot better than Iíd been made to believe.
Plot wise itís all fairly simple. Frank Castle (Tom Jane) is a special agent who has taken down some of the biggest names in crime. On his last mission he ends up embroiled in a shootout that leaves several dead. One of them happens to be the son of crime lord Howard Saint (John Travolta) and naturally Saint isnít too happy. When he finds out Castleís involvement he orders the massacre of Castleís family and Castle. Everyone is brutally killed at a family gathering including Castleís wife and young son. Castle is left for dead but survives to wreck punishment on his enemy when justice doesnít prevail.
What I liked about this film was the fact that it was low budget for a comic book movie and had a seventies flavour to it. The opening credits put you in the mood of a western and from then in youíre treated to something that knows itís just a revenge flick pure and simple. Many films like to shy away from violence in recent times but this is one that goes back to the eighties and doesnít make apologies for it.
Iíve liked Thomas Jane in previous films, low budget stuff like Stander and Last Time I Commited Suicide have showcased his qualities while big budget fare like Deep Blue Sea certainly show he had the build to pull off the role. Frank Castle is played as brooding and a bit Steve McQueen and I liked it. Of course this movie also lives or dies on the villain. Travolta has certainly been known to ham it up in these kinds of roles but heís a bit more restrained here. Iím not saying Castle is a classic villain but he certainly has the arrogance that justifies Castleís retribution. Special mention must go to the finale that is quite audacious, darkly amusing and incredibly entertaining in a dark way.
Director Jonathan Hensleigh was perhaps not the ideal choice to helm a film like this. Certainly he has nothing on his CV directorial wise to suggest why he was given the reins. But he does a fairly decent job, it would have been easy for this movie to have been placed in the hands of a music video director and subsequently been chopped up MTV style with rock music banging out at every opportunity. Of course The Punisher does have those moments but theyíre done right.
Where Punisher falls a bit short is in some of itís supporting roles. There is a subplot involving the co-tenants of Castleís apartment block that doesnít really work while some of Saintís cronies including his sonís could have been cast better. But in some ways I think this movie was a warm-up. Thereís certainly more that could be done with the character and Iíd certainly welcome a sequel that went a bit more darker and nasty in a Dirty Harry way.
The Punisher may not be everyoneís kind of movie but I certainly enjoyed it more than other movies supposedly deemed better.