The impressively muscular chest of Tom Jane is the focal point of The Punisher, a movie based on a Marvel Comics superhero. Frank Castle (Jane, Deep Blue Sea) retires from the FBI, which means--as any moviegoer expects--th... more »at his family is toast. Howard Saint (John Travolta, Face/Off), a shady Florida businessman whose son was killed in Castle's last mission, orders a hit not only on Castle's wife and child, but also on his parents and a whole bunch of aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth. The killers shoot Castle himself in the chest, but he inexplicably survives and--as any moviegoer expects--sets out to even the score. Implausibly, given his sometimes curious and roundabout methods, he succeeds. Also featuring Will Patton (Armageddon) as an oily thug, Laura Harring (Mulholland Drive) as Saint's fleshpot wife, and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men) as a waitress with bad taste in men. --Bret Fetzer« less
"In the world of super-heroes and evil villains, the Punisher rests squarely in that gray area between the two. He does exhibit a sense of justice akin to that of a hero, but he bears no remorse with regards to killing, as his wraith is only suffered by those who truly deserve, those who the law cannot, or will not touch. Revenge, justice, and retribution are his motivations, and he is judge, jury, and executioner. The Punisher (2004), directed and co-written by Jonathan Hensleigh, who also wrote Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) and Jumanji (1995), stars Thomas Jane, who bears a remarkable resemblance to actor Christopher (Highlander) Lambert, and who I've seen before, but couldn't place until I remembered him from the film Deep Blue Sea (1999), and John Travolta. Also appearing are Laura Herring, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos (does she still carry the Stamos since their divorce?) and Roy Scheider.
The film, based on a Marvel comic book of the same name, tells the story of FBI agent Frank Castle (Jane), an FBI agent, who, during a sting operation that results in the death of a suspect, finds himself at odds with a powerful crime family, lead by Howard Saint (Travolta), as, it turns out, the dead suspect was his son. In retaliation for his son's death, Saint orders a hit on Castle and his entire family, but Castle manages to survive, and, seeing that nothing has been done to apprehend those responsible for the deaths of his family, he decides to take the law into his own hands (something Doug Llewelyn from The People's Court always advised against) and bring his own form of justice to those who sought revenge against him. Do two wrongs make a right? No, but they sure make for a fun movie...
This actually wasn't the first screen adaptation of this comic character. There was a film, of the same name, released way back in 1989, which starred Dolph Lundgren, which was panned by both critics and fans. It wasn't that great, but I did enjoy it somewhat, and didn't think it was as bad as everyone thought. This latest incarnation is certainly better, benefiting from a larger budget, better writing, and a bit more star power, but still has minor flaws. I'd read many a comic book back in my youth, and The Punisher was one of them. At that time, he probably had three of four different titles, being a very popular character, and Marvel Comics had a real penchant for milking any bit of popularity for all they could, often exhausting the potential way too soon in their search for the almighty dollar. I haven't read comics in a long time, and given the nature of comic characters and their constant evolution, I was unsure how the story would be played out. I was unfamiliar with Thomas Jane, but I thought he did a wonderful job, really embodying the essence of the character I knew well way back when. The look, the feel, the attitudes, marked a vast improvement over the last film incarnation of the character. I was a bit apprehensive about John Travolta being cast as the lead bad guy, as of late, when playing similar antagonistic roles, he often ventured into the realm of hamminess, but his performance was really grounded here and lacked the over the top element inherent in some of his past roles, thankfully. The action elements in the film were done very well, bordering between the realistic and unbelievable nicely, and I really enjoyed the use of all different kinds of weaponry from hand guns, machine guns, anti-personnel mines, knives, to the bow and arrow. Jane's character showed adeptness and a proficiency one would expect. Some elements and scenes seemed a bit off...the plot point where Castle basically lets everyone know he didn't die in the massacre seemed illogical, as I would think the advantage of your enemies thinking you were dead would far outweigh whatever could be gained by them knowing you're alive, especially if you were planning to go after them. Also, the complete lack of any police involvement, even after Castle began his war on Howard Saint and his organization seemed unrealistic. And I would have expected Castle to find a secluded place to hole up, one where he could come and go as he pleased, and not a run-down apartment building with a few neighbors, including the character played by Romjin-Stamos. The purpose was to sort of create a surrogate family for Castle, but it just seemed strange that he would choose the location he did from which to wage his war. Finally, I have to mention the scene with the Russian assassin played by pro-wrestler Kevin Nash. I thought the fight scene was very exciting and fun to watch, but why did the Russian show up in a red and white striped shirt, looking like a huge, lumpy candy cane? It really disrupted the dark and gritty feel built up in the movie, as he reminded me of a lacky henchman from the 60's Batman television series. All in all, I thought most of the movie worked well, with a few plot areas that didn't, but the positive points out-weighed the negatives, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the movie as a whole, right up until it's satisfying conclusion.
The widescreen print here looks beautiful, and there's a good helping of useful and informative special features including featurettes on the stunts within the film, origins of the The Punisher character from his first appearance in a Spider-Man comic back in the 70's, a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, an interview influential cover artist for The Punisher comic book, a music video for a song within the film by the group Drowning Pool, a trailer for The Punisher video game (but not a trailer for the film itself?!), a commentary track by the director, two deleted scenes and a mini-comic.
Spent 30 MIllion, Made 70 Million, Before the DVD Release...
T. J Smith | Dallas, Tx | 08/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"And someone somewhere calls "The Punisher" a box-office failure, because it does not hit the number 1 spot, both Daredaevil and Hulk were #1 in the Box Office. I paraphrase Thomas Jane when I say that the film industry is in a sorry state if this is how we gauge a successful film...
I have been a Punisher fan since 1986 (thanks to my best friend Morris Koplow. Morris, if you read this, Thank you. I can never repay you for the enjoyment this Comic has brought me.).
After lagging book sales in Marvel's Punisher, Punisher: War Journal and Punisher: War Zone, executives at the comic powerhouse decide to follow a sad trend at the time and "redefine" the Punisher Character. Simply put, Marvel wrote Frank Castle into a depression and left him with no alternative but to end his own life, something DC did with it's own vigilante, creatively titled "Vigilante". The results was a rippling sense of betrayal for the fans, who felt that Castle was never written to be so weak as to suicide.
A few years later, Marvel breathed life into the Punisher through one of the classicly odd returns. Castle was resurrected by angels. This, too, did not fly (imagine a tank with little butterfly wings). Then Garth Ennis took over.
Ennis's work with the Punisher has brought back the grit and out and out nastiness that Frank Castle has always had. It was this work that the movie has been based on.
Yes, there has been "creative liberties" taken with "The Punisher", but they have been, for the most part, all for the better.
In the Comic, Castle loses his wife and two children to a mafia hit crew. While a justifiable reason to enter a world of vengence and punishment in comic books, film-goers wouldn't justify Castle waging a never-ending one man war on crime for that easily. Thus, wiping out his entire family was the key.
The Crime family (Make no mistake, Travolta and company were 100% unadulturated criminals, all businesses were fronts/laundering for their activities) in question certianly never appeared in any issue of the Punisher comic, but when the hero's "Rogue Gallery" is largely the cast of the Godfather, Casino, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, Resevior Dogs, etc, etc..., then a specific villian is not necessary, especially since most Punisher fans cannot name the Mafia Family that called the hit on Castle's family in the original comic. No, I don't remember who it was, either... The inclusion of "The Russian" was certainly a treat for any one who has read Ennis's "Welcome Back, Frank" and I hope that they can find a believable way to bring him back for the sequel (maybe get Nash some lessons in Russian and accents so we can get some of "The Russian's" fantastic dialogue).
Castle's Neighbors were taken DIRECTLY out of the Comic. Bumpo and Spacker Dave were near perfect castings and the only real difference with Joan in the film vs. the comic was that Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is more attractive, less mousey and attempted to be Castle's love interest. Like the comic, they proved that Castle was not completely devoid of humanity, nor unredeemable.
The Hero: Tortured, depressed and he enjoy's his Whiskey... Sounds about right for a man who just witnessed his entire family slaughtered and his wife and son run down by a pick-up truck loaded with "Goomba's". Thomas Jane's portrayal of Frank Castle is everything you expect it to be, if Castle was a real person driven to extremes. Jane captures to essentials of the character, and like Christopher Reeves, Ron Pearlman, Brandon Lee, Tobey Maguire and Hugh Jackman in their respective comic book films, molds the details to himself, making himself a living breathing Frank Castle. Jane is superb. He does what many thought was impossible, that being making himself into a live-action comic book character, without benefit of additional makeup or masks, and makes us believe that Frank Castle roamed the earth.
The Villian: Travolta is always a wonderful villian. Normal he "chews scenery" left and right and the audience is right with him. Not in "The Punisher". Travolta was still excellent and quite a urbane and sophistcated villian, but he was not the madman that most people expect from Travolta (IE: Face/Off and Broken Arrow). Will Patton was the "Mad Dog Villian" in "The Punisher" and while I would have preferred his end go differently, it was still satisfying to watch and his performance was certainly fun.
The action, overall, fed the story, as it should have. I personally would have liked to have seen a little more action from Castle, but I certainly wasn't disappointed in what I received. Many fans of the comics have commented that the violence in the film did not match that of the comic (the comic being more graphic). According to Thomas Jane, the plans for the second Punisher film will take the violence up a notch, almost as if (to my mind), that Frank Castle's morality was slipping away from him during the first film and the second will show the grotesque that Castle has become with the death of his family.
Overall, "The Punisher" 2004 film is as accurate and true to Punisher canon laid down by Marvel and Garth Ennis as Sam Rami's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films have been to the "Webbed Wall-Crawler's" own canon setup by Stan "The Man" Lee and Steve Ditko. I cannot recommend this film enough, especially to fans of Comics, High-Action films and "The Punisher" himself. It truly is under appreciated and one of the best and most accurate comic films ever."
Limited Action. Limitless Violence. But Entertaining.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 09/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This cinematic version of "The Punisher" is based on Marvel Comics' most recent incarnation of the vigilante anti-hero, as written by Garth Ennis in the "Welcome Back Frank" series. Although his ability to survive the most violent circumstances is extraordinary, the character has largely been removed from the world of superheroes. He's human and imperfect. The Punisher's backstory has been changed for the film to better integrate it with the narrative. A backstory that is not directly related to the present could never be successful in a film. Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an undercover FBI agent looking forward to the time with his family that his imminent retirement will allow. Those plans come to a horrific end when organized crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta), whose son was killed in a gun running bust, takes revenge on Castle's family. Devastated, angry, and with nothing left to lose, Castle sets out to return the favor by destroying Saint and his criminal empire.
"The Punisher" is filmed in a dark, gritty style that seems to have been inspired by the work of cover artist Tim Bradstreet and the cinéma verité of the 1970s. The lead-in that describes how Frank Castle becomes The Punisher is lengthy, but that's to be expected in the first film of a potential franchise. The violence is pretty graphic in places and probably not for the weak of stomach. For an "action film", "The Punisher" isn't especially active. The action is intermittent, builds as the film progresses, and tends to avoid grand gestures. Perhaps that's appropriate, as the violence is of a personal nature. The cast is consistently interesting. Thomas Jane does a solid job as The Punisher, a shattered man who never claims any moral high ground. John Travolta is particularly entertaining as the ruthless, petulant crime boss Howard Saint. Travolta gives a palpably restrained performance, playing Saint just slightly over-the-top and imbalanced to great effect. Will Patton is also notable as Howard Saint's sociopathic right-hand man, Quentin Glass. And Rebecca Romijn-Stamos has a supporting role as one of Frank Castle's dysfunctional neighbors, who provide a little comic relief. An interesting piece of cast trivia: Howard Saint's sons, Bobby and John, are played by the same actor, James Carpinello, and originally were intended to be twin brothers. When Carpinello was in make-up and costume, he looked so dissimilar as the brothers that director Jonathan Hensleigh decided that they shouldn't be twins.
The most striking aspect of this film isn't at all evident: It was made for a paltry $30 million -unheard of for an action film. That it looks like it cost twice that much is a credit to the director, cinematographer, and art director. Also notable is that none of the film's stunts are CGI. They look real, and they are. "The Punisher" is entertaining and visually interesting. My only complaint about the film is its pace, which is brooding and too even for an action film. That makes the film seem longer than it is.
The DVD: This is a nicely loaded disc. Bonus features include 4 featurettes, 2 deleted scenes with director's commentary, a music video for "Step Up" by Drowning Pool, a trailer for "The Punisher" video game, and an audio commentary by director Jonathan Hensleigh. The first featurette, "Keepin' it Real" (25 minutes) is about the film's stunts. This documentary discusses the processes of designing and filming the stunts, through interviews with stunt coordinator Gary Hymes and director Jonathan Hensleigh, among others. It might have been better organized and more informative if the documentary had taken us through a few stunts in detail instead of giving an overview. The second featurette, "War Journal" (30 minutes) is a broad making-of documentary that takes us through pre-production, production, editing and scoring in post-production, and winds up at the film's premiere. This is a well-organized, comprehensive documentary that includes interviews with line producer John Stark and director Jonathan Hensleigh, in which he talks about the challenges of making an action film on a $30 million budget and shooting in only 50 days. The third featurette, "Army of One" (12 minutes) is about "The Punisher"'s comic book origins. The genesis and evolution of the character in Marvel Comics are discussed in interviews with Gerry Conway, who created "The Punisher" as a Spider-Man villain in 1972, Stephen Grant, who wrote the character from 1986-1994, current writer Garth Ennis, Marvel art director John Romita, and cover artist Tim Bradstreet, as well as Marvel CEO Avi Arad and Vice President Ari Avad. This documentary is very helpful to those of us who don't read comic books in explaining the character's origins. The last featurette, "Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style" (5 minutes) focuses on cover artist Tim Bradstreet, who also designed the film's theatrical posters and heavily influenced the movie's visual style. The film's audio commentary by director Jonathan Hensleigh is very good. He speaks clearly and doesn't meander when explaining the decisions he made concerning story, style, characters and cinematography. His comments are particularly interesting, because "The Punisher" is an admirable example of efficient, economical filmmaking. Subtitles are available for the film in Spanish and English."
Great Movie But For An Early Blu-Ray Not Great
Rich | CA | 05/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I also have this movie both standard and now the blu-ray version I'm sure most people know about the storyline of this movie if not read the Amazon info about it an that is the jist of what the movie is about. I just want to say to people that if you already have the standard dvd version thats all you're going to need. The video and sound quality are not much better than what you got with the standard dvd since this is one of the earlier blu-rays to come out and they haven't fully mastered the video and audio yet you won't see any clearer or sharper details or better sound quality with this blu-ray version. So again if you have the standard dvd Punisher just keep that one and wait until they come out with a remastered blu-ray version or just pass this one up.."
Cool Marvel Comics adaptation; Decent HD presentation
S. Phillips | Las Vegas, NV United States | 07/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Blu-ray disc of THE PUNISHER looks superior to the DVD version, but none of the extras from the DVD are included here.
The "studder" issue noted by other reviewers is present ONLY when selecting the DTS audio option (which is the default on the menu). To play the movie without any issues, simply choose the DOLBY DIGTIAL audio track and the movie will play back perfectly. This strange issue affects all 4 of the initial Lionsgate titles. Again, to get around it, simply choose the Dolby audio option.
Hopefully the Blu-ray camp will begin releasing better discs soon, but for the meantime, THE PUUNISER looks cool in HD."