There is no shortage of films based on
beloved (and not-so-beloved) comic book characters. Some have
succeeded more than others. Superman was a great franchise
(at least, it was until Superman IV: The Quest for Peas).
Batman was phenomenally successful, at least for a few of the
installments. Spiderman was a huge hit and the sequel is
shaping up to be even bigger. X-Men has done well at the
box office and pleased fans, and the third in that series should be
coming soon to a theater near you.
Blade spawned two films,
even though the comic upon which it's based isn't exactly widely known.
The quality of comic book movies goes down quickly after that.
B-Fleck's stint as Daredevil didn't win over anyone. The
Hulk was, in a word, stinky. Believe it or not, things have
even been worse: Captain America (1991) sucked majorly.
The Fantastic Four (1994) is fantastically foul (though a big budget
version is in the works). There was Judge Dredd, which
anyone would dread seeing. Swamp Thing was bogged down by
horrible plot, characters, and effects. Spawn only managed
to spawn more bile than a two-week old hoagie. How about Steel?
It took nerves of steel to sit through that one. More recently we
had The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which extraordinarily
blew chunks. And let us not forget, Howard the Duck, which
needs no further comment.
In the list of bad comic book movies, we can't omit the 1989 version
The Punisher, which was punishment to watch. Dolph
Lundgren starred as Frank Castle, the titular Punisher. It didn't
capture any of the feel of the comics, and he didn't even have the giant
scary skull on his t-shirt. That'd be like Superman wearing a
shirt from the Gap.
This time, the folks at Marvel got things right. That is, at
least, if you're a fan of the comic book. Many people have never
heard of the Punisher. He's not as well-known as Wolverine or
Spiderman. He doesn't have any super powers. He's just a
guy. A guy with a lot of guns and a lot of bad attitude.
In keeping with the Masked Reviewer's non-spoiler policy, nothing
will be mentioned about the movie. This is a tricky situation,
however, because many people will pass on the film. Why?
1) The trailers for the film don't do it justice. It looks
2) Fans of the comic will assume that Marvel has gone mainstream
after Spiderman and The Hulk and that they couldn't
possibly be true to the dark, grizzly, gruesome nature of the source
3) Many people still remember the Dolph Lundgren version
and...well...no one would want to risk repeating that experience.
4) This film will almost certainly get reamed by reviewers.
The Masked Reviewer wants to be perfectly clear about this: if you
love the comic book, you owe it to yourself to check out the movie.
They did not "puss-out" on the violence. There are some deviations
from the comic's storyline, but nothing that should get anyone too
upset. In fact, the writer/director, Jonathan Hensleigh, has
incorporated a lot of famous Punisher moments in the script that will be
Thomas Jane stars as Frank Castle (also known as the Punisher, in
case you haven't been paying attention). You may remember him from
such films as HBO's 61 and Deep Blue Sea. He's a
good fit for the role: he's in good shape, physical, and brooding.
He plays it straight and gives the best performance in a comic book
adaptation since Wolverine in X-Men. Fortunately, other
characters provide comic relief (including Ben Foster as Spacker Dave,
John Pinette as Mr. Bumpo, and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Joan the Mouse).
Because the film is so dark, the funny moments get huge laughs and break
the tension nicely.
Now, for those of you who don't know the comic books, this isn't your
typical superhero movie. The Punisher is a vigilante, like Batman,
only he uses lethal force. A lot. No mercy here. He's
what's known as "an anti-hero". The result is that a lot of people
are killed. Brutally killed. And maimed. And lit on
fire. And tortured. Stabbed, blown-up, dragged behind
cars...it's not a kid's movie.
The film is rated R and it earns the R rating. In many ways, it
feels more like a horror movie than a superhero movie. There's
even a brief moment of gratuitous nudity!
People who are put off by ultra-violence will be disturbed by the
film. In fact, there are some images that may make hardened horror
fans twinge a bit. If you like violent payback, this film has it
and it's so over the top that you may feel a little bit guilty
for cheering when the bad guys get what's coming to them.
John Travolta is the big box office draw in the movie, starring as
the evil bad guy (as opposed to Thomas Jane, who stars as the good bad
guy). John Travolta seems to greatly enjoy being the bad guy: he's
played the role in Broken Arrow, Face-Off, Swordfish, Battlefield
Earth, and Look Who's Talking Too). Unlike those other
performances, he's a little more low key, which gives him room to get
crazier and crazier as the Punisher makes things tough for him.
Will Patton (Armageddon, No Way Out) is a secondary bad guy in
the film and also gives a fine performance.
The Masked Reviewer recommends this film for anyone who wants a fun,
in-your-face, hard edged revenge flick. It's an old formula, but
the directing is good, the writing is not entirely predictable, and the
action is satisfying. Rather than fall into the current trend of
invisible wire harnesses and computer graphics, The Punisher does
things the old fashioned way. It features some great scenes with
gruesome violence (including a hand-to-hand battle with WWF wrestler
Kevin "Diesel" Nash) and if you like that kind of thing, you'll like
Don't let the boring trailers and lack of big stars fool you. It's
a fun flick...especially if you like excessive violence.
Expectation from the Title: Jimmy thought his elementary
school's principal was a bit odd for naming the oak spanking paddle on
the wall. Over his first year at the school, Jimmy learned that
the paddle was aptly named.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
He seems like such a nice man...at least, until he started killing all
those people. He could use some anger management classes.
The Pros: Brutally violent, over-the-top, butt-kicking
imagery. Brief nudity. True to the comic book.
The Cons: No cameos by other Marvel heroes. No shocking