The Punisher


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"Don't let the boring trailers and lack of big stars fool you.  It's a fun flick...especially if you like excessive violence."



The Punisher
The Masked Reviewer

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 of 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 lame.

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 material.

3) Many people still remember the Dolph Lundgren version 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 fondly remembered.

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'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 this movie. 

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 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 plot twists.


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