The Punisher (2004)
(Release Date: April 16, 2004)

Three Stars and a wish upon one more for Travolta's Career!Three Stars and a wish upon one more for Travolta's Career!Three Stars and a wish upon one more for Travolta's Career!

Marvel's Payback King Hits the Big Screen Almost intact... and Almost Good!

J.C. Maçek III... Punishing Critic!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!


Other Comic Book-(ish) reviews:

Comic Bookish
  Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  The Hulk (2003)
  X-Men (2000)
  X-Men 2 (2003)
  Spawn Season 2 (1998)
  Teen Titans (2003)
  Smallville (2003)
  Road To Perdition (1998)
  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
  Hellboy (2004)

There's something wrong with John Travolta's career on a very deep level. He's one of our greatest actors, and I say

The Punisher in Print!

Interested in Reading some Punisher comics?
Here are Kneumsi's Recommendations:
  1. The Amazing Spider-Man # 129 (February 1974)
    The Punisher's first appearance has him in the Spandex, but the elements of the Character to be are all there from the renegade rage to the honorable loyalty!
  2. The Punisher: Purgatory Parts 1 - 4 (November 1998-February 1999)
    The Deceased Frank Castle is resurrected by Angels to battle demons in this four part saga by Buffy Scribe Christopher Golden with Tom Sniegoski. Sound Far Fetched and Odd for such a character? Surprise, it works! The story's great, but the Art by the Incomparable Bernie Wrightson (with Inker Jimmy Palmiotti) steals the show here! The Punisher as a Horror Comic may seem like a stretch, but it's actually one of the Best Punisher stories ever!
  3. The Punisher Arsenal # 1 - 3
    Not really a comic, but a catalogue of The Punisher's many toys, this 3 issue Limited Series (with appendices in later comics) gives us a look at the thoughts and ideas behind who the Punisher is, not to mention all the guns, vehicles, knives, Armor and other Weapons that make Frank Castle who he is. Eliot R. Brown writes and draws this good quick reference... but you might not want to read it straight through.
  4. The Punisher (vol.3 # 1-12) (Feb 2000 - Mar 2001)
    All these are good, as is any Punisher written by Garth Ennis with Art by Steve Dillon and Covers by Tim Bradstreet. This Creative team thankfully continues with The Punisher (Vol.4) (Aug 2001 and Beyond)!
This is just a few of the great ones I'd recommend to you! There are so many good ones I can't put them all here (and I don't know which list to put Batman Vs. Punisher in! Hey, just about all Punisher's great! Got something to add? Write it! Or, make your own list!

-Bullet-Dodger Kneumsi!

Punish THIS you big FREAK!

Odd Punisher in Print!

Interested in Reading some Punisher comics?
Well don't start with these!
  1. Punisher War Journal #62-80 (January, 1994 and Beyond)
    There's no "Bad" Punisher but when aces Chuck Dixon and John Romita, jr. gave us our Female Version of The Punisher the whole idea got Convoluted. Not that there's anything wrong with the Punisher being a Woman at all, but it not only makes him less unique, but it also ruins the mythos to merely cash in on the "Bad Girl" Comics of the time. The writing and art is good, and you may enjoy it (I do) but just don't Start with this run! See also Punisher War Zone #7-10, Punisher Volume I #86-88
  2. PUNISHER 2099 (1992-1996)
    Again, not "Bad" per se, but not the best starting point, either. Part of Marvel's futuristic 2099 line this Punisher offs bad guys in a near-apocalypse New York.
  3. The Punisher meets Archie: When Worlds Collide (August 1994)
    No, I didn't make that up! The Punisher tracks a criminal to Riverdale where he must team up with Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica. Mad props for originality and fun, but again... don't start here!

    -Law-Suit-Dodger Kneumsi!

that without a trace of Irony! Lump him in with Stallone or Arnie if you will, but he's really, truly good. He can't choose projects to save his left butt cheek anymore, but he can act. Everyone's familiar with his mid '80's to Mid-Nineties Career downturn before Quentin "The Chin" Tarantino made him a star again with Pulp Fiction! For a few minutes there he was back on top of his game... now, after Battlefield Earth, Swordfish (which should have been good), and most horrifyingly, last year's Basic, Travolta is back in full on The Experts mode with no Look Who's Talking Too to keep him Buoyant. The guy's one of my favorite actors, man, which makes me wonder how he ended up playing "The Bad Guy" in the latest Marvel Comics Adaptation The Punisher! Why is a two-time Oscar Nominee appearing as a supporting actor in a second tier Comic Book Character Adaptation from an Indie movie company in Canada about a guy who kills Mobsters like The Crow without the Makeup.

That's not to say it's not a worthy Project! Quite the contrary, for all the simplicity of the set up, over the years since The Amazing Spider-Man number 129, our boy Francis Castiglione (AKA Frank Castle), the former Marine who witnessed Gangsters gunning down his wife, Maria and two kids, Christie and Frank Jr. has become one of Marvel's most complex and interesting characters! The Comics are especially compelling when written by the likes of Garth Ennis, or drawn in full Ian Astbury as a Vigilante mode by Tim Bradstreet!

But how about the Movie? Does it kick the Boo-tay of the previous attempt starring Dolph "He-Man" Lundgren? Definitely! Is it a great, great film? No, not really! It's fun to watch, action packed and interesting, but it's not quite the sum of its parts.

Aside from turning Frank Castle (played here by Thomas Jane looking much more like Christopher Lambert than Ian Astbury) into a career Donnie Brascoe clone, eliminating Castle's daughter and moving the setting from New York to Miami, director Jonathan Hensleigh gets The Punisher right on a lot of levels. He and co-writer Michael France have crafted a script that shows a pretty respectable knowledge of the character and an interest in showcasing a lot of what makes the Comic Book great. They also attempt to pack in as much story (not to mention violence, blood, drawn out fight scenes and near misses) into The Punisher's running time that the whole thing gets a little Top Heavy and occasionally difficult to follow.

By nature, this is an Episodic story, and like any Episodic entertainment, some episodes can be better than others. The plot here centers around retiring FBI Agent Frank Castle's last mission going hopelessly wrong and leading to the Gangland Execution of his entire family (and presumably him too) at the hands of businessman and career criminal Howard Saint (Travolta) and his wife Livia (the still so pretty it hurts Laura Harring)!

The surviving Castle skips months of rehab and springs fully formed onto the streets of Miami with adapted weapons and the world's most tricked out Pontiac GTO. Back from the Comic is the White Skull on the Black T-Shirt (thankfully, like the Comic, they dispense with the Superhero Spandex he debuted in) and Leather trench coat. Also back is a collection of more weapons than NATO and Warsaw Pact had ever envisioned being housed in one crappy apartment! I mean, this guy could fight the Taliban with this Weaponry! And, like the Comic Book, here, the newly Christened Punisher cuts a swath of creative death through the Criminal Underworld while appearing on more Hit Lists than Justin Timberlake!

It's cool to see Jane play the Punisher not as some invincible Super Hero, but as a Vulnerable and Angry man. He has more than a few close shaves, and gets his fair share of Ass Bootings! There are really a few Frigidaire moments surrounding the threat to Frank Castle, and even more moments surrounding the Threat he offers to Howard Saint and the boys (and girls) of his ilk.

What isn't so cool is the multiplicity of inconsistency that tends to weigh down the plot. The audience is invited to buy in to some of the more implausible plot points here that are ultimately not flattering to Hensleigh's movie. In fact, the main problem with this film is the uneven intelligence here. In some points The Punisher seems smart and well-paced, and at others Hensleigh opts for the Big Dumb Action of films like Bad Boys II and the like. Where subtlety once reigned, blood and sadism take over. Granted, Superhero film meets Gangster film meets Revenge Tragedy meets Desperado isn't easy to juggle, but when the fruit falls to the floor it's not exactly Oscar time.

The Acting here isn't bad. Jane has the Brooding Castle down pat, and is just about perfectly cast as the role. Travolta can be a tad over the top at times, but he's still a good actor. Aside from those principal players we have a veritable who's who of recognizable (and good), but not top-of-the-heap-famous faces including everyone from Roy Scheider to Rebecca Romijn-Stamos to Samantha Mathis to Ben Foster just to name a few.

It's not the acting or the characters that are really so much the problem here as the over-inflated plot and overall simplicity of the film as a whole. It's easy to root for the Punisher in his scourge of the Mob, but it's also easy to forget to take him seriously at times. In essence, this is a pretty good time passer, and somewhat fun as a no-brainer, but it's also an experiment in violence and sadism (though not to the level of Kill Bill Volume 1 or Dawn of the Dead) without enough of the great film making that can elevate the film past that level. It's great for Fans of the Comic (willing to overlook the minor Gregory Benford Moments) and of the Genre. All others should apply elsewhere!

Revenge Dramas! They're some of the classics of Literature, and on April 16, 2004 we got two in one day. Either as a Cash In or by coincidence, The Punisher has to compete with the far superior Kill Bill Volume 2, and fair or not, that gets The Punisher Three Stars out of Five! You might like it if you can't get enough of the old Revenge Quest after Kill Bill Volume 2, or you're just heels over head about seeing Marvel on the Big Screen! You might want to avoid it if you're spoiled by the quality of Kill Bill Volume 2, or you hate violent films like Kill Bill Volume 2 anyway! Now if you'll excuse me... I have to go write some Fan Mail to Bernie Wrightson!

Revenge Tragedies, I've read a few,
And clicking here, you'll read some too!

The Punisher (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III alone is responsible for the content of this web site and for the throwing knives with Skulls on them he has waiting for the next Joey Lawrence Poster he sees!
Got something to say? Write it!

Captain Ahab Has to go HUNT his WHALE!
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