Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; Deleted
scenes with optional commentary; 'Keeping It Real: Punisher Stunt'
featurette; 'War Journal: On the Set of The Punisher' Featurette.
GIVEN the overwhelming success that Marvel Comics is currently
enjoying with its Spider-Man
and X-Men franchises, it is little
wonder to find that other comic-book super-heroes are finding
their way to the Big Screen.
The Punisher, however, marks something of a departure from what
we have come to expect.
Not only is it an ultra-violent affair, which is strictly for
adults only, it also features a hero who has no super-powers of
Frank Castle is a flesh and blood fighter; a loner hell-bent
on revenge, following the cold-blooded murder of his family.
He first appeared in 1974, a rich period for vigilantes, following
the success of movies such as Charles Bronson's Death Wish and,
to a lesser degree, Clint Eastwood's renegade cop, Dirty Harry.
And his methods were extremely calculated and almost stripped
Needless to say, Frank Castle went down a storm then, but in
an era when PC-audiences need their heroes to conform to a strict
set of values, his transition to the Big Screen has been a lot
Dolph Lundgren attempted it in the 90s, with little success,
and now it is the turn of Tom Jane, complete with the backing
of Marvel Comics.
The result, as you would expect, is a grim, violent affair, in
which there is very little room for sentimental values.
Yet, there is much to admire, not least in the performance from
Jane, as well as John Travolta's villain, and Jonathan Hensleigh's
The film starts with a bungled police
operation, during which the son of feared gangster, Howard Saint
(Travolta), is accidentally killed by the police.
In retaliation, and following the orders of his glamorous wife
(Laura Harring), Saint tracks down and kills everyone responsible,
including their families, leaving the soon-to-be-retiring Castle
for dead, and his family and friends massacred.
Battered and bruised, however, Castle becomes The Punisher and
wages a one-man war against Saint's dark empire, both physically
and psychologically, stopping at nothing to ensure that his own
brand of justice is done.
Along the way, he is forced to rediscover his humanity through
his interaction with three other bruised misfits, played by Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos, Ben Foster and John Pinette, but their relationship
plays second fiddle to the task at hand.
Jane is quietly effective in the lead role of Castle, tapping
into the fear and anger of his persona, while also allowing some
moments of black humour to lighten the overall effect of his performance.
While Travolta exudes vicious menace as the OTT-Saint, bringing
the same sort of malevolence to his performance as he did in Face/Off,
while realising the comic book origins of his character.
They are both well-served by first-time director, Hensleigh,
who strikes a delicate balance between the brutality and humour,
while delivering some blistering set-pieces - most notably in
Castle's run-ins with two of Saint's assassins.
But the film will stand or fall on how audiences perceive the
violence - for they might not get the humour that comes with it,
and write it off as a thoroughly nasty affair in the process.
In America, the film failed to really ignite in the same way
as other Marvel adaptations, even though a sequel is in the works.
It would be a shame if the same thing happened here. For the
most part, The Punisher is an extremely enjoyable affair that
harks back to a bygone era in film-making, and which should provide
a welcome alternative for anyone who likes their thrillers a little