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THE PUNISHER, 2004
Movie Reviews!

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THE PUNISHER, 2004
Classic Movie Review
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Starring Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Rebecca Romijn-Stamo
Review by Andrew Kosarko



SYNOPSIS:

CTU Agent Frank Castle crosses the wrong path with Howard Saint, a local drug accountant and ends up having his entire family massacred before his eyes. Through the miracle of a local witchdoctor, Castle survives the attack and takes the duty of seeking revenge upon those who destroyed his life…

REVIEW:

Now there is no secret if you’ve read my prior superhero reviews that above all, I’m a Batman/DC Comics fan first and foremost. That being said, amongst the fanboys, Batman VS Punisher is quite a rivalry amongst the nerd community. Yet somehow, I like this movie. Even with the flaws that I’m about to rant about, I still like it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to communicate why I like it, but I’m going to try my best to illustrate it for you.The Story: The story starts off strong. Frank Castle is a kickass agent and takes down a local dealer, which sadly ends in the boy’s death after a miscommunication. Castle, convinced this is his last mission before he can settle down with a desk job to focus on his family more, is upset at the death of the young man, but glad to be retired from missions and heads to a tropical vacation to celebrate with a family reunion. The local dealer who died was coincidently, the son of a major drug money washer Howard Saint, upset with the death of his son, takes the request of his sadistic wife and finds out about Castle’s operation and sends his men to murder the entire family on their tropical vacation. Castle mounts some resistance but ultimately watches his entire family, wife and son, murdered right before his eyes. Then, the men take their attack on Castle, beating him senseless, shooting him, and then blowing him up off of a pier and leaving him to drown. Castle is mysteriously saved by a local witchdoctor and then takes up a mission to avenge his family’s death and become the persona known as The Punisher. Here’s where the movie starts to go south. Castle takes a lot of time to hunt down and mental screw with Saint before killing him. The problem is, he doesn’t do anything that would really make life hell for Saint. He makes him lose some money, piss off his clients and well….lose some more money. All the mean while Saint is trying to have him killed…again and again and again. The final attack on Saint is pure, unadulterated badassism. Yes, that’s a new word, badassism. But up until that point, the movie takes a dip in the excitement level. Frank takes up shack in a run down apartment and his local neighbors take a vested interest in his life. Frank appreciates their optimism for them, and does his best to look out for them but ends up leaving them, knowing that his family is his sole reason for what he does. When it’s all said and done, the most powerful scene in the film was when Castle attempts suicide and doesn’t follow through with it. It’s because of his wife and the people around him that he decides not to and continues on his mission for right the wrongs in the world. The story does suffer a bit ľ of the way through, and I’ve heard, and agree with, a few friends of mine that the story could have tapped a bit from “Man on Fire” in terms of Castle torturing his way up the line to find Saint. This would have worked a lot better in my opinion, but I tend to give it some lee-way because it’s the origin story and I like to have something to build up to in the sequels.

Acting:

Thomas Jane – Frank Castle / Punisher: I really enjoy him as Punisher. I do. I think he’s slightly more “cold/icey/complacent” than he should be, but that’s the only flaw I see in his portrayal. I always envisioned Punisher as being severely enraged and constantly screaming his way around, intimidating and blowing stuff up all at once. Just a man on a rampage. But that’s all in terms of opinion and not ability. For what he goes for, Tom Jane does a good job. He does the best with what the screenplay gives him in the style he attempts. I just think the enraged Punisher would have given the film more energy.

John Travolta – Howard Saint: Honestly, I think this was some of Travolta’s best acting. Just something about his performance that’s got style, it’s got class. It’s just like a smooth glass of wine to me. I love how he’s cold and icey. Which is kind of why I wish that Tom Jane had gone the opposite with his portrayal of Punisher to add some contrast between him and Travolta’s characters. Still, Travolta does a better job of the iciness.

Directing:

The directing for the most part is strong. The action scenes are slightly bland, but still maintain some interest. The comedic moments are right on cue and the director is able to capture a “noir” film movie style without making it annoying. The casting isn’t all that great as there’s no incredible acting going on from the protagonist to keep you glued the whole time.

Cinematography:

The film is shot very well. Once again, as always, Marvel films nail that Comics to Film transition and still convey it’s own style. The film is gritty and real, yet slightly fantastical. Which is great because Punisher is the most realistic of Marvel Heroes that comes to mind for me.

Production Design:

There really isn’t much “design” to the world around Punisher. It’s just….Miami. Nothing special to be honest.

Editing:

No complaints here, not good. Not bad. Not special. Just editing.

Score:

Ok, here’s something I was happy about. I was ˝ expecting some hard rock guitars and screamo music. Instead, they went with a trumpet/French horn type score that’s very film-noirish. It just screams “classy guns.” Many fans would complain that Punisher should be very gritty and dirty with the hard guitars but I actually like how they mixed up.

Special Effects:

Good…when it’s used. The Punisher skull on the car explosions at the end was really un-needed but that’s the most obvious use of visual effects. The rest of the film, from what I could see, implores old school special effects and pyrotechnics. I especially enjoyed the car flip being real and not CGI’d.

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In closing:

The Punisher is a taste of what the Punisher should be. But it’s a good enough start. It’s only when it gets into the cat and mouse back and forth between Jane and Travolta that the film hits some lulls. Aside from that it’s a bland movie that can capture your interest on a boring night. But at the same time, don’t bother pausing it if you have to get up and grab a cold one or hit the commode. I guess the best term to describe this film is “meh”. And yes, I can use that as a word now because the dictionary says so.

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