a critiQal film review The Punisher (2004)

Plot: Just before Frank Castle retires from the FBI, a sting operation takes the life of one of the sons of wealthy Mr. Saint (Travolta). Saint takes his revenge by murdering Frank's entire family. Now Frank is looking for Mr. Saint. Don't call it revenge, though - this is punishment.

704 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 31s)
  • ...rather dull for an action/revenge pic.

Oh gee…yet another Marvel comic has hit the big screen. The latest involves one “regular” guy (regular in the Marvel Universe: extensive military and explosives training) dishing out punishment to the bad guys. The Punisher has been tried before, back in the late 80’s I believe it was (and that one starred Dolph Lundgren). So, would they be able to improve on the earlier version (which very few people saw – me included), or is this one of the films just caught up in the new comic book movie explosion?

Tom Jane looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t seem to place him. He’s got one of those faces that bear somewhat of a similarity to a lot of famous people, but you’re sure there’s something just a little bit different, or out of place. Putting aside the odd familiarity of the actor, he doesn’t really seem to be the right guy for the part. Maybe it was just me, but the Punisher always seemed to be a bit bulkier in the comics – you know, he looked like he could hold his own against whomever he came up against.

Mr. Jane, on the other hand, spends most of the movie getting the crap kicked out of his scrawny butt. Kind of different than I expected from a movie based on The Punisher, but I guess it was worth a try to the filmmakers – after all, we’ve already had our fair share of big guys muscling through whatever is thrown at them.

Now, I know I usually spend the second paragraph talking about the acting, and varied that here. Why would I do that, you ask? Simple. The acting in The Punisher can be summed up pretty quickly: lame. The actors all dutifully read their lines, but none of them really sank their teeth into their roles, and ended up coming off, well, lame.

The script had a big role in that as well, so even if the actors had done their very best, it doesn’t look like it would have been enough because of the convoluted script. The story never really gives you a good look into how Mr. Castle gets along with his family before they are wiped out, for one, so you never really get a look at how much this is eating away at him. He just keeps going from one scene to the next in The Punisher with that stony look, and you just assume he’s going to kick some butt.

The plot itself has a few flaws, also. There isn’t even an attempt to hide the foreshadowing thrown in haphazardly (wherever it will kind of fit) throughout the beginning sequences. For example, his dad suddenly wants to talk to him, so he goes in…and his dad has apparently refurnished his pistols for no good reason, to turn them into even deadlier weapons. Hmmm…now do you think he’s going to use those pistols sometime in the future? C’mon. We’re not stupid. The plot doesn’t have to be see-through for us to get it.

Second flaw: we know what will happen in the end, and the rest is just filler to get us there. With straight-forward revenge films like The Punisher, the filmmakers are working at a disadvantage: most of their viewing public knows the good guy will triumph in the end (usually). It then becomes the filmmakers’ jobs to make the journey to the foregone conclusion more entertaining than usual.

Third flaw: long and drawn out sequences. For important sequences, it was thought by someone that a speech be made by one of the characters, filled with inane blather that could have been summed up in one sentence. See me stifling a yawn.

The action was a bit run-of-the-mill in The Punisher, with no real great sequences. At some points, it’s even quite easy to tell when they’ve substituted in a mannequin instead of a live actor. It’s pretty pathetic for a movie of this day and age, and they should have taken more pride in their film and done a bit better editing job, at least.

Not much to recommend The Punisher at all, but at least it’s not painful too watch…it’s just dull.

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