The Punisher (2004)
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh and Michael France
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Runtime 124 min.
4.5 out of 5
Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) has just completed his final mission with the FBI: posing as European arms dealer Otto Krieg to lure Bobby Saint—son of crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta)—into a deal and eventually put him away. A shootout ensues and Bobby is killed. Frank retires and heads down to Florida on vacation with his family. When Howard Saint discovers Frank’s true identity and that “Krieg” didn’t die in the shootout, he sends a team of men to take out Frank’s family as payback for killing his son. Howard Saint’s men kill everyone including, they think, Frank. But Frank survives—barely—and soon gets well enough to punish Howard and his family slowly and painfully in an effort to balance the scales of justice.
I’m a huge fan of this movie despite there being a big divide amongst fans about it. Personally, it hit home to me on a lot of levels and this is why I love it. It’s a story of tragedy and pain, things going south in a big way, and one man trying to make things right the only way he knows how. What especially impressed me was the overall feel of the film and how that reflected Frank’s journey from family man to broken man to Punisher. In the beginning, everything is happy, cheery, colorful, and then once all are killed, suddenly the tone goes bleak, it’s all grays and browns and blacks, and everything becomes ultra serious. Even the humorous bits are done in a serious manner.
I also liked the glimpses into the lives of the others in Frank’s apartment building: Joan (Rebecca Romijn), Bumpo (John Pinette) and Spacker Dave (Ben Foster). To be honest, I don’t know how true they were to their comic book counterparts as I haven’t read them, but as portrayed on film, I liked them as characters and had a soft spot for each of them as I saw bits and pieces of others I once knew inside them.
Back to Frank, Thomas Jane played it in spades. He was depressed, brooding, angry, idealistic, righteous and distraught all at the same time. He brought each of these elements to the fore whenever they were best called upon and went beyond just a gun-wielding vigilante. He would’ve made an excellent Batman should he have ever been offered the role.
When I saw him as the Punisher again in the fan film, Dirty Laundry, I cheered him on the whole way through and felt like I was back at home in Frank Castle’s life, walking with him as he dealt with the pain of losing everyone he’d ever loved while once again rising to the call of duty because he was needed.
Frank’s inspiring speech in The Punisher about sometimes the law being inadequate gets every fanboy pumped up and cheering, and while I find it hard to believe Frank’s motive is only punishment and not vengeance, it’s still a memorable moment in the film.
This flick is one of my favorites and is highly recommended.