The Punisher

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The success of Marvel comic adaptations like “Spider-Man” (and its sequel), “X-Men” and “Daredevil” has led to a new comic book hero. Well…sort of. “The Punisher” was actually one of the first Marvel characters to head to the silver screen, a 1989 version starring Dolph Lungren (“Rocky IV”) was a terrible adaptation and probably held up the development of future Marvel characters for at least five years. But that was then and this is now. As mentioned before, the financial success of the “Spider-Man” franchise has led the way for other comic book heroes to get their chance on the screen. As a past comic book reader, I have been familiar with all of these heroes and “The Punisher” is by far the most occult of them all (and, to my count, there’s: Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, Daredevil with an Elecktra spin-off in the works). The Punisher wasn’t exactly a villan and had no real powers, just a lust for vengeance and to right what is wrong in the world. Originally appearing in the pages of The Amazing Spiderman in the mid 1970’s, The Punisher eventually got his own comic book series and later a second movie adaptation.

And as we meet Frank Castle (Thomas Jane, credited here as Tom Jane), he’s in the middle of an undercover operation. Something goes wrong and a young man is killed, but the problem is that he’s the son of a wealthy money launderer, Thomas Saint (John Travolta). Saint and his wife want revenge for their son’s death not only on Frank, but on his entire family as well. And, in one of the film’s more gruesome scenes, Frank’s entire family is killed while at a family reunion in an island paradise. Frank is left for dead, but of course he survives and is nursed back to health (otherwise, there would be no movie). With his previous life over, he vows revenge on those who killed his family and heads back to Tampa, Florida where he takes up residence in a run down apartment. Castle is a retired FBI agent and has an extensive knowledge of weapons and how to use them. He’s also turned to drinking to heal his pain. And not even the three other residents of his apartment building (one played by Rebecca Romaijn-Stamos) can’t bring him out of his shell. Naturally we see that The Punisher will probably get to Thomas Saint, by systematically killing all of his men, among them his right hand man and sadist, Quentin Glass (Will Patton). Will Frank get his revenge or be killed in the process?

“The Punisher” was a pretty good movie, far better than the one from 15 years ago (when the character was at its peak in the comic book world). The characters seem a bit cartoonish and two dimensional, but we have to realize that the basis of them is from a comic book. I was surprised at how low-budget this appears (and was) considering the star power involved. John Travolta, Thomas Jane, Will Patton and Rebecca Romaijn-Stamos aren’t exactly starving actors, you know. The movie is dark, very dark and the theme is one of the oldest in film. Still, “The Punisher” breathes new life into this rather controversial comic book hero and Frank Castle is faithfully brought to life by Thomas Jane. The plot is a bit predictable and though the movie sets the stage for a sequel, there’s no guarantee that it’ll happen. It seems that sequels are only made for movies that make hundreds of millions of dollars or for “cult classics”. I’m not sure this falls into either category. Still, I liked the movie and will probably find myself watching it again soon. Though the video leaves a bit to the imagination, the audio is outstanding and the disc has just enough supplements on it to make it worth a purchase. Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

Video-wise, “The Punisher” is severely lacking. The image, though anamorphic, seems very gritty and grainy in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio. As can be expected, the movie is very dark at times and there’s not a whole lot of artifacting, but it just seems to lack that “smoothness” that’s associated with a new to DVD movie. Some scenes look great, particularly the daytime outdoor scenes (which there aren’t many of), but those are few and far between. This isn’t unwatchable by any means, but we’ve come to expect so much more from DVD that this seems somewhat of a letdown.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is a different story as this disc houses a Dolby Digital EX track and makes great use of it. I made the mistake of starting this disc around 10:00 at night (meaning it was wrapping up around midnight) and I fear I might have disturbed my neighbors (but I’ll bribe them with DVD’s and then I won’t get a noise complaint)! Anyhow, the track is very explosive, no pun intended, and with all of the bullets, fights, explosions and other assorted effects – each and every channel is used on a frequent basis. The general jest of it is that if you want a soundtrack that will rock your speakers every few minutes, this is it. Dialogue is clean as well, with no hint of distortion. Suffice it to say that what the disc lacks on the video front, it more than makes up for it here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

If you look very closely, you’ll find the commentary by director Jonathan Hensleigh. This is located in the “Audio Setup” portion of the disc as opposed to the more obvious “Special Features”. It’s a good track and Hensleigh is obviously very passionate about the movie he made. He tells of the characters and his influences as well. Next we find four featurettes. First up is “Keepin’ It Real: Punisher Stunts” which focuses on the stunts in the movie. Running at a half hour, it’s comprehensive and gives us new respect for stunt men! Next is “War journal: On the Set of The Punisher” which is essentially a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie. It also runs thirty minutes. What I enjoyed the most was “Army of One: Punisher Origins”, having read the comic book when I was a kid, it was interesting to see where the Punisher came from and how the character was a little too controversial for comic books back when he first appeared. Lastly, we have “Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style”, focusing on the marketing for the film. Two deleted scenes are shown that can be viewed with or without director’s commentary. These don’t add a whole lot to the movie, but it’s nice to have them as well. A music video, “Step Up” is included as is a trailer…for the video game.

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