|The Punisher (2004)
Starring: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Will Patton
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Fans of Marvel Comic’s “The Punisher” can finally throw out their copies of the 1989 direct-to-video version starring Dolph Lundgren, a film that failed to give any cinematic justice to the beloved comic book hero. Finally, we can all let out a sigh of relief with the latest rendition of everyone’s favorite vigilante. The update is smart and fresh, compensating for years of painfully watching Lundgren stalk around in yet another unidentifiable B-movie.
Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) has just completed his final undercover operation for the FBI, retiring fairly early and leaving for a family reunion in Puerto Rico before moving off to London. When multi-millionaire businessman Howard Saint (John Travolta) discovers that his oldest son was killed during Castle’s sting operation, he sends a group of goons to Puerto Rico to slaughter Castle’s entire family - a funeral wish Saint delivers for his mourning wife Livia (Laura Harring).
Castle also is assumed dead following the massacre until he unexpectedly shows up in the city seeking revenge on the men responsible. While he prepares for battle, donning his black skull T-shirt and adding to his absurdly extensive collection of firearms, Castle befriends the other tenants of his apartment complex, helping Joan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) with an abusive ex-boyfriend the only way he knows how: with brute force.
“The Punisher” is the darkest Marvel adaptation yet, with more violence and action in a single scene than most of the other films. Castle is idealistically more like a Batman figure, with realistic weapons and an emotional past that the audience can relate to better than the red-deviled antics of Hellboy. The final product is nearly perfect, a result of coupling Castle’s alcohol-soaked emotion with some of the most creative action sequences ever filmed. “The Punisher” appeals to a much larger audience than one would expect. It could make you cry, laugh or just shout out for more bloody violence, but regardless of your reaction, you’re going to love it.