The Punisher


Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Written by:Jonathan Hensleigh, Michael France
Starring: Tom Jane, John Travolta, Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Will Patton, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Released: June 3, 2004
Grade: B+

The Punisher is an extraordinarily violent film and excluding The Passion Of The Christ, I’d have to go back to Blade 2 (2002) to recall an equally brutal motion picture.  How these films escape with an MA rating is beyond me whilst films with a sexual theme such as Y Tu Mama Tambien get the highest R-rating and others like Ken Park get banned completely.

Ratings issues aside, I was surprised to find The Punisher is a half decent flick to watch.  It is based on a comic book (unknown to myself) and in the film’s opening we are introduced to our “hero”, Frank Castle (Jane).  As an undercover detective, Castle has just retired after completing his final drug sting.  Unfortunately, the son of an underworld king, Howard Saint (Travola), was inadvertently killed in this bust and he wants revenge against the man who killed him.

Howard Saint’s wife (Harring) wants more than just an “eye for an eye”.  Saint’s henchman, led by Quentin Glass (Patton), destroy Castle’s entire family at a family reunion in Porto Rico.  Castle’s wife, son, father, mother and everyone else you can think of are shot in cold blood.  Glass leaves Castle himself for dead on a fiery boat ramp but destiny finds a way to allow him to live.  With the shoe on the other foot, Castle now looks for revenge himself.  He wants to destroy Saint’s money laundering empire and every member of his own family.

There’s some pretty inventive ways to die in The Punisher.  They produced plenty of laughs from the audience.  A few key lines are a bit too corny but on the whole, the screenplay was pretty good.  It had that comic book feel and I didn’t expect some of the early developments.  I’m not sure if this film will lead to sequels (like so many other superheroes) but the door is open for one and the edgier material may lure the attention of a different audience.

John Travolta is good (for a change) as is leading man Tom Jane (in his biggest role to date).  There are a few cast members you’ll recognise and one I’m sure is Rebecca Romijn-Stamos who provides eye candy as a new love interest of Castle.  I guess this leads to my major quib with the film in that it loses its way in the final half hour.  Castle’s quest for venegence is more like the quest of a psychopath.  My sympathy started to fade.

If you call it “entertainment”, there’s plenty of it for lovers of action.