ByRicardo Du Toit, writer at
Aspirant filmmaker and pop-culture geek! Follow me on Twitter @RicardoDuToit
Ricardo Du Toit

Full disclaimer: There are spoilers. Full fledged, reveal it all, no turning back spoilers.

Before I review this film, I have to confess, I decided to skip the 1989 flick altogether. There is only so much time of day I have available and to dedicate an hour and a half of the bad end of eighties movies for a second time, would be a total waste. Now that we got that out the way, I'll proceed...

In a time when Marvel was having starting to have it's fun with a few contained universe movies, including X-Men, Daredevil and Hulk, I'm sure someone at Lionsgate figured they could capitalize on the ever so darker side of comic books, bringing to life an origin story for the one who should be a lawyer.
Because only a lawyer would debate that his actions were not revenge, as revenge is an emotional response. That this is punishment. Ah well, the devil is in the details, they say...

Frank Castle (Tom Jane) is a retired FBI agent, that after his last undercover op, resulting in the death of one of the sons of mafia boss Howard Saint (John Travolta), has to fight back after the mafia killed his own family. In other words, Howard Saint punishes Frank Castle and then vice-versa.

Before Machete, there was Castle!
Before Machete, there was Castle!

Between this feud, there are several moments I'd like to point out:

  • Why is John Travolta in this? Star power? For someone who really is only around to bark off orders and be dumb enough to fall for a flawed plan, that ended up with him killing his own wife, I'm sure someone else could have filled those shoes. Come on Travolta, didn't you have enough with Battlefield Earth?

No no no no no!
No no no no no!
  • Who is this witch doctor and what did he do to help Frank Castle? Actually, more importantly, how is Castle still alive. He got shot in the chest. I don't get it. They shoot him in the chest, everything is fine. I shoot someone in the chest, suddenly there's a dead person...
  • Witch doctor. What did you do? Voodoo? Some leaves? Teach me master!
  • Where did Frank find the muscle car? Heck, how did he get from Puerto Rico back into the city? Ah... This is giving me a headache...
  • The Counter Terrorism Unit is mentioned. Is Castle friends with Jack Bauer? If so, where why wasn't he there? So much potential for a crossover wasted...

Not sure if hardcore German porn or something else
Not sure if hardcore German porn or something else
  • Why is there classic music playing behind a fight scene? I find it quirky, but it begged literally any other genre.
  • Marvel presents Black Arrow...
  • The meticulous planning and attention to detail to explode all the right cars to make that Punisher trademark skull. Ok, I admit, that was kinda cool!

Look out Oliver Queen!
Look out Oliver Queen!

But not everything is that bad. The other half of the movie includes a few intense violent scenes, that back in 2004 were pushing the envelope, specially for a comic book movie. The entire shootout and chase-down of Castle's family is pretty rough and the piercing removal would probably be a lot more intense today, but 12 years ago, that was pretty hardcore.

Singer-songwriter Mark Collie also has a cameo as an assassin who wrote a song for Castle, titled In Time. It's a brilliant moment where Tom Jane and the performer have a stare down. Anything cool could've happened. But it didn't.

He can hear what you're thinking
He can hear what you're thinking

Even with it's cheesy dialogue and it's questionable plot holes all over the place, The Punisher does hold a few watchable action sequences. While not special in any way, we've seen a lot worse done with much more. I mean, the whole experience was a little fun in 2004 and 12 years later, the movie is completely capable of putting a few modern films to shame. I think...

But I actually liked Tom Jane as the anti-hero. A lot more than Ray Stevenson. Guess I'll have to wait to see Jon Bernthal in Dardevil Season 2, out in 2 weeks time!


What did you think of "The Punisher" (2004)


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