The Punisher 2004
I’ve been a fan of this movie ever since it came out, I’m not sure if I saw it in theaters, but if I didn’t, then I saw it shortly afterwards. I have yet to see the extended edition of this movie but I would really like to sometime. Extended editions aren’t always improvements to the movie, I know several times that I watched the extended edition of a movie without realizing it, and I know in the case of Superman: The Movie, it felt like it was too drawn out and I think I would have preferred watching the theatrical version rather than the extended edition. But other times, movies get cut down for other reasons and the extended edition is actually the preferred version, like in the case of Daredevil. But since I already own the regular version of this DVD, I went ahead and watched it tonight instead of watching The Spirit that we rented last night so I could finish up the non-trilogy of Punisher movies. There were a few scenes that I didn’t care for as much as I did when I first watched the movie, but I still enjoyed it a ton more than either of the other Punisher movies I’ve watched this week.
Of the three movies, this is the only one that actually covers Frank Castle’s origin and gets it wrong. In both of the other movies, they stick closer to the comics origin as I understand it. In the comics, Frank and his wife and children witness a mob hit. In retaliation, the mob kills him and his family and yet Frank manages to survive and becomes The Punisher to enact punishment to the mob that killed his family and escaped the law. In this movie, Frank is a deep undercover agent on his last sting operation to take down an arms smuggler. Things go bad for one person who ends up dead. Unfortunately, that person was the son of Howard Saint, and Saint’s wife wants revenge on Frank’s entire family. Not just his wife and kids, but his entire extended family who are with him in Puerto Rico for a reunion to celebrate his retirement. As with the other origins, Frank is left for dead but ends up surviving. It was kind of interesting to see a bit of his life before becoming The Punisher, but because it’s such a small part of the movie, his family doesn’t really get enough development. He does get some cool points for having Rob Sheider as his dad. While I did enjoy the action scene at the reunion, I think it works better when his family is already just a memory.
From there, it moves on to the heart of the story, the revenge plot to punish Howard Saint. As I mentioned in my review for War Zone, I really enjoy well done revenge plots and this one is no exception. Through all the stages of the plot, it shows Frank as an intelligent and resourceful man rather than just an arsenal of weaponry. I also really liked how the movie set up how he created a lot of his gadgets himself, rather than just having a stock full of weapons and a bulletproof vest. I also liked the inside man, he was a fun character. But of course, the story doesn’t entirely revolve around just his revenge plot, there’s also the side stories of the two hitmen hired by Saint to kill Frank once again after he finds out that Frank wasn’t quite dead yet. Both of the scenes are fairly short and I enjoyed both of them, even if the fight with the Russian is played up mostly as a humorous fight scene even if it’s the one where Frank comes off the worse for wear.
The biggest problem that most people have with this movie are the neighbors in Frank’s building. There’s John Pinette which I’m familiar with for his stand up routine “You go now! You here four howa!” and is playing the funny fat guy, Ben Foster who would later go on to play Angel in X-Men plays the downtrodden pierced gamer guy who sees Frank stick up for him once and claims that he’s family enough to endure the torture of having his piercings ripped off of his face one by one. And there’s Joan, played by Rebecca Romijn Stamos who was also in X-men, who is the token love interest. I thought the two guys were somewhat funny for the most part and I liked them ok, their half of the scene with the Russian was rather annoying, and there wasn’t really any chemistry between Joan and Frank, though I am glad that they respected the character enough that he knew she was a bad idea, but I’m disappointed that they made it seem like he thought about it. I thought they worked well when they were just the funny neighbors with problems, I didn’t like it so much when they became integrated into the plot as much as they were.
The villains in this movie were all fairly interesting as well, aside from the rather pointless son who I don’t even remember his name. He just basically stands there and says next to nothing the entire movie. I enjoyed John Travolta as Howard Saint as he played the calculating mob boss during the first part of the movie and gradually descended into a panic as his world comes crumbling down around him while Frank survives hit after hit. Quentin as his right hand man and closeted gay mobster was played very well, as someone with several gay friends, it’s nice to see a gay character portrayed as someone who’s not a flaming queen. Saint’s wife is also a nice character as someone who loves her family and yet is also a cold mobster when it comes right down to it.
The violence in this movie I felt hit the right balance, there is some pretty graphic violence with some of the kills, and yet there are almost as many that are practically bloodless. I enjoyed this style much better than the War Zone version where every single death had to be an extreme gore-fest. There’s also a couple other minor parts of the movie that I really enjoyed and have to mention, the animation during the opening credits is really simple and yet well done and amazing to look at, and the first hitman sings a funeral song to Frank before attacking him, and I just really enjoy hearing that little song. It may seem out of place, but somehow it just works for me. And while I do admit that this isn’t the best version of The Punisher that there could be, but for my money I really enjoy watching it, and unless you’re a big fan of how The Punisher is in the comics, I imagine most people would enjoy it too. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.