Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Special: "The Punisher" (2004) Review

    It's Valentine's Day. Goodie. In case you haven't guess, I don't have a date. And in case you don't yet realize this, not having a date on Valentine's Day kinda sucks. So, while everyone else is out watching movies filled with romance and drama, I'd thought I'd change things up a little bit and watch a movie that stands for the exact opposite of what Valentine's Day stands for: hate and murder. No, it isn't a Kathrine Heigl movie. This is 2004's The Punisher. Also, celebration is in order as this is the 100th official Cinema Won post! Happy 100! Now, on to crazy violence.

    In case you didn't already know, 2004's The Punisher is a film loosely based off of the Marvel Comics character of the same name. And when I say loosely based off of, I'm mean loosely based off of. The Punisher is Frank Castle, a former FBI agent who, after his wife and children are killed by the mob, dresses up as a skull and kills every person that ever was bad.
    However, while this premise was perfectly fine and had no real flaws that had to be ironed out to make this a movie, the plot was changed anyway. Here, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) goes undercover and gets the son of mob boss Howard Saint (John Travolta) killed, so Saint has Castle's family killed and leaves Frank himself for dead.
    One of the biggest problems right off the bat is that Frank is treated as if he has superpowers. In the scene where is family is killed (And no, this isn't a spoiler) Frank himself gets shot in both of his legs, his arm, his chest, gets blown up, passes out in the ocean and survives. He should be really dead after all of that, especially seeing as how, later on, a Hulk-like man named The Russian (Kevin Nash) dies after he falls down some stairs. Frank shouldn't have super-human durability because The Punisher doesn't have superpowers in the comics and if he really doesn't have powers then he should be dead.

Yes, that's his costume. A t-shirt.
    So, Frank resolves to go after Saint and his family, by doing what he does best, shooting a gun. This leads to the movie's greatest weakness. Clocking in at just over two hours long, The Punisher's plot really could have been told in just under an hour forty. To make the movie longer, the film get overly elaborate in the plans The Punisher makes, and neglects to tell us what's going on, making it look as of Frank is just doing random acts of annoyance on the Saint family. Not that the plan isn't actually impressive once it all come together, but a little insight would have been nice.
    But we shouldn't really don't mind however, because Travolta's Saint is probably one of the worst villains in movie history. As far as I can tell, he isn't even from The Punisher's Rouge Gallery. Saint spends most of the movie in the background as Frank goes after Saint's best friend, Quentin Glass (Will Patton) and his wife Livia (Laura Harring). When we do actually see Saint, he's getting pushed around by two Cuban brothers, in a subplot that does nothing but confuse the audience and make Saint look like a pushover. Travolta doesn't help as he clearly phones in his performance, delivering each line with a bored monotone.

Man, Waldo pumped some iron.
    The film also fills it time by having Frank inadvertently become the protector of his three neighbors: Hammy Spacker Dave (Ben Foster, in an embarrassing early performance), Fat Bumpo (John Pinette) and half-baked love interest Joan (Rebecca Romijn). They add nothing to the film but crappy "comic relief" and could have been cut from the film with little effect on the story, other than a surprisingly dark scene where Dave get his face piercing ripped out by the Quentin "Way-More-Threatening-Than-Saint" Glass. This is especially frustrating having done some research that revealed that there was a much more dramatic, interesting and emotional storyline with Frank's old partner that was cut from the movie, but is available in the film's extended cut, which I didn't watch.
    The film does have some bright spots though. The scene where Frank's family gets gunned down is effective, if it wasn't undercut by the unintended humor of Frank being able to survive anything. There's a very good fight scene with a Russian assassin Saint hired to kill Frank, that's both brutal and hilarious. And as I said earlier, while it would have been nice to get some insight as to what was going on, Frank's plan is actually pretty impressive.

"Somewhere, out there, there's a better movie for me."
    Overall, 2004's The Punisher isn't too bad. Out of all the crappy Marvel movies (Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the other Punisher movies), this is probably the best. The action's pretty good, the acting all right and the movie does show some occasional signs of real genius. However, the plot is filled with holes (Bulletholes?), Travolta is an awful villain and the comic relief isn't very comic or relieving. But, it's hard to stay mad at a movie that is at least watchable. 2004's The Punisher gets a 3 out of 6.

1 comment:

  1. This is another film I love immensely, I know you'll definitely disagree but I think this is Marvel's best film to date. I didn't get the feeling that Frank Castle in this film was superhuman, lucky yeah, but not superhuman. I also think Travolta's performance and character were decent, nothing amazing but solid enough. I didn't like the whole sub plot of Frank's partner that was in the Extended Cut. Yeah, the only problem with the film is the shit with the neighbors, I agree with you on that but I guess it was there for not only comic relief but to show him having a little bit of normal relationships. All in all, I love the film, it is insanely entertaining, I didn't think it was overlong, it flies by for me every time I watch it. Thomas Jane is The Punisher in my opinion, he owned the role, the film is pretty dark save for little bits of comic relief. Great action sequences, great soundtrack, etc.