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THE PUNISHER - EC
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring:
Thomas Jane
John Travolta
Eddie Jemison

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Frank Castle was a Gulf War vet and a semi-retired FBI agent, until they killed his family. Now he’s The Punisher.
Is it good movie?
Frank Castle just wants what any man wants: job satisfaction and time with his family. After his latest, and last, undercover FBI job, he hangs up his disguise kit and plans a retirement to the London office of the bureau for a paper-pushing job. Except that at his family reunion in Puerto Rico, the wealthy and powerful father of a young man accidentally killed in Castle’s final sting wants revenge, and gets it by killing Castle’s entire family. Castle himself is shot point blank in the chest and dumped in the drink to die. But he doesn’t. Gone through a veritable hell and reborn, he seeks not revenge, not justice, but punishment. And oh boy, does he get it.

My only previous experience with The Punisher was the opening track on Megadeth’s Rust in Peace, Holy Wars…the Punishment Due. But my brother is a huge comics fan, and I had heard all about what a great movie this was. I was slow to get into it, not because it was bad, just sort of…pedestrian. Good acting (though Jane and Travolta are unlikely action heroes and villains, respectively), decent direction, cinematography, and stunts, but nothing that really stood out from any other run of the mill actioner. There was also a thin layer of corn coating the entire package.

The entrance point for me, as it turns out, was the supporting cast, from Eddie Jemison as Castle’s at-first reluctant inside man (who will always be Ogie from Waitress to me) to Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn, and the not often used but always funny John Pinette. They provided the sole comic relief in the film, and tempered what otherwise would have been a near-maudlin affair. And when Castle finally does deliver his punishment, he does it in a clever way. Brutal, but clever. Just put your suspension of disbelief on hold, and enjoy the liberal amounts of cheese and explosions.

Lastly, of course, this is the extended cut, with a skootch more than 17-minutes of extra footage. These extra scenes are not just some more blood and fire, but actually an entire subplot excised from the original release, involving Castle’s betrayal by a friend, and what leads him to do what he does about it (a scene which defines the quintessential anti-hero). Along with this we get an animatic version of what was originally intended to be the opening scene of the original release, some backstory from when Castle was in the CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) during the Gulf War, which sets up the betrayal to come. I have never seen the original cut, but the new/old subplot fits in perfectly, even if the animatic reminds me a little too much of Golgol 13.
Video / Audio
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen, the transfer looks excellent.

Audio: 6.1 DTS ES Audio and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles. No complaints about the sound. You’ll hear every spent shell hitting the ground with crystal clarity.
The Extras
Animated Intro: This scene was in the original script, but never shot for budgetary reasons. As I said above, it concerns Castle’s involvement in Desert Storm, and takes place in Kuwait. It is essentially an animatic. The actors had a host of hyper-intense resolution pictures taken of them, then scanned and animated in the computer. It tells a necessary part of the story, at least as it pertains to the fleshing out of the Jimmy Weeks subplot, but its novelty fades pretty quickly. Watch it once just to say that you did, but that is probably all you’ll need. (5 minutes)

Tour of Duty: Making the Extended Cut: This is a behind the scenes piece mainly focusing on the creation of the animated intro, though it does talk a bit about the restored footage to the body of the film. It contains interviews with director Jonathan Hensleigh and Punisher artist Tim Bradstreet, among others. I found it more entertaining than the actual animated intro. (9 minutes)

Marvel Comic Book Covers Gallery – featuring The Punisher: This is quite a comprehensive collection of covers, including a synopsis of each issue as well as a zoomable cover graphic. You can sort them by decade by clicking on the neat little tombstones. This is a holdover from the original DVD.

PS: There are a couple of really obvious Easter Eggs :)
Last Call
The Punisher is a little corny at times, but good fun in the end. You have a morally ambiguous hero, plenty of booms and bangs, and a wee bit of comic relief, just enough but not too much. All this plus staying reasonably true to the source material. It’s not setting any trends in originality, but sometimes it’s okay to just eat popcorn and smile. And if you’re thinking of picking up a copy of The Punisher, I say go for this extended cut. Why would you want less movie, yannow?
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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