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Fantasia Review: In a Valley of Violence
"In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue... natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it's an emotional response. No. Not vengeance. This is punishment." – The Punisher
The Punisher 2004 was my most anticipated movie of the year, I have such a soft spot for the Marvel Comic Book character on which the flick is based on (Garth Ennis’ Punisher in particular). Although I did love the loose (details wise) 1989 Dolph Lundgren interpretation of my hero; I was hoping to find a more faithful adaptation via this new entry. Did I find it? Well on my first viewing of the film, I was immensely disappointed and freaking angry! But being that the DVD was recently machine gunned my way, I gave the flick another shot and came to appreciate it more. Here are my 69 cents on The Punisher 2004…TAKE 2!
WARNING: PUNISHING SPOILERS ARE MANY
. Thomas Jane: He sold me as Frank Castle by exuding the required imposing physical presence of the character in spite of his small frame. Jane obviously hit the gym hardcore for the part! Emotionally, he perfectly conveyed Castle’s inner turmoil through his wounded and fury filled eyes. It should also be said that every sequence that had Jane and a Wild Turkey bottle going head to head truly hit home…not only did I feel the man’s hurting but yes…that’s me every weekend!
.The Score: Somebody should buy Carlo Siliotto a beer and a portable fire hydrant where his amazing score brought so much to the picture in terms of emotional resonance. I got a bad case of shivers traveling my body when the soundtrack boomed during the many pivotal dramatic scenes (the dock bit…ouch…I felt that). I must admit that I am a proud owner of that score and I play it when I exercise; try it out, quite the workout.
. The Massacre: Although different from the comic, having Castle’s whole family axed out upped the stakes of the game, gave way to quite the gripping scene and justified Frank’s eventual excessive actions in the process. Man, when Castle was running in his RIP loved ones’ direction, screaming “Maria”, I was punishing my sofa with man-bitch tears. Good shit!
.The Skull Symbol: The Lundgren version totally omitted the Punisher’s token skull T-Shirt. Thank Zeus they included it in this second adaptation! In the comic, Frank got the “Skull” off some character while serving in Nam. To be honest, I boogied to the rationalization that the movie gave out much more! It made total sense within the situation while amplifying the connection between Frank’s actions and the pain he feels over the loss of his kin! NOTE: Whoever designed the “new” skull design should give me a call; I’ll give ya a lap dance. It owned!
.The Russian Fight: On one side of the coin, the fight with The Russian echoed to a T the one found in the comic when it came to high brutality and circumstantial giggles. Good freaking rumble! Read “The Ugly” section for the other side of the coin.
.The Journals: Having Frank writing his journal (yes…the War Journals) had this fan boy giggling and reaching for the Berretta to blow his brains clean out with joy! Furthermore, what he wrote down made so much sense to me on a personal level.
.The Action: Although too short for my taste, the car bit and the final action scene gave me a yummy dose of grounded and old fashion violence with mucho guns and mutilations in tow. You can’t go wrong with that sweet nectar of life!
.One liners: The flick had a bunch of great lines. Here are two of my favorites: “Sic vis pacum para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.” – Punisher: I have work to do, read your newspaper everyday and you'll understand. Joan : Which section? - Punisher : The obituaries
.Tampa Bay: The flick failed in putting out the necessary grim tone to echo the comic adequately. The sunny Tampa location sucked hard balls!. The Punisher is an urban comic, keep him urban! I heard that they shot in Tampa because they didn’t have the moulah to shoot in New York; fair enough, but they could’ve made the film in Toronto (which is cheap) or even Montreal (which is cheaper)! Sure it’s not the States but at least it would’ve looked like The Punisher.
.The dumb “let’s justify Frank’s impending action some more” scene: There is a scene that has Frank show up downtown to confront the press and the cops. Why doesn’t anybody do anything? They just listen to him and then let him go. It didn’t make sense to me. The guy’s family is dead, he was assumed dead, now he pops up months later out of the blue and nobody tries to reach him, console him or even ask him where the fudge he was. Trivial and useless scene, solely there to justify what Frank is going to do some more.
.The Popsicle Scene: Although the torture with a popsicle scene was straight out of the comic (War Zone), it didn’t work here since it was inserted within an origin story. Frank just got everything taken away from him; EVERYTHING! I doubt any man in his boots would torture with a damn Popsicle. Should’ve used that blow torch!
.Plot Holes: The flick had its fair share of plot holes. Do the villains know where Castle lives or don’t they? The Russian and Harry Heck seem to know but the main bad guys don’t…until way down the road…didn’t make sense….obvious oversight to serve the plot. And where are the cops in this movie?
AND THE UGLY…
.The Neighbors: The flick tried to be an origin story and an adaptation of “Welcome Back Frank” at the same time. Tough act to nail and it often failed at it. The best example of that was the crappy inclusion of Frank’s kooky (man I hate that word) neighbors into the story. All three “neighbor” characters were lifted from Welcome Back Frank; but they just didn’t gel in the film! Their presence was too prominent as they took precious screen time away from Castle and his immediate goal. They also messed up the tone of the film by adding off-beat humor into the proceedings. Sure Welcome Back Frank was a bleakly hilarious comic but not THAT kind of funny. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to see during a badass brawl between two tough guys is an inter-cut scene of a fat dude singing opera and dancing with his male friend.
.Joan hits on Frank: The hinted at a love thing between Joan and Frank stunk up the joint! His wife and his WHOLE FAMILY just got killed, step off girl! OUT OF LINE!
.The Fire Hydrant: Why did The Punisher act as if he was in a bad episode of Melrose Place? I can buy doing “surveillance” but here Castle took it too far. He actually sneaked around with a portable fire hydrant and spread bad “psychological” seeds within the enemy camp. That’s NOT The Punisher I know. Dude! They killed your whole family! No you don’t get it…YOUR WHOLE FAMILY! And you’re playing freaking peek a boo games! What about all those guns you own? USE THEM ALREADY!
.The Skull Explosion: That flamed Skull symbol after the big “POW” was the stupidest thing I’ve seen all year. Not only did it negate the grounded tone of the flick but it was also highly derivative of The Crow and Daredevil. Come man, The Punisher is better than that! What…he strategically placed the mines in the car lot so that when they blow up a skull would appear? Why? Why would Frank Castle do that? Why would he give a damn about that? He’s about Punishement! Not sending out greeting cards! BOO!!!
Now let’s play with knives…