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The Punisher (2004)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring:
Thomas Jane/The Punisher
John Travolta/Howard
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos/Joan
Laura Harring/Livia Saint
PLOT-CRUNCH
Ex Marine and now undercover G Man Frank Castle (Jane) is retiring from the force for some peace and quiet with the wife (Mathis) and kid. But when his entire family gets slaughtered like cattle during a gathering, he slaps on a skull T -Shirt, gets lots of guns and proceeds to enforce “punishment” upon the scumbags who wronged him.
THE LOWDOWN

"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

THE GOOD…

. 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

THE BAD…

.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…

GORE
We get an arrow in the neck, stabbings, a knife in the mouth, bullet hits, a blade in the skull, a slit throat, a knife in the neck, light blood and a burned face. Violence was on the menu!
ACTING
Thomas Jane (The Punisher) had the look, the delivery and the talent for the part. He was my anchor to the film. What an astounding performance! John Travolta (Howard Saint) thankfully underplayed it and acted with his hair. Slicked back meant “cool”, in his face, meant “angry”. GREAT ACTING! Rebecca Romjin Stamos (Joan) was way hot no doubt but I still don’t know why she was in this movie; she was way too good looking to be credible as a down and out neighbor. Laura Harring (Livia Saint) did what she could with the role and let her big cans gap the rest. Will Patton (Glass) played the same part he did in “No Way Out” but a tad more restrained. He aced it! Kevin Nash (The Russian) was a big guy and fought well.
T & A
We get some female melons and the gals get a buffed up Thomas Jane shirtless A LOT! Its ladies night on this one!
DIRECTING
When Director Jonathan Hensliegh played it old school visually, he had me by the collar. Be it through the Spaghetti Western like “face off” or the “un-polished” final action bit; I was lapping up the goodies when played down and simple. When he didn’t, he lost me.
SOUNDTRACK
I ADORED the score by Carlo Siliotto; especially during the more dramatic moments. We also get some “lets sell that soundtrack” background tunes of the likes “Drowning Pool” (Step Up), Seether (Broken) and more. I dug it!
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Lion Gates

IMAGE: We get a 2.35:1 Widescreen image

SOUND: We a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX sound and a Dolby Surround 2.0. option.

EXTRAS:

Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh comes in to talk about what he was aiming for, a key deleted scene (the film was supposed to open with Castle in war torn Kuwait), the pitfalls of the low budget (that’s why they shot in TAMPA as opposed to an urban city) he had to play with, his cast, the look of the film, the stunts…THE WHOLE SHE-BANG! Although I didn’t agree with many of Hensleigh’s choices within the picture; I appreciated his obviously “honorable” intentions and this compelling in-depth commentary.

Featurettes:

- Keepin’ It Real: Punisher Stunts (27 minutes): This feature takes a look at the setting up and the execution of the many stunts in the film with the stuntmen and the stunt coordinator on hand to give their two cents as to the proceedings. A groovy bit that gave me some insight as to what Stuntmen have to go through in the name of entertainment.

- War journal: On the Set of The Punisher (29 Minutes): This feature takes us in pre-prod meetings, we get to see Tom Jane train and then we’re taken on set throughout to experience the shoot. Cast and crew also come in to give us their thoughts about their experience. This feature was a mucho engaging reel although I did find it ironic that here they are in sunny Tampa talking about how “true” to The Punisher comic they wanted to be. Still my fav of the disk..

- Army of One: Punisher Origins: This segment explored the origins of The Punisher character while varied comic book writers that tackled Castle come in to share their thoughts about the character. A gnarly watch; especially if you love the comic!

- Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style (5 Minutes): This feature has Tim Bradstreet come in to talk about his work for the film and how he felt about the experience.

We also get two blah “Deleted Scenes” (nothing to do with Frank castle) with optional director commentary, a Music Video by Drowning Pool (Step Up) and a trailer for The Punisher Video Game.

Overall this was a tight DVD that gave me one hell of a captivating commentary and enough EXTRAS to please. Fans of the film should get this disk!
BOTTOM LINE
Overall I can now say that I “like” The Punisher 2004. Its qualities were in the acting first, its score second and its brutal violence third. Its flaws on the other hand were all on a screenplay level where plot holes, a fluctuating tone and suspension of disbelief galore plagued the film. Hopefully they’ll get a good script doctor to polish up the screenplay for the sequel, keep Thomas Jane where he rocked as Castle and please for the love of all that is sacred in “Castle Land”…shoot the damn sequel in an urban environment and leave the fire hydrant at home!
BULL'S EYE
Before director Jonathan Hensleigh came onto the project, Michael France (co-writer of "Cliffhanger") was working on the screenplay, which contained elements of the 12-issue "Welcome Back Frank" mini-series written by Garth Ennis. France's script was then re-written by Jonathan Hensleigh.

While filming their knife fight, Thomas Jane accidentally stabbed Kevin Nash. The film was shot for around $30 Million clams in Florida USA.
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8:27PM on 01/29/2012

Extended Cut is an improvement.

I agree with Arrow's review on the original theatrical cut. "The Punisher" was extremely flawed in places but it was well made and Thomas Jane's lead role made it more than watchable.

The Extended Version is actually an improvement. Sometimes i don't argee with Unrated Version being better than the theatrical version. But this version, in this new cut. It explains, who gives away the information of Frank Castle before his family gets killed by Saint's men. Frank Castle (The Punisher) also
I agree with Arrow's review on the original theatrical cut. "The Punisher" was extremely flawed in places but it was well made and Thomas Jane's lead role made it more than watchable.

The Extended Version is actually an improvement. Sometimes i don't argee with Unrated Version being better than the theatrical version. But this version, in this new cut. It explains, who gives away the information of Frank Castle before his family gets killed by Saint's men. Frank Castle (The Punisher) also gets his revenge is also more sastifying, thanks to added subplot between Castle and Agent Weeks made this version so much better.

It is still a flawed movie but this version makes it a good movie. This is the version that director Hensleigh should have released in theaters.

Check it out on DVD.
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