on July 31, 2004
And someone somewhere calls "The Punisher" a box-office failure, because it does not hit the number 1 spot, both Daredaevil and Hulk were #1 in the Box Office. I paraphrase Thomas Jane when I say that the film industry is in a sorry state if this is how we gauge a successful film...
I have been a Punisher fan since 1986 (thanks to my best friend Morris Koplow. Morris, if you read this, Thank you. I can never repay you for the enjoyment this Comic has brought me.).
After lagging book sales in Marvel's Punisher, Punisher: War Journal and Punisher: War Zone, executives at the comic powerhouse decide to follow a sad trend at the time and "redefine" the Punisher Character. Simply put, Marvel wrote Frank Castle into a depression and left him with no alternative but to end his own life, something DC did with it's own vigilante, creatively titled "Vigilante". The results was a rippling sense of betrayal for the fans, who felt that Castle was never written to be so weak as to suicide.
A few years later, Marvel breathed life into the Punisher through one of the classicly odd returns. Castle was resurrected by angels. This, too, did not fly (imagine a tank with little butterfly wings). Then Garth Ennis took over.
Ennis's work with the Punisher has brought back the grit and out and out nastiness that Frank Castle has always had. It was this work that the movie has been based on.
Yes, there has been "creative liberties" taken with "The Punisher", but they have been, for the most part, all for the better.
In the Comic, Castle loses his wife and two children to a mafia hit crew. While a justifiable reason to enter a world of vengence and punishment in comic books, film-goers wouldn't justify Castle waging a never-ending one man war on crime for that easily. Thus, wiping out his entire family was the key.
The Crime family (Make no mistake, Travolta and company were 100% unadulturated criminals, all businesses were fronts/laundering for their activities) in question certianly never appeared in any issue of the Punisher comic, but when the hero's "Rogue Gallery" is largely the cast of the Godfather, Casino, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, Resevior Dogs, etc, etc..., then a specific villian is not necessary, especially since most Punisher fans cannot name the Mafia Family that called the hit on Castle's family in the original comic. No, I don't remember who it was, either... The inclusion of "The Russian" was certainly a treat for any one who has read Ennis's "Welcome Back, Frank" and I hope that they can find a believable way to bring him back for the sequel (maybe get Nash some lessons in Russian and accents so we can get some of "The Russian's" fantastic dialogue).
Castle's Neighbors were taken DIRECTLY out of the Comic. Bumpo and Spacker Dave were near perfect castings and the only real difference with Joan in the film vs. the comic was that Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is more attractive, less mousey and attempted to be Castle's love interest. Like the comic, they proved that Castle was not completely devoid of humanity, nor unredeemable.
The Hero: Tortured, depressed and he enjoy's his Whiskey... Sounds about right for a man who just witnessed his entire family slaughtered and his wife and son run down by a pick-up truck loaded with "Goomba's". Thomas Jane's portrayal of Frank Castle is everything you expect it to be, if Castle was a real person driven to extremes. Jane captures to essentials of the character, and like Christopher Reeves, Ron Pearlman, Brandon Lee, Tobey Maguire and Hugh Jackman in their respective comic book films, molds the details to himself, making himself a living breathing Frank Castle. Jane is superb. He does what many thought was impossible, that being making himself into a live-action comic book character, without benefit of additional makeup or masks, and makes us believe that Frank Castle roamed the earth.
The Villian: Travolta is always a wonderful villian. Normal he "chews scenery" left and right and the audience is right with him. Not in "The Punisher". Travolta was still excellent and quite a urbane and sophistcated villian, but he was not the madman that most people expect from Travolta (IE: Face/Off and Broken Arrow). Will Patton was the "Mad Dog Villian" in "The Punisher" and while I would have preferred his end go differently, it was still satisfying to watch and his performance was certainly fun.
The action, overall, fed the story, as it should have. I personally would have liked to have seen a little more action from Castle, but I certainly wasn't disappointed in what I received. Many fans of the comics have commented that the violence in the film did not match that of the comic (the comic being more graphic). According to Thomas Jane, the plans for the second Punisher film will take the violence up a notch, almost as if (to my mind), that Frank Castle's morality was slipping away from him during the first film and the second will show the grotesque that Castle has become with the death of his family.
Overall, "The Punisher" 2004 film is as accurate and true to Punisher canon laid down by Marvel and Garth Ennis as Sam Rami's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films have been to the "Webbed Wall-Crawler's" own canon setup by Stan "The Man" Lee and Steve Ditko. I cannot recommend this film enough, especially to fans of Comics, High-Action films and "The Punisher" himself. It truly is under appreciated and one of the best and most accurate comic films ever.
on May 6, 2008
I also have this movie both standard and now the blu-ray version I'm sure most people know about the storyline of this movie if not read the Amazon info about it an that is the jist of what the movie is about. I just want to say to people that if you already have the standard dvd version thats all you're going to need. The video and sound quality are not much better than what you got with the standard dvd since this is one of the earlier blu-rays to come out and they haven't fully mastered the video and audio yet you won't see any clearer or sharper details or better sound quality with this blu-ray version. So again if you have the standard dvd Punisher just keep that one and wait until they come out with a remastered blu-ray version or just pass this one up..
This cinematic version of "The Punisher" is based on Marvel Comics' most recent incarnation of the vigilante anti-hero, as written by Garth Ennis in the "Welcome Back Frank" series. Although his ability to survive the most violent circumstances is extraordinary, the character has largely been removed from the world of superheroes. He's human and imperfect. The Punisher's backstory has been changed for the film to better integrate it with the narrative. A backstory that is not directly related to the present could never be successful in a film. Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an undercover FBI agent looking forward to the time with his family that his imminent retirement will allow. Those plans come to a horrific end when organized crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta), whose son was killed in a gun running bust, takes revenge on Castle's family. Devastated, angry, and with nothing left to lose, Castle sets out to return the favor by destroying Saint and his criminal empire.
"The Punisher" is filmed in a dark, gritty style that seems to have been inspired by the work of cover artist Tim Bradstreet and the cinéma verité of the 1970s. The lead-in that describes how Frank Castle becomes The Punisher is lengthy, but that's to be expected in the first film of a potential franchise. The violence is pretty graphic in places and probably not for the weak of stomach. For an "action film", "The Punisher" isn't especially active. The action is intermittent, builds as the film progresses, and tends to avoid grand gestures. Perhaps that's appropriate, as the violence is of a personal nature. The cast is consistently interesting. Thomas Jane does a solid job as The Punisher, a shattered man who never claims any moral high ground. John Travolta is particularly entertaining as the ruthless, petulant crime boss Howard Saint. Travolta gives a palpably restrained performance, playing Saint just slightly over-the-top and imbalanced to great effect. Will Patton is also notable as Howard Saint's sociopathic right-hand man, Quentin Glass. And Rebecca Romijn-Stamos has a supporting role as one of Frank Castle's dysfunctional neighbors, who provide a little comic relief. An interesting piece of cast trivia: Howard Saint's sons, Bobby and John, are played by the same actor, James Carpinello, and originally were intended to be twin brothers. When Carpinello was in make-up and costume, he looked so dissimilar as the brothers that director Jonathan Hensleigh decided that they shouldn't be twins.
The most striking aspect of this film isn't at all evident: It was made for a paltry $30 million -unheard of for an action film. That it looks like it cost twice that much is a credit to the director, cinematographer, and art director. Also notable is that none of the film's stunts are CGI. They look real, and they are. "The Punisher" is entertaining and visually interesting. My only complaint about the film is its pace, which is brooding and too even for an action film. That makes the film seem longer than it is.
The DVD: This is a nicely loaded disc. Bonus features include 4 featurettes, 2 deleted scenes with director's commentary, a music video for "Step Up" by Drowning Pool, a trailer for "The Punisher" video game, and an audio commentary by director Jonathan Hensleigh. The first featurette, "Keepin' it Real" (25 minutes) is about the film's stunts. This documentary discusses the processes of designing and filming the stunts, through interviews with stunt coordinator Gary Hymes and director Jonathan Hensleigh, among others. It might have been better organized and more informative if the documentary had taken us through a few stunts in detail instead of giving an overview. The second featurette, "War Journal" (30 minutes) is a broad making-of documentary that takes us through pre-production, production, editing and scoring in post-production, and winds up at the film's premiere. This is a well-organized, comprehensive documentary that includes interviews with line producer John Stark and director Jonathan Hensleigh, in which he talks about the challenges of making an action film on a $30 million budget and shooting in only 50 days. The third featurette, "Army of One" (12 minutes) is about "The Punisher"'s comic book origins. The genesis and evolution of the character in Marvel Comics are discussed in interviews with Gerry Conway, who created "The Punisher" as a Spider-Man villain in 1972, Stephen Grant, who wrote the character from 1986-1994, current writer Garth Ennis, Marvel art director John Romita, and cover artist Tim Bradstreet, as well as Marvel CEO Avi Arad and Vice President Ari Avad. This documentary is very helpful to those of us who don't read comic books in explaining the character's origins. The last featurette, "Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style" (5 minutes) focuses on cover artist Tim Bradstreet, who also designed the film's theatrical posters and heavily influenced the movie's visual style. The film's audio commentary by director Jonathan Hensleigh is very good. He speaks clearly and doesn't meander when explaining the decisions he made concerning story, style, characters and cinematography. His comments are particularly interesting, because "The Punisher" is an admirable example of efficient, economical filmmaking. Subtitles are available for the film in Spanish and English.
on September 19, 2004
In the world of super-heroes and evil villains, the Punisher rests squarely in that gray area between the two. He does exhibit a sense of justice akin to that of a hero, but he bears no remorse with regards to killing, as his wraith is only suffered by those who truly deserve, those who the law cannot, or will not touch. Revenge, justice, and retribution are his motivations, and he is judge, jury, and executioner. The Punisher (2004), directed and co-written by Jonathan Hensleigh, who also wrote Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) and Jumanji (1995), stars Thomas Jane, who bears a remarkable resemblance to actor Christopher (Highlander) Lambert, and who I've seen before, but couldn't place until I remembered him from the film Deep Blue Sea (1999), and John Travolta. Also appearing are Laura Herring, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos (does she still carry the Stamos since their divorce?) and Roy Scheider.
The film, based on a Marvel comic book of the same name, tells the story of FBI agent Frank Castle (Jane), an FBI agent, who, during a sting operation that results in the death of a suspect, finds himself at odds with a powerful crime family, lead by Howard Saint (Travolta), as, it turns out, the dead suspect was his son. In retaliation for his son's death, Saint orders a hit on Castle and his entire family, but Castle manages to survive, and, seeing that nothing has been done to apprehend those responsible for the deaths of his family, he decides to take the law into his own hands (something Doug Llewelyn from The People's Court always advised against) and bring his own form of justice to those who sought revenge against him. Do two wrongs make a right? No, but they sure make for a fun movie...
This actually wasn't the first screen adaptation of this comic character. There was a film, of the same name, released way back in 1989, which starred Dolph Lundgren, which was panned by both critics and fans. It wasn't that great, but I did enjoy it somewhat, and didn't think it was as bad as everyone thought. This latest incarnation is certainly better, benefiting from a larger budget, better writing, and a bit more star power, but still has minor flaws. I'd read many a comic book back in my youth, and The Punisher was one of them. At that time, he probably had three of four different titles, being a very popular character, and Marvel Comics had a real penchant for milking any bit of popularity for all they could, often exhausting the potential way too soon in their search for the almighty dollar. I haven't read comics in a long time, and given the nature of comic characters and their constant evolution, I was unsure how the story would be played out. I was unfamiliar with Thomas Jane, but I thought he did a wonderful job, really embodying the essence of the character I knew well way back when. The look, the feel, the attitudes, marked a vast improvement over the last film incarnation of the character. I was a bit apprehensive about John Travolta being cast as the lead bad guy, as of late, when playing similar antagonistic roles, he often ventured into the realm of hamminess, but his performance was really grounded here and lacked the over the top element inherent in some of his past roles, thankfully. The action elements in the film were done very well, bordering between the realistic and unbelievable nicely, and I really enjoyed the use of all different kinds of weaponry from hand guns, machine guns, anti-personnel mines, knives, to the bow and arrow. Jane's character showed adeptness and a proficiency one would expect. Some elements and scenes seemed a bit off...the plot point where Castle basically lets everyone know he didn't die in the massacre seemed illogical, as I would think the advantage of your enemies thinking you were dead would far outweigh whatever could be gained by them knowing you're alive, especially if you were planning to go after them. Also, the complete lack of any police involvement, even after Castle began his war on Howard Saint and his organization seemed unrealistic. And I would have expected Castle to find a secluded place to hole up, one where he could come and go as he pleased, and not a run-down apartment building with a few neighbors, including the character played by Romjin-Stamos. The purpose was to sort of create a surrogate family for Castle, but it just seemed strange that he would choose the location he did from which to wage his war. Finally, I have to mention the scene with the Russian assassin played by pro-wrestler Kevin Nash. I thought the fight scene was very exciting and fun to watch, but why did the Russian show up in a red and white striped shirt, looking like a huge, lumpy candy cane? It really disrupted the dark and gritty feel built up in the movie, as he reminded me of a lacky henchman from the 60's Batman television series. All in all, I thought most of the movie worked well, with a few plot areas that didn't, but the positive points out-weighed the negatives, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the movie as a whole, right up until it's satisfying conclusion.
The widescreen print here looks beautiful, and there's a good helping of useful and informative special features including featurettes on the stunts within the film, origins of the The Punisher character from his first appearance in a Spider-Man comic back in the 70's, a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, an interview influential cover artist for The Punisher comic book, a music video for a song within the film by the group Drowning Pool, a trailer for The Punisher video game (but not a trailer for the film itself?!), a commentary track by the director, two deleted scenes and a mini-comic.
on November 28, 2006
Well, as you may have read elsewhere here in these reviews, this Extended Cut adds back in a subplot that was totally absent from the Theatrical Cut. Starting with the newly filmed (yes, newly filmed) animated intro that has Frank and his buddy Weeks back in Kuwait City in '91 being ambushed by Iraqi Nationalist terrorists. The animated sequence was actually, well I guess "shot" against greenscreen. The actors acted their parts (in full costume dress) while a still photographer took shots of them, and then uploaded the pics into a computer to convert them to black and white images using software. Like a previous reviewer said, it's ashame that this sequence wasn't shot for real. However I can see why it wasn't as it'd would've taken quite a bit of budget to build the set for just 4 or 5 minutes worth of footage. Of course, going on location could have cheapened it, but who knows...
Anyway, on to the real film. Well, as it turns out that his buddy Weeks apparently falls into some major gambling debt from Saint's Cuban buddy's Casino. And to prevent Saint and his gang from killing Weeks, Weeks gives up Frank's identity from the arms deal gone bad that killed one of Saint's sons.
So then, the restored footage deals with this subplot of Weeks and Frank and how Frank discovers that Weeks was the mole and how he deals with him in the end. Does this extra footage make the movie any better? Well, that's subjective. I thought it did, because it helps explain some of the turmoil behind Frank's rebirth as the Punisher. It's not on the level of the Daredevil Director's Cut as someone else mentioned, but it does add a bit of drama to the over-all story.
For those wishing for more Punisher-style take-downs, you're not gonna get it here with this Extended Cut. But if you're a completist and a Punisher fan, pick this up for this relatively low price. Amazon doesn't have the lowest price, so shop around.
All I can say is that I hope that Punisher 2 fulfills some of what was lacking with this original film. I hear that the setting is gonna move to New York City from Miami for the sequel, so that should sit a little better with some fans.
on November 28, 2006
I am apparently one of the only real fans of the 2004 Punisher movie as it didn't do very well at the box office. I bought the original DVD and now this new Extended Cut DVD.
Since everyone knows the basic plot of the movie or if they don't, they can read a synopsis of it elsewhere in this review section, I am only going to review the new aspects of this DVD released by Lionsgate.
First of all the packaging is unique though flimsy at best. It is standard "hard paper stock" packaging as opposed to a plastic case. The Punisher skull insignia can be removed--why, I don't know. The case also opens up instead of the traditional side opening.
Now to the movie. On the menu screen you have the option to watch the movie with the "Animated Kuwait deleted scene" or just the "Extended Cut" by itself--they do not mention whether or not the 5-6 minute animated scene is included in this 17 minute "Extended Cut."
The "Animated Kumait deleted scene" is interesting as it appears like an animatronic graphic novel with new vocal performance by Thomas Jane and the actor who played Jimmy Weeks. It lasts for 5-6 minutes and is a shame it was never made as live action (due to budget and time).
As with any movie that re-incorporated deleted footage back into the original movie, it is sometimes hard to tell if it is new footage or not. Some scenes are basically extended. The best part and what really defines the "Extended Cut" is the new side plot that has been inserted.
BEWARE SPOILERS BELOW!
The new side plot involving Frank Castle's friend from his Desert Storm team and more recently his FBI buddy (in the retirement scene) is very startling and changes the movie quite a bit and fills in some gaps. We learn now how Saint really discovered who Frank Castle was and where his family would be. (In the original cut, he is handed a dossier from his right-hand man, Glass, where we are led to believe Glass discovered it--but now we see that due to Weeks' gambling debts, he is coerced into giving Frank's identity up.) There are several other scenes of Frank and Weeks all leading up to Frank realizing Weeks betrayed him. The final scene with Weeks is a bit disturbing and really brings home the fact that Castle is dead and that The Punisher is alive and well.
END OF SPOILERS!
As for any other added footage, it is very hard to notice.
Other special features such as the Punisher comic book gallery are nice but really, could they not have included more comic covers and maybe the entire comic book in a readable format on your television screen? As it stands, you get to flip through the "1970's" through "2000's" and see a handful of the more popular The Punisher comic book covers and trivia about the covers and the stories contained inside. (Interestingly enough, when you click on the "1970's" the first comic to appear is a 1975 comic, whereas the 1974 first appearance of The Punisher is the next one to be shown.)
The "Making-of featurette" leaves a lot to be desired. The one on the original DVD (which was not included on this one) was much better. This one basically shows how the actors, writers, and director got back together to film the animated scene. Nothing more, nothing less. It might have been nice of some mention of The Punisher 2, that is in development or a longer "Making of" talking about the newly added footage and the original footage.
Lastly, you would think that with a "Special Edition" DVD, that you would have all of the movie trailers and tv spots for The Punisher, right? Guess what, there are NO movie trailers or tv spots for The Punisher. All you get is one trailer after another for a bunch of horror movies--that's right--HORROR MOVIES that Lionsgate is putting out. They couldn't even tack on a trailer of the upcoming Marvel comic movie, Ghost Rider or the next Marvel movie, Spiderman 3.
Overall, if you love The Punisher, purchase this, but wait till you can get it for $10. I paid $15 and I think that is too much after already owning the original. The added footage does help to make it a better, well-rounded movie. If you don't own the original, go ahead and buy this, it is a great, dark comic movie.
on November 21, 2006
Since I didn't see anyone comment on the new DVD out, I figured it'd be worthwhile to say something.
First off, all the special features that were on the original aren't here anymore. Second, the animated scene isn't as good as it could have been, it was good for what it was worth...but, didn't add too much. If they would have fleshed it out a bit more and made some more frames for it, so it moved more fluidly it would have been a bit more enjoyable. However, the deleted scenes added a lot to the movie, the new scenes helped out the story a lot, and fleshed out the film. There wasn't any additional action but there were some nice dark scenes added. They also added in a nice comic cover gallery that includes summaries for story arcs and such, also the packaging is pretty cool as well.
View this the same as the Daredevil director's cut, it really helped out the movie a lot, added more character, and more plot. Except Punisher was a better movie than Daredevil to begin with(IMO). If you're a Punisher fan, buy this, it makes the movie a lot better, but keep the old copy because it had some neat special features that aren't on the new version. Again what it seems like Marvel is doing is it will release the normal version with a ton of special features, then release a Director's Cut with no special features.
on July 19, 2006
The Blu-ray disc of THE PUNISHER looks superior to the DVD version, but none of the extras from the DVD are included here.
The "studder" issue noted by other reviewers is present ONLY when selecting the DTS audio option (which is the default on the menu). To play the movie without any issues, simply choose the DOLBY DIGTIAL audio track and the movie will play back perfectly. This strange issue affects all 4 of the initial Lionsgate titles. Again, to get around it, simply choose the Dolby audio option.
Hopefully the Blu-ray camp will begin releasing better discs soon, but for the meantime, THE PUUNISER looks cool in HD.
on September 16, 2004
Growing up I never really got into the Punisher comic book. I was a Spiderman fan, and every once in a while got into Superman and a few others. Having not really read the Punisher, I loved this movie. It has a certain grit that was lacking from other comic books. Thomas Jane doesn't an excellent job as the title character, as well as having a menacing presence. One of my only problems with this film was John Travolta. I prefer him in roles as a soft spoken badass, in movies like this when he gets agitated, his voice starts getting high pitched and he starts getting annoying. Other than that the whole movie was a great, and I would highly recommend it as one of the better comic book movies of the past 5 years.
on November 19, 2004
There's amazing sequence of scenes in "The Punisher: In the Beginning," a Marvel graphic novel collecting a recent series of comics featuring the urban vigilante.
It begins with Frank Castle AKA The Punisher storming into the birthday party of an aging Mafia Don. Castle promptly shoots the Don in the head before walking calmly out the door. After this a collection of shocked goombahs follows him onto the front lawn where Castle proceeds to mow them down with an M-60 machine gun.
The final body count: 47 people dead. Now here's the really incredible thing: This all happens only A FEW PAGES INTO THE BOOK! From here the storyline gets even more over the top.
The problem with "The Punisher" movie is that THAT Frank Castle never shows up. Anyone who buys the movie hoping to see some glimmer of the relentless, unstoppable badass of the current Marvel comic will be sorely dissappointed.
I don't have a problem with the casting of the Thomas Jane. I've always thought he was a matinee idol in the making, a star just waiting for the right movie that allows the whole world to see that.
Granted he's at least 20 years younger than his comic book counterpart but the de-aging makes sense given realities of Hollywood film-making and audience expectations.
I don't even have a problem with the liberties taken with character's origin. Comic book Vietnam Vet Frank Castle has been transformed into movie ex-FBI agent Frank Castle.
Furthermore, whereas in the comic, Castle's wife and two children were killed in the crossfire of a mob battle, the movie has his entire extended family(wife, son, Mom, Dad, cousins etc., etc.) being slaughtered.
What I have a problem with is the fact "The Punisher" is one of the most toothless R-rated movies ever made. I'm not a gorehound but it seems to me that if you're going to do a movie about a ruthless, vigilante like the Punisher, you've got to stay true to the character and go all the way.
While the movie does incorporate characters created by current Punisher scribe Garth Ennis it has none of the razor sharp wit and intelligence that makes the comics such a fun read. Bottom line: This is Punisher-Lite.
Matters aren't helped by the weak script which pits John Travolta, as money launderer Howard Saint against Jane's Castle. Travolta is a brilliant actor, yes, but even the greatest actor can be hard pressed to overcome a bad script. Saint just never comes to life as a villain.
Adding insult to injury, The Punisher is moved from his comic book environs of New York City to Tampa, Florida! Taking such dark, gritty, urban character and smacking him in a sunny tropical playground makes no sense and serves the story poorly. It's kinda like transplanting Batman to Anaheim.
It seems like Marvel's movies have fallen into an alternating hit or miss pattern. For every X Men or Spiderman or Blade(great movies all) there's a Daredevil and now Punisher in the miss column.
Let's hope the next Marvel movie offering does a better job of honoring its source material than this.