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The Punisher

The Punisher

What He said:

He

The Punisher is Marvel Comics’ bad boy. He goes places no other hero is willing to go. Most heroes are all, “I won’t kill you, that would make me no better than you” to their bad guys. The Punisher says nuts to that logic and will shoot you, ram a sharp object into you, blow you up, or find some other colorful way to send you to meet your maker.

He wasn’t born this way though. Frank Castle was an FBI agent and a pretty by-the-book one too. He cares about his job, but doesn’t have the bloodlust he does as The Punisher.  He’s dedicated to his job and good at it, but he’s a normal guy deep down. He’s a family man too.

Family is a big theme in this movie. On an undercover operation, Castle is involved in an illegal weapons sting, and one of the people he’s after is Bobby Saint (James Carpinello). Bobby is the son of infamous mobster Howard Saint (John Travolta). This course of events leads to Saint wanting revenge against Castle and stopping at nothing to get it. Saint’s vindictive wife Livia (Laura Harring) doesn’t want just Castle punished, she wants his entire family to pay the price. The Saints are obsessed with getting revenge against Castle, but their actions set Castle on his own quest for vengeance. The war between the two parties gets ugly, and there are many casualties, as well as interesting and colorful characters along the way.

The people Saint hires to go after Castle are the epitome of comic book villains. Hell, the Saints themselves are comic book villains. Travolta with his bad hair and overly dramatic demeanor, Laura Harring with the whole heartless bitch routine, and Carpinello (playing their twin sons) is the definition of a guido. They are an interesting mix of villains from an old noir film, with a sprinkle of Miami Vice sleaze ball, and some comic book cheese sprinkles on top.

Castle himself is a bit of a caricature. Naturally, he’s not a happy guy. I’d sulk too if I went through some of the stuff he did, but he’s a sulking mess. He sits around plotting revenge getting drunk in the process. It works though. Never has mopey and miserable seemed so cool.

Black Beauty

Along the way he meets some people. His neighbors Joan (Rebecca Romijn), Dave (Ben Foster), and Bumpo (John Pinette) are his only connected to the real world, though he does his best to avoid even them. Joan is a very stereotypical good gal who always seems to find the wrong guy. She sees the right guy in Frank. Dave and Bumpo are your stereotypical comedic dynamic duo. I say stereotypical, but I don’t mean that in a bad way, because the three of them are charming. They might not be particularly original or dynamic, but if something works it works. The three of them all like a little family and they want to include Castle in on that, and it’s kind of endearing to watch.

The Punisher is an interesting mix of different things that mesh together quite well despite their drastic differences. The Punisher is an R-rated comic book and this is an R-rated movie. It’s every bit as violent and vindictive as it’s “hero”. There’s also a decent amount of humor too. Dave and Bumpo provide a lot of it. Even Castle himself has some funny moments. One of the funnier parts of the movie is actually during one of the big fights; which is one of the best fights I’ve seen on-screen. It’s a great funny and hilarious at the same time. I also love Travolta’s over-acting. It’s so bad it worked for me. It’s all a part of the hokey comic book charm. This movie is similar to Robocop in some ways.

The only the only thing that bums me out is that Thomas Jane wasn’t in the “sequel”, 2008’s Punisher: Warzone. He had a falling out with the studio from what I remember  and the studio decided to reboot the series. I always wanted to see another punisher movie with Jane in it. I thought he played the character well.

Rating: Thumbs up for kicking ass.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on May 3, 2013.

 

What She said:

She

Aww, the critics were so mean to The Punisher when it came out in 2004.  They seemed to find it formulaic and just downright bad.  But I’ve always kind of liked it.  I’m not going to say that it’s aged well, and I see some of their points, but I think they were a little hard on what should be a campy revenge flick.  But brace yourself, The Punisher is filled with quirks that could prove too much for the faint of heart.

Black Beauty

If you’re not familiar with the story of The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, it’s about a former undercover agent whose entire family is killed in an act of revenge.  You see, Castle was involved in an investigation gone wrong that ended with the death of the son of well-known dirty business owner and mobster Howard Saint.  So Saint was none too pleased, and sent his thugs to make Castle feel his pain.  Except he took it up a notch, wiping out all of Castle’s immediate and distant family while they were all congregated for a reunion.  Ouch.  Castle remarkably survives, even though he’s shot multiple times, and is reborn into an angry, drunk, violent entity who wants to reciprocate the pain back to Saint.  Castle liquidates his assets and moves to a dive apartment where he channels all of his energy into developing weapons and new methods for making Saint suffer.  It’s simultaneously entertaining and horrifying to watch. 

Castle is played by an overly dramatic Thomas Jane.  He sulks a lot, which I guess I would do too if all my relatives were killed, but also makes a lot of funny painful grimaces.  He also gets the snot beat of out him several times.  But Frank Castle always bounces back, and with a scorn on his face he picks off the baddies one by one.  John Travolta plays Howard Saint, and he does so in a way that only Travolta can, with a mix of cheese and charisma that is difficult to top.  He’s always grinning, sweating, and flicking around that ridiculous hair.  What a man. 

Black Beauty

Where I enjoy the corniness of The Punisher, I can see it being somewhat difficult to overcome.  The movie blurs the line between comic book fun and straight up cheese.  I still don’t mind it too much.  The film also has a body count that is hard to keep track of—blood and guts everywhere, and people literally being mowed down by guns.  In today’s gun-conscious culture, this may be somewhat offensive.  But I’m of the generation that is highly desensitized to this level of violence due to my exposure of cable television and video games.

Castle’s building-mates, Joan, Bumpo, and Spacker Dave, add a human-side to the movie.  Bumpo and Spacker Dave offer some comic relief, but also have heart as loveable dorks.  And Joan, played by Rebecca Romijn, is the chronically troubled beautiful lady who helps to give Castle some much-needed perspective.  She can only do so much, though.  I think these characters add a little depth to what is otherwise a superficial film, but at the end of the day, The Punisher is still first and foremost an action flick. 

While there are things I don’t love about The Punisher it is, for me, a very watchable film.  And for that I say…

Thumbs mostly up.

 

 

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