The Punisher Jonathan Hensleigh

The Punisher Jonathan Hensleigh
The Punisher has been a fan favourite since he first stumbled into the Marvel universe as a one-off villain for Spider-Man. A marine/ex-Vietnam vet who seeks vigilante justice after his family is murdered by mobsters, The Punisher makes for dark, interesting character-driven stories that weigh in heavy on the violence ratio. While the first film adaptation in 1989, starring Dolph Lundgren, was an embarrassment of super-heroic proportions, the newest is surprisingly good. Tom Jane is F.B.I. agent Frank Castle, who becomes the Punisher after his whole extended family is brutally murdered by the lackeys of Howard Saint (John Travolta), the millionaire criminal mastermind he is now intent on punishing. Travolta may be just shy of taking his character too far over the top, but Jane makes a very good Punisher, portraying the gloom and despair well. The Punisher isn't as violent as many recent action blockbusters, but the total lack of CGI and the return to old school stunts and special effects make it all seem a little more real and brutal. But it's not all action; comic relief is supplied by Castle's neighbours: waitress Joan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), slacker Spacker Dave (Ben Foster) and portly chef Bumpo (John Pinette). Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh based his adaptation on The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank, Garth Ennis's minimal, black comedy reinterpretation of The Punisher, thankfully keeping the character grounded in a sort of ultra-violent reality; he's a superhero without superpowers. They also draw heavily from the photo-like comic art of Tim Bradstreet, whose work helped revitalise The Punisher's popularity, along with Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon. Both Ennis and Bradstreet get plenty of shine in the special features, "Army of One: The Punisher Origins" and "Drawing Blood: Bradstreet Style," respectively. There's also a very interesting featurette on creating stunts on a budget, a nearly negligible behind the scenes "making of" documentary and an informative audio commentary from Hensleigh. Unfortunately the deleted scenes leave a lot to be desired. Hensleigh includes the original opening scene and another short unnecessary scene, but it would have been nice to see some of the 40-minute side story about Frank's ex-F.B.I. partner that was excised for length, as well as more information on the originally planned Kuwait scene that reveals a little more of Frank's motivation. The Punisher may not be the best of the comic book adaptations but it sure as hell beats Daredevil by a mile. Plus: featurettes music video, more. (Alliance Atlantis)