Published Apr 01, 2004When Hellboy was released in the not too distant past, it was hailed by critics as the salvation of the comic book adaptation genre. Problem is, the comic book genre didn't necessarily need saving.
Like any other film genre, there have been good (Hellboy, X-men 2, etc.) and bad offerings (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but can you name a genre that has put out nothing but gold?The Punisher, the latest Marvel property adapted for the big screen, unlike the mighty Hellboy, is unfortunately not glittery. But, without the bad, the gold wouldn't shine so bright.
The Punisher is a straightforward, unintelligent revenge flick, pure and simple, but sadly, one without emotional connections, and without the audience's sympathy, it's just so much violent masturbation. Thomas Jane plays the legendary (for comic nerds, anyway) Frank Castle, an F.B.I. agent who has just retired after one last drug bust gone slightly sour to finally spend time with his loving, perfect family. Unfortunately, during his last bust, the son of money launderer Howard Saint (an actually decent John Travolta) was killed and in revenge, Castle's entire family (in-laws and everything) is mercilessly wiped out and he is left for dead. He, of course, survives and so begins his transformation from loving family man to psychopathic vigilante, as he guns down everyone in his path to avenge his family.
Despite decent performances from Jane (who broods stoically and has obviously hit the gym) and Travolta (who is actually kind of good here), The Punisher never equals the nihilism of the comic it was inspired by and isn't really that true to its origins. And for an action movie, its action is lacklustre: the massacre of Castle's family is strangely antiseptic and unmoving; the killing of the nameless, faceless Saint minions is ho-hum and the shootouts don't hold a candle to what fans expect from today's death dealers. Throw in a lot of bad dialogue and clunky peripheral characters (Castle's neighbours) and inexplicable character turns, and The Punisher feels like cinematic punishment.
Considering Dolph Lundgren starred in the original The Punisher, which is actually worse than the remake, they could have at least thrown him a bone and worked him in here as "the Russian." (Alliance Atlantis)