The Punisher (2004)
Plot: After Frank Castle’s (Tom Jane) last assignment as an undercover cop results in the death of Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son (James Carpinello), Saint (a powerful criminal), orders the death of Castle and his family. Believed to be dead, Castle returns to seek vengeance on Saint and his entire family and organization.
The Punisher is an odd film to figure out. It doesn’t have a consistent tone at all. Sometimes it’s serious action, then we get scenes of camp, and it even ventures into artsy territory. It’s not a mess, but it feels empty because the movie jerks you around in so many directions. The 1989 version is superior because it knows what it wants to be. Just over the top kick ass action. Honestly, there’s barely any action in this aside from a couple scenes. And the final action sequence could not be more anti-climactic. The set-up takes forever. The first half of the movie almost goes by before Castle’s family is murdered. Let’s get on with this already, geez. In the 1989 version, he’s already the Punisher at the start of the movie! When Saint’s men arrive at Castle’s beach house to slaughter everyone, this could have been a real gut wrenching scene. Imagine this family just laughing it up, having a BBQ and then all of a sudden they are completely gunned down in a matter of seconds. But here, it stretches this out forever. It’s completely unnecessary. What I really can’t believe though is that Dolph Lundgren gave a better performance than Tom Jane in the role…yikes. But other than Jane, the acting is far better in this version. Will Patton is great, and Travolta is fine, although he’s kind of wasted as we barely see him. Probably the best aspect of the movie though is how Castle fucks with Saint. It’s a pretty gruesome revenge. I also liked Castle’s neighbors who have great chemistry and are easily the most likable people in the film. There are solid performances all around and the movie does offer a couple scenes of intense tension, but it has no idea where it wants to go. I prefer the cheesy 1989 version. But that’s me.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):
Best Performance: Will Patton as Quentin Glass
-Easily the best performance in the movie. He’s pretty intense. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he delivers these funny and menacing speeches which Patton nails perfectly.
Worst Performance: Tom Jane as Frank Castle/the Punisher
-Man, this could have been a lot better if another actor were here. The beginning when he has actual dialogue with his family is just torturous. The guy sounds like something is caught in his throat, and his tone never changes, not once, which I guess is kind of impressive. He gets a little better in the second half because he barely talks and just has to look menacing.
Best Line: “If I wanted to kill you, I would have left you in jail where we have friends, and in some way that I can only describe as deeply pornographic, you would have been killed. But you’re a small piece of shit, and I don’t want the karma of your death on my soul.” –Quentin
-Whoa. This is what I mean about Will Patton delivering these long diatribes. It’s delivered perfectly. It also makes it kind of funny that he’s saying this to the guy who played Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) in the Ocean’s 11 movies.
Worst Line: “God’s gonna sit this one out.” –Frank Castle
-Terrible delivery and a terrible line. They want me to take this film seriously, but how can I with lines like this? If this was said in the 1989 version, it would have been awesome.
-The fight Castle has in his apartment with ‘the Russian’ was pretty damn good. He was massive! There’s a lot of throwing, a lot of broken walls, a lot of household items used as weapons, pretty good all around. Obviously the best part though is that ‘the Russian’ wears a shirt that looks like a Barber Shop pole.
-This is kind of a throwback to my Batman & Robin WTF Moment when the Robin cycle breaks a wall and creates a perfect Robin symbol. Here, Castle burns down an entire car lot and leaves a perfect Punisher symbol in flames. I hate this crap. It’s so corny.
-When Quentin is about to pull the face piercings off Castle’s neighbor, I have to admit, that was pretty gut wrenching and well directed.
-When Frank Castle reveals to the media that he’s alive and monologues…this was like Sofia Coppola Godfather III level acting. Ugh.
-Tom Jane’s best moment is probably when he goes up to this door and puts in a key card through the scanner in a really, really intense manner. His look was priceless.
Bad Ass Moment:
-Lacing a champagne bottle as a bomb when it gets pulled from the ice bin is pretty crafty.