The Punisher (2004)

Dir: Jonathan Hensleigh, 2004

10/10

Fifteen years after the box office bomb of Dolph Lundgren’s portrayal of Frank Castle, scriptwriter Hensleigh attempted to reboot the potential franchise in his directorial debut.

And it’s superb.

Former undercover police officer, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane), is ambushed at a get together and his family are massacred, on the order of kingpin Harold Saint (John Travolta).

Left for dead, Castle regains his strength over several months and vows revenge on Saint.

I’ve never read an issue of The Punisher so can’t attest to the faithfulness of this 2004 film.

I’m aware of the character wearing the all in one spandex suit, typical of Marvel superheroes but, after that, my knowledge is rather barren.

With that in mind, all I can do is judge the film on its own merits and not compare it with its source material.

As an vigilante action film, it’s brilliant. Frank Castle is a character that you can root for. The violence is over the top and a tad unrealistic.

The Punisher is a gritty film that feels like it’s come straight from the pages of a comic book. It is a live-action comic and makes no excuses for that.

Dark and sadistic, Hensleigh’s film is vastly superior to Mark Goldblatt’s 1989 original cinematic incarnation.

Jane is perfect for the role as Castle. With toned physique and a moody demeanour, the actor epitomises the look of The Punisher more effectively than Lundgren did before and Ray Stevenson since.

After, once again, losing the brief taste of A-list status, Travolta appears as the go to rent-a-villain. The Grease and Saturday Night Fever star mumbles his lines through a grimaced face and gritted teeth, failing to elicit a feeling of threat, danger or menace.

With plenty of action, The Punisher rolls along, nicely, at a brisk pace, refusing to allow ennui to set in.

Brilliantly executed, the adrenaline level reaches bursting point, resulting in excitement and thrills that very few films can achieve.

A winner!

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