MOVIE REVIEW – ‘THE PUNISHER’ (2004)


Plot Summary: Frank Castle is an undercover DEA agent working on his final assignment, a gun running deal that goes wrong when one of the accomplices is killed in the crossfire. The dead man turns out  to be the son of Howard Saint, a powerful mastermind who controls the criminal underworld of Tampa, Florida. Saint and his wife vow revenge on the man who caused the death of their son, so they track Castle down to a family reunion in Puerto Rico, slaughter his entire family, and leave him for dead in a firey barge explosion. Castle miraculously survives, becoming the grim, black-clad, machine-gun toting Punisher.

The Good: Well, Thomas Jane does an admirable job playing the Punisher, and the costume is faithful to the comic book. Other than that…this movie is absolute drivel.

The Bad: You know you are watching an atrocious film when the best thing you can say about it is, “Hey, at least it’s not as bad as the 1990 version with Dolph Lundgren.” Wait, you know something? I can’t even bring myself to say that. This movie, in many ways, is even worse than that straight-to-video clunker. At least in that version, the Punisher actually fires a gun.

There is so much wrong here that I don’t even know where to begin. The editing is just plain inexcusable. Half the time you don’t know where you are, who the characters are, or how much time has elapsed between scenes.  The acting ranges from “mediocre” to “utter trainwreck.”  John Travolta is the single worst comic-book villain to appear on the silver screen, hands down. Watching him in this piece of shit is like stabbing yourself in the eyeball with a red-hot sewing needle.  Rebecca Romjin-Stamos,or whatever she’s calling herself this week , John Pinette, and Six Feet Under’s Ben Foster are three completely superfluous characters thrown into the screenplay only because they appear in Garth Ennis’ critically acclaimed Punisher comic book series. Their performances range from bland to ridiculous, and they contribute absolutely nothing to the storyline.

The “action” scenes are few and far between, and when they do occur, they are laughable at best. The Punisher, as depicted in hundreds of Marvel comics, is a no-nonsense killer who hunts down criminal scum and fills them with thousands of rounds of ammunition from his arsenal of various guns. However, in this film, he sneaks around office buildings to drop millions of dollars on the street, carries around a fire hydrant in order to get the villain’s wife a parking ticket, and takes pictures of Saint’s top henchman kissing guys. By the time the final shootout in Saint’s nightclub happens, you just don’t care anymore because everything that has come before is a hideously boring and confounding mess.

Congratulations Daredevil and Hulk, you are no longer at the top of the list of horrifically bad Marvel comic-book adaptations. Hell, this movie makes Daredevil look like Spider-Man.  Painful.

The Ugly: Spacker Dave, after his piercings have been forcefully removed by one of Saint’s henchmen.

Should I See It In The Theater? Only if you hate yourself. A lot.

Are You Going To Buy The DVD? Sure, it’s right on my list afterGigli, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, and a coupleHillary Duff movies.

Final Grade: D

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