Just Pillow Talk v Marvel Comics 10. The Punisher
This was clearly not meant to be like this, but I’m killing time before going to see New Year’s Eve (I’d rather get caught breaking into Frank Castle’s house than do this) and as he’s sent both Punisher reviews in, we can double the punishment in one big, fat orgy of ass kickery. Well, half of one.
I actually like both of these films, for my sins, especially War Zone, but I do wonder why it is so hard to adapt The Punisher properly. I mean, it’s basically Death Wish, as far as I understand: 1 big bastard cleans up the streets. How can this group of Marvel adapters possibly fuck this one up…
The Punisher (2004)
There are times when Netflix just lets me down. Sadly, they do not have Dolph’s version which for some unfathomable reason I have never seen. I can only imagine the genius and stupidity at work there. With that in mind, I only have two Punisher movies to review. The first has Thomas Jane in the title role of Frank Castle. The story opens with Frank undercover for the FBI where a thug gets shot up. It turns out that the thug is Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son, who’s a big time bad guy. Well, the Saint family isn’t having Saintly thoughts about Frankie boy once they discover who he is, and Mrs. Saint tells their #1 guy Glass (Will Patton) to wipe out Frank’s entire family, who are down in Puerto Rico for a family reunion. Suffice to say, his whole family is wiped out…mom, dad, wife, son, the cousin that no one talks to because they are just not right in the head. Even being shot multiple times, including once point blank in the chest and being blown up into the water, Frankie survives.
Frank manages to survive with the help of some boat guy or other. Frank goes back to the house where the attack took place and recovers some guns hidden. After deciding to go on his own, the boat dude and him have the following exchange, when does produce a nice line from Frankie:
“Go with God.”
“God is going to sit this one out.”
Frankie does some plotting, setting up Glass to make it look like he’s cheating with Howard Saint’s wife (Glass is gay). Howard ends up killing Glass and his wife, which is a lot cheaper and quicker than say marriage counseling or some other nonsense. Everyone dies, some rather entertainingly, and Frank gets his revenge.
Now, the storyline, acting, are all rather average, but it would have been an ‘okay’ film if they did just that. But no, they had to have Frank Castle move into a run down apartment building with Rebecca Romijn, Ben Foster, and some fat dude who I forget his name. It’s completely unnecessary and worthless. I do not give a shit about any of these people, nor do we need them to “humanize” Frank Castle. Sorry, but from what I remember of the Punisher, he’s a cold hearted bastard who is relentless in his pursuit and extermination of vermin. It slows down the movie and takes away from Frankie. Totally knocks the movie’s rating down.
What was good? Not until Frank faces off with the Russian assassin did it entertain me. Frank is clearly over matched, but tries a variety of weapons (whatever he can get his hands on in his apartment) to try and take down the Russian. Alas, the whole movie is not like this. The final battle is okay, but the movie missed a great villain. Travolta really wasn’t in it that much, or so it seemed, and he dialed it back. Will Patton did nothing but kiss a guy and torture Ben Foster. Thomas Jane was okay, nothing great, but he did what the material called for.
If not for the fight with the Russian, I think this movie would be a zero. It’s just so not fun nor does it succeed as a drama because I could give two shits about the characters. No impact when his family is gunned down. So the question is: is it better to show how Frank Castle became the Punisher or pick up where he is already established as the Punisher? I’m thinking the latter.
What I did get a kick out of was at the end when Frank is facing off with Howard. This is after Frank has left some C4 with Saint’s other son in the house, and Howard screams to Frank:
“You killed my son.”
“Both of them.”
Or when Frank is leaving the apartment and tells Mystique he’s got stuff to do and that she’ll hear about it. How she asks?
“Read the paper.”
See, a movie named the Punisher should have shit like that strung throughout.
I give this 1 Rex “Fat Head” Ryans out of 4.
Fire this fat fucker.
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
After watching Thomas Jane’s Punisher, I took a swing at Ray Stevenson’s Punisher. Alas, Netflix decided to throw a monkey wrench into my viewing and have it lock up on me several times, so I was unable to view it all the way through. In this version the Punisher has already been punishing the criminal world for 5 years, he has a gun supplier (Micro – Wayne Knight), and the cops give him a wide berth to eliminate the scum of the city. I like this approach better than another origin story.
The basis of this movie is the Punisher goes after yet another mob family and wipes them all out, all except Billy (Dominic West) who he really tries to kill by throwing him into a bottle crusher. Billy gets a little makeover, courtesy of some glass cutting his face up, and becomes Jigsaw. While the Punisher is shooting up all the bad guys, he inadvertently kills a fed undercover agent. This shakes Frank Castle deeply, and he questions whether he should go on his merry way of shooting all things bad, especially since the agent left a wife (Julie Benz) and daughter. Micro convinces him to continue since Jigsaw will be looking for revenge and go after the dead agent’s family. This ends up leading to a head-on collision between the Punisher and Jigsaw, though not before Jigsaw frees his crazy brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson) from the psychiatric ward.
The Punisher goes on a shooting spree, killing all sorts of bad guys along the way, and save the agent’s family from the clutches of Jigsaw. While I liked Thomas Jane as the Punisher, particularly in an origin type story, I prefer Ray Stevenson’s version. He’s a killing machine, relentless and cold-hearted, and completely believable as someone who could snap people in half. I may be partially influenced by his performance in Kill the Irishman, which was a movie I quite liked and a performance that I quite liked. Here, he’s more or less wiping out everything in his path and doesn’t have much to work with in his performance. There are only a couple brief scenes where we get to see the Punisher show regret from killing the agent or sharing his thoughts with Micro.
Wayne Knight is effective enough as someone who aids the Punisher in his endeavors by providing him with his firepower, which with the aid of a reformed Latin King, comes directly from the streets. Dominic West, who was okay in Centurion, more or less blows here. At times he’s okay hamming it up, but other times pretty bad. Doug Hutchinson definitely enjoyed himself here, being a complete psycho, and going toe-to-toe with Ray Stevenson, but his shtick gets old quick. The supporting cast is rounded out by detective Soap (Dash Mihok) who has been tracking the Punisher since the beginning, and the dead agent’s former partner Budiansky (Colin Salmon). Neither adds anything to the story, though I did get a comic book feel to the Soap character since he’s limited to the basement surrounded by shelves of case information on the Punisher.
It is a very bloody, shoot-em-up flick, with a very high body count, and one hysterical killing by the Punisher. There are three dudes who are runners for the mob, and go hopping around building tops. Well, Frank tracks them down and in the middle of one of their jumps he blows one of them up with a bazooka (I think). It’s quite funny. Some of it was completely unnecessary, like when Loony Bin Jim eats the orderly that was assigned to him. However, all in all, I rather enjoyed this version, a bit more than Jane’s. I’ll give it 2 Julie Benz’s out of 4.