john mathis

10

RETRO REVIEW

THE PUNISHER (2004)                  Director : Jonathan Hensleigh

Cast: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Laura Harring, Rebecca Romijn, Samantha Mathis, Ben Foster, John Pinette, James Carpinello, Kevin Nash, Mark Collie, Eddie Jemison, Roy Scheider, Will Patton.

Although I’m a Marvel fan and also a Punisher comic fan of yesteryear, I’d heard some pretty poor things about this film, so it was with some trepidation that I put it in the DVD player and sat back waiting to be horrified.

Ex - Special services and shortly to be retired FBI agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane), helps with one last sting of the bad guys and in this interruption of an arms deal, a son of a local ganglord, Howard Saint (John Travolta) is gunned down and killed.

In retribution for this Saint finds out that Castle was the man behind the sting and has Castle’s entire family including his wife and son killed on the wishes of his wickedly evil wife, Livia Saint (Laura Harring).

This section of the film was particularly brutal for a Marvel film, but the action sequences were amazing considering that no CGI was used and if you see a stunt man flying through the air on fire, it was actually a stunt man flying through the air on fire ! It’s worth watching the extras, because although limited they show some of the stunts and you sit there in awe of the brave men and woman behind the carefully co-ordinated but none the less dangerous stunts.

The ‘Saint’ gang think they’ve killed Frank Castle too, but this is The Punisher we are talking about and despite being shot a few times he’s fished out of the water by the local witch doctor and presumably nursed back to health using a variety of spells that should be available on the NHS, because the next thing we see is him re-visiting the scene of his family’s massacre and finding the shirt with the Punisher emblem on that his son had bought him just a day or so before being killed.

Frank gets his Dad’s prized guns that have been specially adapted to be badass and acquires and seemingly endless amount of ammunition and weapons from a dealer who we don’t see and goes and lives in a hideway flat, with some neightbours that you can’t help but like immediately.

He has day trips out where he does things like attacking a money laundering operation that belongs to Saint and dropping $50 million dollars onto the street, thus getting Saint put under pressure by his bank rollers, the Columbian mafia.

So he has a day trip then back to the dingy flat to drink and take his shirt off a lot. That might be a dingy flat but the central heating looks amazing !

One day when his female neighbour’s ex- love interest turns up and terrorises her and the multi - pierced neighbour who tries to assist her, Frank Castle comes to the rescue before going back into his room to polish off more whiskey whilst looking at a photo of his wife and son.

The neighbours befriend him and whilst he doesn’t let his guard down he can trust them and they help him escape the gang by hiding and covering for him when Saint’s men come knocking after Frank had been injured fighting off a giant Russian hit man who seemed to hate walls even more than Frank Castle. I’m guessing his giant’s house was open plan.

So Frank sees off the Russian and the stooge left in his apartment and then sets up a clever plan to discredit Saint’s wife and number one man.

Despite the lead gang member being gay, something not known to Howard Saint, Frank sets him up to make it look like he was having an affair with Saint’s wife.

Now at this point, most married men, who think of taking their wife to RELATE sessions or some other counselling. Not Howard Saint. He stabs his right hand man to death in another brutal scene and then throws his wife over a bridge and beneath an oncoming train. That’ll stop them.

Things now get hardcore as Frank attacks the entire gang and systematically kills them all until there’s only Howard Saint left and after telling him that his wife and right hand man were innocent, he ties him to the back of a moving car that’s pushed and allowed to free wheel through a petrol soaked road which Frank ignites. Any thoughts of what a dope he’d been to kill his wife and friend must have been short lived and he started to focus instead on his flame engulfed body.

Frank returns to the flat, well the two walls that are left of it and thanks his neighbours for their help and friendship and leaves a stack of cash for each of them in a cupboard as a way of thanking them.

He spurns the flirting of his attractive female neighbour and makes it clear that he has work to do. Killing more baddies !

I actually really enjoyed the film and although slightly dated, I think that not using CGI has preserved it quite well.

I’d recommend a watch if you like action or super hero films as it’s Marvel’s interpretation of DeathWish in all but name.

Three and a half stars out of Five and a disagreement with many reviewers.