The Punisher (Theatrical Cut) (2004): Breakdown by Rutledal
A G-Man’s family get’s killed, he kills the killers.
Just to get it out of the way, this breakdown will not be based solely on The Punisher as an action movie, but also as an adaptation of the comic it’s based on. It’s not my favourite comic-book, but the character had a good couple of guest appearances in Spider-Man and I came to like the insane badass motherfucker that is The Punisher. For those not familiar with the character, Frank Castle was a war veteran having served 3 tours in Vietnam, then one day he and his family witnessed a mob execution while having a picnic in the park. Frank then witnessed the violent death of his family right in front of his eyes, (at the hands of the mob, wiping out the witnesses to their crime) but Frank survives and from that day on he becomes The Punisher, a vigilante that kills any and every criminal scum on the streets of New York.
As for the 2004 movie, it’s pretty much one long origin story, being about Frank Castle’s first killings and ending with him embodying the role of The Punisher. So this movie is very different from it’s predecessor and it’s successor, both of which mostly deal with The Punisher slaying down hordes of criminals. But enough about comics and other films, let’s look at what made this a decent movie and what they put in to make sure it didn’t become better.
The Stuff I Liked:
The Skull – It’s back. A thousand times yes, it’s back. What the hell where they thinking when they removed it? It’s like removing the “S” from Superman’s chest.
The Comic We Are Adapting, What If We Actually Read It – They didn’t include much from the comics, but a fair amount of “Welcome Back, Frank” made it to the screen. Sure they excluded some of the best parts (the recounting of the incident in the park, Frank making some peace with the city, etc) and left in some of the worst (Bumpo, the ridiculous affectations of The Russian, etc), but compared to the previous movie it’s as faithful as a nun. And for what it’s worth they at least wrote out the part where Castle murders the Russian by chocking him to death with Bumpo’s stomach. No shit.
Violence – The movie earns it’s R-rating with bloody deaths and squibs. No CGI here.
The Score – Carlo Siliotto’s score is excellent. When it plays over the title sequence I almost get chills down my spine. It doesn’t fit with my image of the Punisher, but it fits perfectly with the movie and that’s what matters, even if the movie isn’t that good.
The Homage Scenes – To a spaghetti western fan boy like myself seeing Hensleigh paying homage to the final gun fights of both “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” almost makes me forgive everything else that is wrong with this movie. And speaking of which…
The Stuff I Hated:
The Skull at the Parking Lot – It’s cool that they brought the skull back, but that scene at the end when he creates it in burning cars is just retarded. It must have taken him hours to set up, and for fucking what? So that some plane passengers that might pass by could see it and think it was cool. Yay. [Editor’s Note: Not to mention all those innocent people’s vehicles getting destroyed. Thus making him a criminal and negating his own cause]
Location – New York is the ultimate vigilante city, it’s where Paul Kersey came to life, it’s where The Punisher lives in the comics, it’s even where real life vigilante group Guardian Angles was founded. So when making a movie about perhaps the best known (non-Batman) vigilante in pop culture where do you place it? Tampa Fucking Florida. I guess making a vigilante movie sunny is much better than dark and gritty. Yeah, right.
Another Freaking New Origin Story – How hard can it be to follow the comic? Frank’s wife and two kids, one boy, one girl, gunned down by the mob for witnessing an execution. No, we need to get a totally new origin story. Again.
What This Situation Calls For Is A Plan – What is happening with the Punisher laying a detailed plan to get Saint to murder his own wife? Am I watching The Punisher or Trading Places here? If The Punisher wanted her dead he would have ripped her heart out and beaten her to death with it.
John Travolta – I hate John Travolta. He brings many scenes down with his shitty overacting and wouldn’t make a worthy opponent for Frank Castle unless Castle was in a coma, or written as a transvestite showgirl.
The movie, unlike most other comic book adaptations, is pretty grim and at times even borderline depressing. There’s almost no end to the many, many scenes featuring Castle drinking and grieving about his family. When it was first released I loved this movie, but it hasn’t exactly grown on me. I’d still say it’s a pretty good action movie; it’s not exactly Die Hard, but it’s not Steven Seagal DTV quality either. As an adaptation of the comic that it shares its name with, it’s not that good, but as an action film it works for those who like badass cinema. There is less action, but more story than with the previous version. Whether or not that’s a good thing I’ll leave for someone else to decide, but at least I think it was. And if nothing else, at least the movie also gave us on heck of a badass follow-up video game.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Thomas Jane is Frank Castle, is The Punisher
“Those who do evil to others: the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists—you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me—The Punisher.”’
Frank Castle is so bad-ass that you would actually have to put massive amounts of effort into making him anything but badass. The filmmakers do try though, making him sit about and cry and actually have him consider suicide. Luckily, they give him some redeeming features as well. He gets to kill a bunch of people and beat the bloody snot out of a handful more. He survives getting shot 4 times, including once in the chest at point blank range. And he is still the fucking Punisher, which is badass in and of itself. He also uses a bow and arrow to kill people, something too few action heroes do nowadays.
[THE BODY COUNT: 43 + A Shitload Implied]
Castle himself stacks up 22 kills, making him the least lethal Punisher to date. He kills 2 before becoming The Punisher and 21 after. Quite the change. Travolta (sigh) gets 3, and even Roy Scheider manages to off a badie with his 5 minute role. The rest are mainly Castle’s relatives getting shot by Saint’s henchmen, which is also where all the implied comes from.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Castle vs. The Russian
Taken out of the comic and put onto the screen, this classic fight from “Welcome Back, Frank” is just as good, if not better, than I could have hoped for. Castle has a full 5 minute brawl with the most intimidating blonde Russian this side of Ivan Drago whilst classic opera music plays over the entire sequence. It’s like a beautiful ballet of violence.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
There is plenty of shirtless action to go around for everyone, and Travolta always brings an extra level of gayness with his presence. Dave and Bumpo are lovers, there is no denying it. Just look at the two as Bumpo comforts Dave after he has been threatened by Joan’s ex. Frank even manages to get in the game himself. I know it’s true to the Punisher’s nature, but turning down Rebecca Romijn is gayer than having sex with a man. [Editor’s Note: Not even John Stamos could resist that ass. And he’s gay as shit.]
Oh, and Will Patton’s character is actually a gay. He even makes out with a dude.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Actually there’s surprisingly little. Castle’s wife gets treated pretty well and, towards the end of her shortened life, she even becomes somewhat of a badass. At least until she starts hammering on a door yelling for help like a horror movie tramp. Joan, Castle’s neighbor, locks her self in her apartment when her ex-boyfriend comes and needs Frank to rescue her. She is really the worst one. Then there is Saint’s wife who seems to have a lot of power and is the one that orders Frank’s entire family dead. She really ups the girl power in this one. Well, at least until Travolta throws her in front of a speeding train that is. So not that little, I guess.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Good, The Bad and The Punisher
I got to go with the shoot-out in the lobby of the Saint building between Castle, pseudo Michael Ironside* and another of Saint’s henchmen. It pays homage to the final shoot-out in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with its close-up shots of faces and guns. It’s a damn cool shoot-out scene, in my opinion.
Candelaria: Vaya con Dios, Castle. Go with God.
Castle: God’s going to sit this one out.
I love that line. It’s just layered with bad-assness and sets the bar high for what’s to come. Unfortunately the rest of the movie never quite delivers.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
You fuck with Frank Castle and he is gonna fuck your life up—and then kill you.
[THE CHECKLIST: 17 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [REBOOT: Punisher War Zone]
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
Did we already use the “splitting headache” joke?
The Punisher (2004) © Lions Gates Films and Film & Entertainment VIP Medienfonds 2 GmbH & Co. KG, Film & Entertainment VIP Medienfonds 3 GmbH & Co. KG and Artisan GmbH