Monday, June 9, 2008

The Punisher (4.16.2004)

Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, Rebecca Romijn
Co-Starring: Eddie Jemison, Ben Foster, John Pinette, Laura Harring
Watch for: Roy Scheider
Editor(s): Jeff Gullo, Steven Kemper
<-- The version I own.

Where the style
of this film comes from, I am not really sure. A small part of it feels like an old gangster movie. One man against the mob, everything's personal for him while it's business for everyone else. Then there's elements of comic, such as the two hitmen we see attempt to take out our hero. With the one's guitar playing antics, and the others Dick Tracy villain-esque transformation right before his death, I couldn't help but think of noir satire as an inspiration. Then there's everything else, which simply put, is plain good old fashioned action movie. You'll see a lot more practical effects than CGI here, that's for certain.

So Marvel made an R-rated film, which was allowed to be released that way. When I first heard of this movie back in the day, along with it's rating, I instantly had confidence in it. The Punisher is not a character you water down for the middle schoolers.
Actually, we still got complaints of this from the good old internets:
"Why would he torture Mickey with a popsicle? The REAL Punisher would've actually tortured him."
There's two reasons this works.
A) If you actually torture a guy, getting him to help you out in with your plan for revenge prolly isn't going to be a very welcome request. If you reveal to him you simply wanted information, and have no problem with him (outside of a dark sense of humor), he'll prolly take your request with a little more finesse.
B) Take this, skeptics. I haven't read it, but the Punisher did torture someone with a popsicle in the comics, in a storyline from Chuck Dixon (Thank you, IMDB).

So, suck it. Anyway, the scene worked for me.
The movie as a whole seems to take the source material very seriously. It's a cliche story by now, man loses his family and seeks revenge, but their manner of portraying it kept me interested the entire time.
Granted, there are a few moments that cause me to step out and feel as though they could've done better ("We are blessed." Ugh), but overall I was sucked into this.
John Travolta, who I've been paying attention to since I saw Grease in my pre-teen years, just makes for such a good villain. Even watching Battlefield Earth was semi-alright during his scenes. I won't go into the rest of it. And while his character is very formulaic (well, all of them are really), including your 'mob boss who references famous historical figures/events before he kills a supporting character' scene, it's still very enjoyable. (I still have a few shallow idea of who Jim Booey (sp?) was, but whatever. Cool monologue.)
Thomas Jane, who apparently is usually blonde or something, made for the perfect moody "good guy that kills" character that the Punisher is. Sure, he busts into a club and slaughters a bunch of people (Is it me, or was the guy who got the arrow through the neck just a waiter who was on duty that night?), but you're sitting there rooting him on.

And also, we do get a couple of comic-like moments that help ground us in that sort of reality. You won't see John McClane bullet-proofing his car, or inserting all sorts of last resort gadgets into his house. It's a shame none of Castle's little innovations to his home security system worked out too well for him.
Ex: Emergency door worked, but the grenade flies back in through the window.
Or there's the gun tray, but unfortunately the Russian was strong enough that he was able to render the gun useless.

There's not too much to say about this one, it mostly explains itself. This is the first time I've had to wait a day after watching it again to write a review. I just couldn't think of anything to say, short of giving a moment-by-moment commentary.

Whatever emotion surges through you when you watch this, sadness, humor, whatever, I'm right there with you.
Well, as long as it's not some sort of vile hatred for the film's cast and creators. You start thinking like that, and I may just have to go load up and throw on a half dozen bullet-proof vests. Then we'll see what's up.

Watching it again, I remembered that I really do love this movie. The fact that Thomas Jane turned down the role of the sequel, claiming it 'is not a worthwhile story', tells me I prolly shouldn't expect anything quite like this in the near future.

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