Most people who know me know that Daredevil is my #1 Superhero of all time. Number #2 is Batman. Third is somewhat of a surprise for a lot of people. It’s the Punisher. It’s surprising because the Punisher is portrayed as a nemesis of Daredevil quite often in the comic books. However, like Batman and Daredevil, Punisher is a classic flawed hero. In the comics, his family was gunned down gangland style and he seeks out to “punish” those responsible. In the proceedings, he finds that the greatest enemy is not those who executed his family but himself. Drinking, suicidal thoughts, and endless pursuit to extract justice at any cost chip away at this very core. Enter 2004, and director Jonathan Hensleigh decides to bring the story of the Punisher to the big screen.
Howard Saint (played by John Travolta) is a powerful and influential mob boss. He has a wife, Livia (played by Laura Harring) and twin boys, Bobby & John (played by James Carpinello). Bobby Saint wants to do something to impress his father. Micky Duka (played by Eddie Jemison), a lackey of Howard Saint, along with Bobby go down to the port at Tampa Bay to negotiate an arms deal. There they meet Otto Krieg (played by Thomas Jane) and the rest of the Russian arms dealers.
The deal goes horribly wrong when the FBI shows up and in the confrontation; Bobby and Otto are both shot down. However, once they wheel the bodies in, we realize that Otto really isn’t dead. He’s actually an FBI Agent in disguise and his name is Frank Castle. Frank goes on retirement and word makes it back to Howard Saint that his son is dead. Along with his right hand man, Quentin Glass (played by Will Patton) they make the necessary offerings to the right people to find out who is responsible for the murder of his child.
Once Howard & his wife Livia find out that Frank Castle is the man responsible for Bobby’s death, he decides to extract revenge by killing Frank’s entire family. Frank at this point is in Puerto Rico at a family reunion. Quentin & John Saint and a few of Saint’s hired men make their way to the island. Mass carnage ensues. The entire family is gunned down and slaughtered. The only resistance provided is by Frank and his father. (played by Roy Scheider) Despite their efforts, the father does die and Frank is filled full of bullets and left to die on a nearby pier.
Saint’s hired men douse the pier with gasoline and set it ablaze. The explosion blows Frank off the pier and into the water. However, he is rescued by a native and nursed back to health. Frank returns to Tampa Bay and decides to set up camp at a nearby weathered down apartment building. There he readies his weapons and himself as he decides that justice needs to be served and that Saint & his cronies must be “punished”.
The extended edition of the dvd was released roughly two years after the original dvd release and included two major things in the film’s 17 extra minutes. The first addition was an animated opening sketched in part by artist Tim Bradstreet that was used as a vehicle to establish the relationship between Frank Castle and Jimmy Weeks(played by Russell Andrews). This opening was set in Kuwait where Frank and Jimmy were both soldiers. This directly leads into the second extension of material where Jimmy is exposed as the one who ratted Frank Castle out to Howard Saint.
My original view on the movie was a positive one, I felt that Thomas Jane made for an excellent Punisher and John Travolta sold the villain role well. Thomas had some good dark moments and despite the odd comic relief at times brought together a solid movie. The extended version was good and bad at the same time. The animated opening brought another odd moment to the film despite the amazing work of Tim Bradstreet. The original scene was to be done live action but was cut due to budget constraints. To be honest, it should have been left a storyboarded extra scene on the special features portion of the disc.
However, I thought highly of the use of Jimmy Weeks in the additional plotline of the one who gave Frank Castle up. This reminds me of the extended version of Daredevil where they used the extra scenes to really give the story depth and true windows into the souls of the characters. Here you get a sense of what Frank has done with his life to this point, how he got here and the various motivations behind his character. He is no longer a gun toting good guy delivering sentences to thugs. He is a dark character, full of mystery and torture, bent on revenge as he tries to hang on to the ever shrinking reality inside his head.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. For the small budget (compared to other Marvel flics) used on the film, it looks excellent and the colors look bold and stylized. Darks are used often in this film but always show up detailed and true to the cause. Outside of the animated opening, it was hard to tell where the extra scenes were inserted unless you knew the film beforehand.
The audio is the films strongest suit and is presented in 6.1 DTS & 5.1 DD EX English. I flipped back and forth between the two tracks and both do a fine job in blowing my speakers to bloody hell. The action is intense and the surrounds are well tuned. The DTS track is slightly clearer in dialog and overall attunement but both are great reference tracks. Subtitles are also provided in English and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Saw II, Reservoir Dogs, The Descent, See No Evil, & Saw III
- Animated Introduction 4:28: This introduction can also be played with the movie to get the full effect. I love the artwork, but still kinda blah on what it brought to the overall movie.
- Tour of Duty: Making the Extended Cut 9:10: This is all the information you need to know behind the extended cut. Focuses heavily on the opening and the involvement with the character of Jimmy Weeks.
- Marvel Comic Book Covers Gallery – Featuring the Punisher: A good extra for the comic book fans in the room. Gives some good history as well of how far the character has come. My only complaint is not enough Daredevil covers from the earlier decades! Okay, so I’m biased.
Perhaps you want to write this down, but Dolph Lundgren wasn’t a bad Punisher. The 1989 movie just blew chunks and smelled of “B” fare. However, Thomas Jane is a fantastic Punisher and I wish he would have stayed the Punisher for the upcoming film Punisher War Zone. The movie behind him was equally good as it had a strong villain and an ample cast. The extended cut of the film did a good job of advancing the relationship of Frank Castle and Jimmy Weeks bringing depth to the film. The video was great and the audio was fantastic. One could make argument to own both cuts of the film since the original dvd did include a commentary and other assorted features. However, if you are wrestling with a single copy to own; I would choose the extended cut for the full movie experience. Recommended.
- DvdVerdict.com – “If you like action movies, and have a special place in your heart for pictures like Commando, you’ll love this movie”
- DigitallyObssessed.com – “Overall, there’s just too much of a B-movie feel to take it to that next level. I’m all for the joys of B-movies, but with the big-budget, blockbuster comic book competition out there, even this extended cut disappoints.”
Note: the original Punisher DVD review can be found here