With Marvel’s third attempt to bring Frank Castle to the big screen having spluttered, it’s time for the high-def release/cash-in of Thomas Jane’s 2004 interpretation of Marvel’s skull-wearing vigilante hero.
Based loosely on Garth Ennis’ superb early 90s mini-series Welcome Back Frank, this interpretation is a mixed bag that is neither willing to fully embrace its comic roots, go down the dark and gritty ‘vigilante on the edge’ route or the full blown Michael Bay action piece. As such we get a patchy movie that really doesn’t know what it is and is so much weaker than it could have been.
Firstly, the film drops the ball with the cast. With having big names like Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Roy Scheider and even Rebecca Romjin in the movie, you would think you would get a half decent movie, but director Jonathan Hensleigh (whose previous work has been a mixed bag) has half his cast sleepwalking through the movie with not a half decent performance between them. It’s a shame as Tom Jane really looks the part and if anyone has seen Face Off, Travolta, when he is on form, makes for a superb over-the- top bad guy.
Secondly, there is the change of setting, having The Punisher patrol the sunny boulevards of Florida rather than the grim and dark back streets of New York is just wrong; it’s like watching the bit in Terminator 3 where they raid Sarah Conner’s grave in broad daylight.. Nothing like explosions, guns and action scenes shot in the middle of the day to give you a feel of a cheap straight to television movie.
That’s not to say there are not two or three good bits in the film. The torture scene with the ice-lolly, while ripped straight off the comic, works superbly on screen and even having former WWE star Kevin Nash as the over-sized assassin ‘The Russian’ works well – again if they had gone for this over-the-top action throughout, the film would have worked.
However, a few good scenes does not make for an hour and a half movie. If they had stuck more closely with the source material and added in a even fatter ‘Mr Bumpo’ and actually said that Frank Castle’s other neighbour is supposed to be called ‘Spacker Dave’ rather than just Dave (yes I know its not a ‘PC’ nickname) and have The Punisher actually kill people in a cool way, we would have got an action movie/comic book adaptation that actually meant something. Instead, we’ve got a movie that plays like a watered down version and characters that timidly mimic their four colour counterparts.
This lack of atmosphere and general malaise and sloppiness of the entire cast and crew make for a movie that could have been something but really just fails to become anything more than mediocre. This is also true for the Blu-ray. While the format and quality of the picture of fine (again another upscale-job) and the menu system’s quite stylish and comic book in nature, the extras are thin and far between, with nothing really worthy of note.
The only thing that was intriguing and at the same time disappointing was the ‘new’ beginning of the movie that had Frank in Iraq as the kick-ass military type he should have been. However, instead of actual footage viewers are treated instead to some weak ‘anamatic’ CG film set with cut outs/photos and voice-overs, not really all that inspiring and, like the rest of the disc, extras are on the edge of disappointing.
Marvel, it seems, is hit and miss when it comes to its characters. For every Iron Man we have an Elektra and, while not as bad as this latter movie, this is one of those movies that Marvel should just brush under the carpet and forget about it. Ray Stevenson is currently out there donning the skull t-shirt (again to bad reviews) but really for fans of the superb Ennis penned comics, it’s best to give both that film and this a wide berth as there really isn’t anything that spectacular going on, either with the film, extras or quality of production.
And as we all know there is only really one Punisher, and his name is Dolph Lungren.