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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.06%
Worth A Look: 12.41%
Average: 8.76%
Pretty Bad: 20.44%
Total Crap42.34%

6 reviews, 101 user ratings

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Punisher, The (2004)
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by Brian McKay

"Sometimes the rewards are worth the punishment - if only just"
3 stars

After hearing an array of opinions on this film, from gushing fanboyism to scathing derision, I decided that the only way to settle the debate was to go see it for myself. And while THE PUNISHER may be a bit light on the action, and a bit heavy on the overwrought pathos, it is perfectly serviceable brain-in-neutral entertainment.

The inherent weakness of any comic book adaptation is its potential for unintentional silliness and incredulity. When the movie's good enough, like Spider-Man or X-men, one can allow his or her self to get caught up in the excitement and larger-than-life nature of it all, overlooking the stretches of logic or believability. When the movie isn't quite so good, well, you can still just roll with it - but it may be a bit more work to do so. Thankfully, despite some meandering sub-plots, more than a few cliches, and some particularly stilted dialogue, the only thing truly punishing about The Punisher is its unnecessary two hour running time. This thing could have been told just as efficiently in 90 minutes - and then maybe we wouldn't have noticed just how long the stretches in between the action scenes really are.

Thomas Jane plays Frank Castle, an F.B.I. Agent and former spec-ops kind of dude who is retiring from active field duty so that he can spend more time with his wife and son. However, during his last field assignment (a routine bust of some arms dealers), the son of wealthy businessman/mobster Howard Saint (John Travolta) is killed in a gun battle. Looking for someone to pin the blame on, Saint discovers that Castle orchestrated the bust, and deems him responsible. He orders his chief goon Quentin Glass (Will Patton) to take Castle out - but his purely evil (but hot) wife, Livia (Laura Harring of Mulholland Drive), does him one better. She demands that Castle's entire extended family be collectively whacked, upon learning that Castle is attending a family reunion.

The rest of the story unfolds in a cut and dry manner. Castle's entire family is murdered, and he is left for dead. Naturally, though, he doesn't die, but is reborn as THE PUNISHER, wearing a skull-emblazoned T-shirt that looks like it was purchased from the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop. He stocks up on weapons and bombs, begins waging a methodical campaign of revenge against his enemies, and is befriended by his neighbors - two dorky guys and one hot waitress (Rebecca Romijn-ex-Stamos).

Although on the one hand I can appreciate writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh's efforts to make The Punisher's revenge schemes a bit more elaborate than simply rolling up to Saint's front door with both guns blazing, the plotting and scheming becomes fairly ludicrous at times. I was reminded of a scene from one of the old Punisher graphic novels (yes, I used to read them - emphasis on used to). After Castle had been left tied up in the trunk of a car in the desert with a bomb ticking away in the front seat (which he escaped from), he tracked down the punk who had left him there and merely said "If you're going to kill someone, don't talk about it, don't make elaborate plans, just kill them". Then he put a cap in the thug's forehead. More than once, I wish his celluloid counterpart had taken that approach here, raising the body count and saving us all some time. But while the action is a bit too spread out, what there is of it is decent.

Although Thomas Jane is a solid actor who looks the part and pulls off the "you killed my family, prepare to die" grimace pretty well, he's dragged down by the vagaries of a script full of stilted dialogue. As a result, he seems to be overcompensating in his delivery - he really wants you to believe he's The Punisher, and makes Ben Affleck's forced husky superhero voice in Daredevil sound restrained by comparison. Travolta is phoning it in here as the villain, but toned down a notch or three from his usual level of hamminess. Romjin is pretty and likable, but equally forgettable, while everyone else is merely sufficient in their supporting roles. Fans of the comics may balk at some of the liberties taken with Castle's back story (in the comics he was an N.Y.P.D. detective, not a Tampa-based F.B.I. agent), but the differences are fairly trifling. And let's face it - while The Punisher comics were usually entertaining, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of depth to them. It was a guy hunting down criminals and pining away for his dead wife and kids. This is stock revenge-drama stuff, but usually pulled off with a sense of style . . . which, unfortunately, is only partially present in this film.

While not exactly thrilled by THE PUNISHER, I wasn't bored by it either. While this may be a lukewarm endorsement, I'm pleasantly surprised to say that it could have been a lot worse - which is what I fully expected it to be.

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originally posted: 04/18/04 16:21:52
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User Comments

1/26/19 Dr. Lao It was silly 1 stars
9/22/17 morris campbell IT SUCKS 1 stars
6/22/15 David Hollingsworth not even thomas jane's muscles can save this piece of junk 1 stars
10/30/13 The Big D The guy sitting next to you wasn't farting; the stench came from the movie! 1 stars
9/25/13 David Hollingsworth A gay man's wet dream, and not in a good way 1 stars
2/20/11 Ark Basicallly a turd, I found the '89 version actually funny ! 2 stars
8/03/09 David A. A rugged individual gets mad and goes on a kill rampage--that's all it is. 1 stars
2/06/09 cody a very good action movie, thomas jane is awesome as frank castle. let thebodies hit !!!! 4 stars
10/22/08 Dan Wasn't a great movie, but damn it was pretty cool. Good acting and really good country song 4 stars
10/02/08 Shaun Wallner Intense Action!! 5 stars
10/25/07 Monday Morning Needed more tits, drugs and gunplay but still good 5 stars
8/07/07 Johnny Tom Jane is one Grade A slab of beefcake, great eye-candy for the women & gay guys at least 4 stars
7/23/07 johnnyfog Great battles!...But bookended with heinous violence that made me depressed. 4 stars
6/05/07 The Peacemaker A different and unique style of "punishmen". Well done. 4 stars
2/10/07 Frank Rountree Real stunts and stuntmen! No CGI crap! Good action movie 4 stars
1/04/07 Alex Thorne Chris Parry, u are wrong!. they had $2 mill and 1 month to shoot. ace film!!! TJ rocks! 5 stars
12/12/06 Morow A kik ass movie 5 stars
11/02/06 R.W.Welch Popcorn flick; passable for the genre. 3 stars
10/17/06 Sugarfoot A fun film, I liked the Dolph Lundgren one also though. 4 stars
10/16/06 Pritchett It was better than HULK, but...that's not saying much, is it? 1 stars
9/26/06 Jarkko Perälä Simply, irredeemably unlikable 1 stars
9/17/06 dan thepunish crash great film loved it, great start to many more to come. cant wait to see punisher2. 5 stars
9/09/06 matt probably the worst comic book movie ever, even worse than spawn 1 stars
8/15/06 George Goodman One of The most enjoyable films I've ever seen 5 stars
5/03/06 Anthony Feor Travolta brings the rating down, but Tom Jane is on the right track 2 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Average revenge flick. lose the 3 circus freak sidekicks and it's watchable. 3 stars
10/24/05 Suk-R-Punch In a dead-on tie with HULK (of shit) and BLADE 1 & 3 for worst Marvel movie ever made! 1 stars
10/15/05 OodlesofOs I did get an enema instead...'saw this later on DVD...'enjoyed the enema more. 1 stars
10/13/05 Bryant Gumby I wish I had gotten an enema instead. 1 stars
10/12/05 Jennifer Free A lot of gore. 1 stars
10/10/05 Biz-e WATCH OUT FOR THE SHIT-BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
10/08/05 Jonathon Holmes John Travilta should be ashamed of himself for signing on to this turd 1 stars
9/26/05 tony Tom jane was better in deep blue sea.Also, Travolta needs to get a life 2 stars
9/23/05 Jakub Were they trying to punish the audience?! Or just bore them to death??? 1 stars
9/16/05 drippy could they fuck up a simple revenge tale TWO TIMES?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? 1 stars
9/12/05 matt big steaming pile of CRAP 1 stars
9/07/05 Bitchum This movie was poop on a stick. 1 stars
9/05/05 JubJub I don't think they could have made it more boring, stupid, and just plain B-A-D!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
9/03/05 Craven I didn't think they could screw it up worse than the Lundgren film...I was wrong. 1 stars
9/02/05 Mailk I walked out of the theater and, once I stopped laughing, forgot everything I'd just seen. 1 stars
9/02/05 Edward What a disappointment...all those years for them to get it right this time...wasted. 1 stars
9/01/05 unlimited Makes the 1989 version look like a masterpiece of comic-book perfection! 1 stars
8/31/05 Vasquez they've crafted the most boring, pointless, and stupid revenge film ever made. 1 stars
8/30/05 Brisbane God...they just had no clue, did they? Not a single clue. So sad and pathetic, this is. 1 stars
8/16/05 ES Mr. Travolta shows us the same bad guy from swordfish, broken arrow, battlefield earth... 1 stars
7/25/05 Scott "Made you kill your best friend. Made you kill your wife. Now I've killed you." 5 stars
5/28/05 cinkcool cheesy junk 1 stars
5/25/05 Jake Highly Underrated. I don't understand why a lot of people hate this flick. 5 stars
5/17/05 what? yeah, like we've never seen this shit before 1 stars
3/27/05 indrid cold There's a brief sequence at the end where he's actually "The Punisher". What the hell? 2 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Explosive and enjoyable! Worth the time. Great movie if you weren't into the comic. 5 stars
1/04/05 carlos r guzman the last 15 minutes more accurate w/ comic, but the rest of film was comic-al 1 stars
12/11/04 the Grinch Makes the original Punisher movie look like Die Hard 1 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams God, this was bad. I cheered when his family got WASTED! 2 stars
11/24/04 DaveDaRave The mad max of my generation. Dark moody, loved it 4 stars
11/18/04 hoy pinoy ako 1 stars
11/16/04 Dunce I can't believe I'm saying this but it's true - THE DOLPH LUNDGREN FILM IS BETTER. 1 stars
11/09/04 chaz The costume, plot, characters are NOTHING like the comic. 2 stars
11/08/04 i have huge eyes christos has big eyes 5 stars
10/23/04 LilyM Unexpectedly enjoyable. Ending's a letdown, though. 4 stars
10/10/04 Matt Waterhouse Far better than indicated by reviews like this. Old-school revenge flick that does the job! 4 stars
9/26/04 Viktor Navorski why movie bad??? movie not bad!!!!! 5 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands GREAT action sequences. Some of the most well-staged violence in recent memory. Good score. 5 stars
9/16/04 CK it was better than daredevil or hulk and i think anyone who liked those others is nuts! 5 stars
9/12/04 Gray w Vicious said plus I loved the popcicle scene 3 stars
9/08/04 Scott Hoffman The Guiltiest Pleasure I Have Spent In A Long Time!!!! 5 stars
9/08/04 Vicious Better than expected but the Punisher demands to be darker, more violent Tarentino-ish 4 stars
8/27/04 Mike Stanbridge Worth every penny i spent and will spend! 5 stars
8/14/04 terrence garner punisher should have been more heartless. He's definitley better at hand-to-hand combat!!! 4 stars
7/31/04 Nikolai This side toward adolescents easily separated from their wallets 1 stars
7/13/04 Chris LOVED IT and I'm a hardcore Punisher fan 5 stars
7/08/04 cap8al great movie 5 stars
6/26/04 malcolm hilarious! what? what do u mean it wasn't a comedy? 2 stars
6/26/04 M As bad as SPAWN! but delicious eye candy 2 stars
6/12/04 Shawn Awesome!! movie critics dont know shit 5 stars
6/07/04 Ninja Williams Action Packed 5 stars
6/05/04 alien assassin Sick rubbish 1 stars
6/04/04 Mr. me Great fun! fuck the idiots who think it sucked 4 stars
5/29/04 Cameron Slick Disgusting and poorly adapted comic book movie grinding its superhero into reality. 1 stars
5/26/04 Hilarium Completely missed the point of the character. Where's the conflict? Whare's the action? 2 stars
5/09/04 Stephanie LOVED IT, I HOPE THERE IS A PUNISHER 2 5 stars
5/06/04 Ajax Horrible, horrible stuff. Like Death Wish part 56, only worse. 1 stars
5/04/04 John The film was alright, despite the bullshit that the movie critics usually spew out. 4 stars
4/26/04 Meryl We laughed through the whole thing - my god, it was awful. 1 stars
4/25/04 astrotart Survey Says: Thomas Jane, shirtless through half the movie, was directing at its best!!! 4 stars
4/25/04 Me okay 3 stars
4/24/04 AfroFett Punisher's "origin" and Ennis-style humor didn't mix too well 3 stars
4/23/04 CrowEater What did you expect the first "Punisher" movie starred Dolph Lundgren!! 2 stars
4/22/04 Mark Planteri What else can you expect from John Travlota? 1 stars
4/22/04 meat-cheese-dirt fine filmmaking if you're retarded and on crack 1 stars
4/20/04 KingNeutron Nice to see the gal from Broken Arrow again; hard to watch (torture scene) in spots, but OK 4 stars
4/20/04 Andrew this movie was awesome, i hope they make a 2nd one, it stayed true to most of the stories 5 stars
4/20/04 Mike V It's a great, dark, R-rated, comic book movie. 4 stars
4/19/04 A F If the whole thing wasn't bad enough, he had to say "Call me The Punisher". Call me Bored. 1 stars
4/19/04 luke good movie 5 stars
4/19/04 Christina never read the comic, but damn was it THIS bad? 1 stars
4/18/04 Maxx2004 If you like the comic avoid the movie, an insult to the work of Garth Ennis and Marvel 1 stars
4/18/04 Severe Grisley tale of a man who avenges 30 murders by commiting about as many himself. Brilliant. 3 stars
4/18/04 Unknown Very horrid film. 1 stars
4/17/04 nuked what a crap load of a movie. go read a comic instead. 1 stars
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  16-Apr-2004 (R)
  DVD: 21-Nov-2006



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