Film reviews

The Punisher, Dir; Jonathan Hensleigh, Cert; 18

He came not for revenge…but to punish…

There is little doubt in my mind, and nor should there be in yours, that this film is utter crap. Somehow though, it still manages to be thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable utter crap.

Ok, perhaps it’s a little unfair of me to dismiss it as crap; after all, the vast majority of this popcorn flick is played largely with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and maybe Hensleigh deserves some credit for keeping his audience engrossed after starting like a bad Steven Seagal film.

Thomas Jane plays Frank Castle, an undercover FBI agent whose entire family is wiped out by henchmen sent by Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint is a big shot crime boss from Tampa Bay whose own son was accidentally killed during a typical “last job” storyline at the beginning of the movie, and who is out for vengeance, pinpointing Castle as the ultimate target…although Travolta’s wife, the evil Livia (Laura Harring) insists it is his entire congregation that should be eliminated.

The slaughter of Castle’s relations at a family gathering is actually quite disturbing, though quite why his wife (Samantha Mathis) and son (Marcus Johns) elected to make a dash for it from their unnoticed hiding place is anyones guess! I mean, that’s just ASKING for trouble, surely. On a side note, Roy Scheider, who played Thomas Jane’s father, really could’ve done with a bigger boat…

Anyway, silly cryptic film references aside, “The Punisher” is really quite hilarious in places, filled with clichés, and is very possibly the silliest action film I have ever seen. The violence is less like the Marvel Comic book character it was based on and more like that of “Viz”, or Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson’s “Bottom”.
Most of all though, as my colleague pointed out, this was very much “video game” style carnage, complete with “oof”s and other such noises, but without the “ker-ching” and points display when you eliminate each bad guy.

Best moment of the entire film – and the funniest – is Mark Collie’s brief but movie stealing appearance as the acoustic guitar swinging Johnny Cash clone Harry Heck. If THAT doesn’t make you smile, I really don’t know what will!

Marvel Comic purists will be delighted to learn that the skull insignia that was so synonymous with the original cartoon character is still intact – in the form of a t-shirt given to Castle by his son on his birthday…as well as a nice-but-ludicrous touch towards the film’s finale!

Ridiculous, but fun. 8/10

Editor's comment - I've seen both this and our other recent comic strip adaptation, that of 'Hell Boy' and although both films have been marked equally by our reviewers, it is this and the sheer action packed energy that I felt deserving of more attention. This and of course a film that really cannot claim to be taking itself seriously. I felt the onscreen violence only got past the censor's in this case, due to its absurdly extreme
nature and not really knowing when to call it a day. I left the theatre throughly entertained, and then crashed my car, whoops - I didn't want to do that.

Tone E


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