Plot Synopsis: Frank Castle is an undercover cop and on his last case before retirement he’s involved in the accidental death of a mob guys kid. The mob guy orders the death of Castle and his entire family, who are in the middle of a massive family reunion, so that’s lucky. Castle survives and caps a bunch of Mafioso.
-They make Castle a cop, but this works out way better than 1989. That movie making him a cop was a plot contrivance to bring in Louis Gossett Jr. who was contractually obligated to be in every 80’s action flick. This time it is used as a way to show the difference between punishment and vengeance. When Howard Saint orders the death of Castles family; that is vengeance. Howard Saint’s kid died as result of his own stupidity and getting wrapped up in illegal activity, followed by not doing what the police told him too. It could be argued that the shooting was an accident but honestly he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But what Howard does is seek VENGEANCE by taking the tragic, but ultimately faultless, death of his son and turning it into a mass murder. When Castle comes back he is seeking PUNISHMENT, the just recourse for the injustice done to him so before the movie’s climax when he’s laying out his terms for war and he says “This is not vengeance, this is punishment.” it’s a totally factual statement.
-Frank Castle undercover, Thomas Jane does a great job as Otto Krieg, the gun running persona of his undercover operation.
-Eddie Jemison as Mickey Duka steals the show from the first scene he’s in all the way to the end as the hapless pot dealer that brings Saint’s kid into the deal that kills him.
-All the actors do a great, great job in this. There are a few weak links in the chain but they are compensated by the awesome work done by most of the cast. The long list of highlights include: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn, John Pinette and Mark Collie.
-Harry Heck, they turned a 2 panel cameo in the comics, one which showed a generic dude in a cowboy hat, into a legit badass. The guy is super hardcore, showing up and playing a song he wrote for Castles funeral before attacking him with a huge shotgun.
-Ben Foster as Spacker Dave is fun to watch, especially in his establishing shot.
-Mickey Duka’s “torturing” at the hands of Frank Castle. “Wha’s da torsh fo’?”
-How Frank handles Joan’s abusive ex boyfriend. When confronted with the likes of Mr. Bumpo and Spacker Dave the dude acts like a total bad ass but when he tries it on Frank he gets beat. At first he pulls a butterfly knife and tries to get all fancy but get’s punched in the face, then Frank out fancies him on the knife before closing it and thwacking him on the nose with it like a bad dog.
-The fight with the Russian, all of Franks counter measures and precautions get used against him in this hilarious and brutal fight with the unstoppable Russian. Just the look of Frank’s face several times during the battle is awesome, the look of panic and frustration mixed with a hint of scared school girl.
-“I know what he needs.” it turns out to be booze, he needed booze apparently
-The excuses Howard Saint gives his son when he asks where Quentin and his mother are. I don’t want to ruin it.
-Hey it’s Bubba from Forest Gump!
-Frank’s assault on Howard Saint’s club. He get’s geared up and starts whacking punks one by one in a totally awesome sequence of events.
-He uses his double barreled shotgun and tosses it like a total baller.
-Also baller is the no look finishing shot to one of Saint’s henchmen.
-Frank reveals his whole plan to the broken Howard Saint before killing him.
-“Are you seeing the same thing on the split screen I am” identical twins. Terrible. When they are face to split screen face it’s clear that the one supposed to be making eye contact is clearly just staring off into space. Also a fake moustache and slicked back hair do not an identical twin make.
-Harry Heck gets a great wind up but a shitty pitch. In what could have been a pretty epic gun fight just gets started before he gets a knife to the throat.
-Some of the family stuff gets pretty hacky, cliché and stupid.
-“I asked you to avenge our son and you did.” she says as she removes her dress. Is that his reward? Sex? Did she get turned on from all the revengin’? What the hell? Are they going to make another kid to replace the one they lost?
-There’s a magic black man with plot based motivations who appears and disappears when needed without all the baggage that comes with characterization or establishing relationships. He’s just there and then gone.
-Rebecca Romijn does a good job but there’s just no way you can unpretty her enough to be the “every girl” waitress type. And while she does a good job in the role the character is very different than the meek plain wallflower comic version.
-The sequence with the Russian is great and they found a pretty imposing dude in Kevin Nash to play him but he doesn’t speak. In the comic the Russian doesn’t stop talking, I can only imagine the reason for this is because Kevin Nash couldn’t act past the physicality needed for the role.
-John Travolta doesn’t know how to act shot. Or at least act shot with any dignity. He twitches and moans and has the weirdest facial expressions. Granted, it may be more realistic but I’m not watching Punisher for its realism.
-It’s set in Florida and not New York. Other than filming costs and I can’t understand why they would make such and arbitrary, stupid decision.
-Harry Heck’s magic cigarette, when he’s getting his guitar to play Franks funeral song the cigarette goes from a different finger on his hand to his mouth every scene. Again, continuity is a small thing but it drives me crazy and detracts from my personal enjoyment of the scene. Hopefully, after pointing this out, it detracts from your personal enjoyment as well.
-He grabs like 2 LeMat revolvers, look them up, and never uses them. I mean it makes sense (that he doesn’t use them) since they’re black powder revolvers from the Civil War but don’t show them to us then and if you do don’t show him taking them.
-Could you just, yeah, just stand in front of those glass displays, alright, thank you, *bang* *bang* *fall’s through glass*
-Hey Frank, watch out for the 30 year old stuntwoman getting her soccerball!
-Howard Saint goes downhill pretty fast going from stable, albeit stressed by Frank’s war, to killing his loved ones rather quickly.
-I imagine Frank sitting down with a picture of the parking lot in front of Saint’s club, or a lot diagram or something and figuring out exactly where to place his bombs and how many he would need to make his skull symbol in flaming cars. Just hours and hours of drawing and planning and getting bombs before sitting back and going “This is going to be super sweet.”
Final Thoughts: This is a very good movie. I’ve seen it many times in both the original cut and this extended cut. The extended cut offers you a little more but it’s not really noticeable in the theatrical cut. The theatrical cut leaves a couple questions unanswered, mostly revolving around who gave up Frank to Howard Saint, and those questions get answered in the added story arc between Frank and his ex-partner. That’s basically all that’s added is the back story between Frank and Bubba Gump. It’s nothing that the original suffers for but I like it better, mostly because I torture myself getting the “definitive” version of anything I watch. If I could just watch hours of dailies and make my own story out of it I totally would. I would also sit through a 3 hour film if it was done right.
The weakest parts of this are the action scenes, which is understandable considering the budget constraints this movie was under. What’s there is pretty good but there aren’t really enough of them and I think they dwell too long on the origin. I hate origin movies for that very reason. Next week when we talk about Punisher: War Zone (which is technically a reboot and therefore ignores this origin story) I will touch on how beautifully that handles the origin portion of Frank Castle. But really we don’t need half our movie dwelling on it; explain it with a few articles, maybe some exposition, maybe some flashbacks. A property like the Punisher is built for a gun porn movie. Hell most of the comics are basically that as it is. The comics do a damn fine job of characterization and storytelling without sacrificing the action and I feel this movie sacrifices the action. But that being said it’s a good movie, I highly recommend it and if you’re going to watch it get the extended cut, if you’re going to get bogged down in the ‘origin’ portion of this you might as well get all of it rather than leaving any questions hanging.