The Punisher

Revenge has long been a central theme of literature and films ever since the earliest days of the arts. The early Greek classics as well as the works of Shakespeare and the classic Moby Dick are solid examples of how the desire for revenge propels a character and story.
In the film “The Punisher” revenge and justice are the central themes of one mans quest to correct the injustices done upon himself as well as those who no longer can stand up for themselves.
Tom Jane stars as Frank Castle a former Special Forces and F.B.I. agent who has recently accepted a position at the London office that will get him out of the field and allow him to spend more time with his family. This is of great interest to Frank as his wife Maria (Samantha Mathis), and son William (Marcus Johns), relish the thought of Frank being out of harms way and spending more time at home.
Frank’s final mission goes awry and some people are killed instead of apprehended. One of the dead is the son of a wealthy businessman Howard Saint (John Travolta), who uses his clubs and business interests as fronts for his money laundering operations. Saint uses his connections to uncover Frank’s true identity and dispatches a hit squad to kill Frank and his entire family who are vacationing in Puerto Rico. The entire family is murdered regardless of age and gender and Frank is left for dead after watching his wife, son and both sets of relatives murdered before his eyes.
Months later, Frank emerges and is disgusted to learn that not one person has been arrested in connection with the killings and plots his deadly revenge upon those who took everything from him.
Frank has become a shell of a man who lives only for revenge and dulls his pain with large volumes of alcohol. He is a loose cannon that takes the law into his own hands as they very law he has spent a lifetime trying to uphold has abandoned him. Soon all out war is declared and the bodies begin to pile up as Frank begins his deadly cycle of revenge in a cold, and calculating way that soon has Saint scrambling to deal with the havoc being unleashed by Frank as he and Saint are on a collision course where only one can survive.
Based on the very popular Marvel Comics character, “The Punisher” is the second film version of the character. The first started Dolph Lundgren and was released only on video in the states. The new version is much closer to the comic and for many fans should be the only valid live action version of the popular character, as this film is solidly based on the comic rather than inspired by it as the previous film seemed to be. Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh and Tom Jane have crafted a very dark and complex character that is not without pity or redemption. He is a deep character who has given in to his desperation yet never loses his humanity as his core values and ethics remain. This is wonderfully illustrated by Frank’s protection of the fellow tenants in his building such as the abused Joan (Rebecca Romijn Stamos).
Like the classic vigilante “Death Wish and the classic “Dirty Harry” series, “The Punisher” is a normal man who takes the law into his own hand when the system lets him down. Jane is masterful as he is a man of few words, yet conveys so much expression with a gesture or look that illustrates that Frank is a very intelligent man who like a seasoned chess player, is plotting out his moves several steps in advance.
Grim, gritty, and ultimately enjoyable, “The Punisher” is a must for fans of action and the comic and is one of the most pleasant surprises this year.
4 stars out of 5.