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The Punisher (2004)  

Review: written 5 May 2007

Grim action drenched revenge movie

If you ever thought graphic novel adaptations should have a comic element, think again - the emphasis is definitely on the graphic here. A compelling group of actors deliver a movie which is ultimately so hardboiled in its revenge story that there are no redeeming moments to make you feel at all uplifted.

Frank Castle is an undercover agent who in the course of his duties is indirectly responsible for the killing of the son of the city's ruthless criminal businessman - Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint (or more accurately his wife) gets revenge, slaughtering Castle's whole family. It is at this point you realise two things. One, that it seems once is never enough when it comes to killing in this movie - Castle for example is left for dead after being beaten up, shot, doused in gasoline, blown up, and presumed drowned. And two, that after a suitably ‘punishing’ start, its clear things are not going to get any more cheerful. Castle survives and becomes `The Punisher', enacting bloody and graphic revenge on everyone connected to Howard Saint.

While the plot is not incredibly original, the execution starts out quite satisfying. Tom Jane fits the role well, and John Travolta does his best to make the villain more than one dimensional. The always reliable Will Patton puts in a good turn as Travolta's sadistic best friend, hit man and general helper. Castle's new neighbours are an eclectic bunch whose roles are slightly more than the mere fillers they could have been, headed by Rebecca Romin (best known as Mystique, from X-Men). The style retains a little of its comic book origins and has more than a few moments of spaghetti-western-style shootouts. However, as the brutality goes on and on, the weak stomached may grow tired and wish for some redemption along the way.

In short, as far from a feel good movie as you can get - if you can stomach bloody action then there is merit hidden in here. For anyone else, the gore outweighs the style.

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