Wednesday, March 20, 2013

3 Short Paragraphs: The Punisher

2004, Jonathan Hensleigh (Kill the Irishman) -- Netflix

Yes, I never saw this in the decade since it was released.  But seriously, considering the shameful initial entry of this comic book based franchise, can you blame me?  But despite the litany of good reviews from fellow comic book readers, I was not swayed.  I was soured and to be honest, not a great fan of the original comic book anti-hero.  I liked him much more as the four colour enemy of Spiderman, in his minimal super villain outfit and a vast array of weaponry that didn't include death rays or super powers.  But his later more edgy life seemed dependant on creating a character meant to be adapted for the big screen.  And then Dirty Laundy came out (scroll down), the short fanfilm that really shows Thomas Jayne's affection for the character and his ability to live the character.  I felt honour bound to see the original portrayal.

Rebooting the origin story again, we get Frank Castle, an effective FBI agent doing his last job before retirement to an idyllic life with his family.  During that last undercover job, one of the lowlifes is killed.  That lowlife happens to be the son of lower life-form Howard Saint (John Travolta), a sleazier than thou money launderer (banker?) for Florida drug cartels.  He discovers Castle is an FBI agent and sends his mooks after Frank.  And at the behest of his moll, Saint asks for not just the death of Castle but his entire family.  And conveniently they are all gathering for a reunion.  Its brutal, horrible and sends Castle over the edge to be reborn soon after as The Punisher, skullie shirt and all.

I don't exactly know how but the movie seems to retain the grim violence of the comics while seeding in humor and heroism.  Castle, while planning the downfall of all of Saint's empire, shacks up next door to a bunch of misfits including a weirdo Ben Foster, very at odds with his current attempts to be the next Ryan Gosling.  They become sidekicks giving him a new family support system as he creatively takes down Saint, domino by domino.  But not via a simple kill bad guy, kill next bad guy and so on.  He actually encourages them to as much implode as an organization as he does kill them off. In the end, Saint has killed his own wife and best friend before becoming the final fatality of the movie. The movie sums itself up with elements of four color comics and revenge action flick.

Bonus paragraph: For a more faithful adaptation of the actual later comics I don't care, they actually did Punisher: War Zone, which was originally going to be Punisher 2, sequel to Jayne's, but ended up being a third depiction of the character independent of the others.