STARS: THOMAS JANE, JOHN TRAVOLTA, ROY SCHEIDER, REBECCA ROMIJN STAMOS, BEN FOSTER, WILL PATTON, LAURA HARRING, EDDIE JEMISON, AND RUSSELL ANDREWS
DIRECTED BY: JONATHAN HENSLEIGH
RUN TIME: 140 min.
I’ve never really been a fan of revenge type screenplays. The only Punisher film I’ve seen until now was the Dolph Lundgren, 80’s version. A few weeks ago Punisher War Zone came out to a rather dismal $4.4 mil. opening weekend. After reading some reviews I decided not to punish myself with that. However I recently picked up the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher re-released on dvd as an Extended Cut. This version of the film, adds over 17 minutes of new footage, and contains a new animated opening sequence shot exclusively for this dvd release.
The animated opening is a real cool comic book style “flashback” action sequence of Frank Castle and Jimmy Weeks back in Kuwait as they fight in Operation Desert Storm. Its filmed in B/W and reminds the audience that these two are war veterans.
The film starts out years later in Tampa Florida, where Howard Saint (Travolta) runs a huge money laundering enterprise. As he returns from business, one of his twin sons goes off on a final power trip and gets killed in a FBI sting operation. The operation was under control of Frank Castle (Jane), it was his last undercover job for the FBI, as he plans on retiring to London after visiting his folks in Puerto Rico. Saint learns of his sons death, and due to a deliberate miscommunication from his other twin son, is never told that he went alone with no backup in a move to impress him. At this point Saint goes on a revenge filled quest to find out who was responsible. As Saint identifies his son in the morgue he meets Agent Weeks (Andrews), after talking with Weeks, Saint believes he knows more then he’s telling. Saint with the help of his business partners “The Toro Bros”, trap Weeks, and coerce him into betraying Castle.
During his sons funeral, Saint learns of Castles identity from his main associate Quentin Glass (Patton), as Saint puts out the hit for Castle, Livia Saint (Harring), tells Glass to kill the whole Castle family.
Cut to wonderful Puerto Rico where Frank is enjoying himself along with his wife and son. There’s a great scene where we see Frank’s son give him the trademark shirt that he later wears as The Punisher. However good times predictably turn bad as Glass and Saint’s goons start to gun down the family reunion. Frank and his father (Scheider) get the jump on some of Saint’s men however its not enough as Castle’s entire family, wife, and son are killed. Castle is also beat up and gunned down, but he survives with help of his enigmatic friend Candelaria.
At this point Castle becomes “The Punisher.” After a quick stop at a well stocked storage facility, he takes refuge in a small apt near the docks. His neighbors are very quirky and add the only levity to this dark film. One of them is Joan (Stamos), who looks great as usual. As Castle builds up his arsenal and a custom made death proof car, he begins to track down the people associated with Saint’s operation. First he captures Micky Duka (Jemison), who was there at the sting bust. Using a clever interrogation trick Micky tells Castle everything. At this point Micky decides to betray Saint, and help Castle take him down.
There’s some great assassins that come after Castle, one a guitar playing stranger named Harry Heck, and the other a Russian heavy. I loved how these characters were played out. I figured the rest of the film would be your usual here comes the Punisher in Terminate mode, as he leaves a trail of death everywhere he goes, but it wasn’t, It was better. Frank uses the paranoid mood swings of Howard Saint against him, as the final battle was very satisfying.
I’m not sure why Lionsgate felt they needed to recast Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle, I felt Thomas Jane did a great job, Travolta as well. Also great performances by Will Patton, Eduardo Yanez, Omar Avila, and Ben Foster as Dave.
The Dvd is re-mastered in 6.1 DTS-ES audio. The bonus features include, a making of the Kuwait Animation Sequence, a Punisher Comic Book Gallery, and english and spanish subtitles.