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Good cast drives dark, violent comic book film

Mark Bemenderfer | Monday, April 26, 2004

Bad days come and go. Bad grade, bad date, bad illness. Almost everyone has experienced one of the aforementioned bad days. However, none of those are anything in comparison to Frank Castle’s bad day.The beginning of “The Punisher” is fairly obvious, especially because of the trailers marketing the film and the Punisher’s preexisting comic book line. Frank Castle, the Punisher, has one of the worst days ever as vengeful gangsters kill his entire family, conveniently at his family reunion. That is the trigger for the two-hour action movie. There are good performances from everyone in the cast, with each serving some role to further the plot. Thomas Jane perfect for the role of the Punisher. For those who don’t know, the Punisher is a fairly popular Marvel comic, much like Spider-Man and the X-Men. The Punisher was differentiated from the other comic book heroes for a very special reason. He had no special powers.The Punisher is just an average human being. But what he does have is an arsenal of weaponry, and a huge serving of righteous anger. This makes him more believable than a man who can cling to walls, or one who can fly. The Punisher’s family was killed, and now he wants vengeance. No, not vengeance. Punishment.That plot alone could have made a decent action movie. Indeed, movies have been made with a lot less going for them, and still have turned out to be mindless pieces of fun. However, something went wrong with “The Punisher.” It certainly wasn’t the inclusion of John Travolta, even though his track record of late hasn’t been that hot. The movie was diminished through the actual plot. The actual family reunion felt a little too contrived, as well as Frank Castle’s father having an arsenal of weaponry at close by at the same time. Later in the movie, a little too much time was spent developing the other people in Frank’s apartment hideout. Humor is present in the movie, which is usually a positive in movies like this. However, it feels forced, and even clichéd at times. Too many moments like those ruin the mood of the movie. The comic is a dark, violent affair, which the movie emulates fairly well. But it appears as if the producers wanted to lighten the movie a little, which is fine with some but really hurt the movie in this reviewer’s regard. The Punisher is a one-man army in the comic, who avoids help along the way. In the movie, the other tenants of his apartment building are constantly present, either helping him or adding forced comic relief. This may be changed for the already announced sequel as the first film’s continuity is already established and Frank Castle can get right to punishing the bad guys.Not that he doesn’t do that in this movie. Indeed, this is a very dark, violent movie. People get shot, cut and generally mutilated. Probably not a film for the whole family, but the action fan or a comic book fan might enjoy this film and should give it a shot.