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Dark action film tackles vengeful anti-hero

Mark Bemenderfer | Monday, September 20, 2004

Having a bad day? Well, “The Punisher” is a great movie to put things into perspective. No matter how bad your day is going, there is almost no way that it could top the one for Frank Castle, the main character in “The Punisher.” In the span of 30 minutes he loses his entire family, including all in-laws and distant relatives. And that is just the beginning.Far from being the feel good movie of the year, “The Punisher” is however one of the better comic book movies to have been released. While it doesn’t quite reach the high standards set by the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” franchises, it still rises above the generic tripe that Hollywood calls an action movie.The characters and concept for “The Punisher” were derived from the pages of Marvel comics. Originally set in a villainous role, creator Stan Lee felt the Punisher was too sympathetic a character to be pegged a total rogue. So he became a pseudo-superhero, one that saved lives by taking those of others. His trademark – a white skull on a black backdrop.The movie remains largely faithful to the comic, with only minor changes. Frank Castle, the Punisher’s alter ego, hasn’t developed psychic powers, or the ability to turn green when angry. He’s an average guy, so driven by grief that he accomplishes feats that some would consider impossible. After his family is killed, Frank proceeds to take on the Saint crime organization, led by Howard Saint (John Travolta). Travolta plays the malevolent role decently, but does not come off as evil as his character in “Face/Off.”However, there are some still minor complaints with the acting in general. Thomas Jane, the actor who plays Frank Castle, does a commendable job playing the Punisher. It’s not the greatest acting performance ever, but it was convincing. And when compared to the people who were offered the position first, such as Vin Diesel, the acting could be seen as Oscar-worthy. The supporting roles are somewhat comedic, which interfere with the dark nature of the movie. While the humor is nice because it lightens an otherwise terribly dark movie, it feels out of place at times and ruins the mood.The DVD video transfer is a decent one. Video and audio quality are both quite good. The darker colors are slightly off, so a TV that has a hard time with black scales might not show this movie under the best light, especially because a lot of scenes take place at night.The extras on the DVD are quite nice with deleted scenes, commentaries and featurettes being included. The commentaries give the viewer some more depth, such as comments by the director that tell the viewer how the limited film budget caused certain scenes to be cut. With a larger budget, this movie would have easily been a rival to the other released superhero adventures. Hopefully a sequel will address many of the plot ideas mentioned in the special features on the disc. Overall, “The Punisher” is a good movie with some very decent action scenes and a truly awesome fight scene involving wrestler Kevin Nash. With some good special features and decent video and audio transfers, this is definitely a recommended DVD for fans to pick up.