The Punisher (2004)

Ah, 2004, a time when fascist racists had not yet taken the skull of the Punisher and used it to show us who they were or deify fake heroes who had bragged about killing numerous civilians in the name of service to their country. Yes, the Punisher skull, owned by Disney, a company that sues mom and pop daycares for daring to bootleg their mouse on their walls somehow allows white supremacy and the over militarization of the police state to run wild and take over their IP.

Anyways, you still here?

Taking most of the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon stories and putting them up on the screen, the second take on The Punisher realizes that if you want to do it right, he needs that skull and he needs to just tear through human beings.

Director Jonathan Hensleigh wrote Die Hard with a Vengeance and Jumanji. This was produced by his wife, Gale Anne Hurd, and written with Michael France, who wrote movies for Marvel characters before the MCU like The Hulk and Fantastic Four. Hensleigh said, “The underlying events that give rise to Frank Castle’s vigilantism are not from the comic. I invented a lot of that. I made it a lot worse.”

Yes, the era when the comics were not good enough. This is why the MCU works. But at this point, comics were — and probably still are — looked at as junk and always loosely adapted.

So instead of being just home from Vietnam and seeing his family for the first time before they’re all killed, Frank Castle is an undercover cop who gets exposed and his entire family killed at a reunion.

Yeah, it’s more death, but it doesn’t hit as hard.

Then again, you do get Roy Scheider as the Punisher’s dad.

And Kevin Nash as the Russian.

But as good as Thomas Jane is, you also get John Travolta as Howard Saint. And that’s kind of the issue with the Punisher. His villains, outside of Jigsaw and Barracuda, never seem to live all that long. Then again, the movies miss the fact that Punisher is a serial killer, a villain worse than the criminals he murders, a man who has long since gotten revenge over those who rubbed out his family and now is endlessly just killing and killing because he has nothing left.

To close, I love the Punisher. I had a poster — the Mike Zeck cover to issue #1 of the 1986 mini-series — on my dorm wall forever. I just wish that people understood what the character really stands for and that someone would finally make a good movie with the character.

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