The Punisher Review

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Retired FBI agent Frank Castle (Jane) looks forward to a happy life with his family. Unfortunately, during his final bust the son of evil Howard Saint (Travolta) was killed. Saint exacts a horrible revenge, forcing Castle to ditch his lawful ways and beco


What is it with The Punisher and the big screen? On the surface, the Marvel Comics vigilante extraordinaire seems such an easy character to get right. Just grunt, look mean and blow a lot of shit up, right? Well, in reality it's damned difficult, as first the makers of the 1989 Dolph Lundgren version and now those behind this lo-fi stab have found out.

One problem is that Frank Castle is too complex, and perhaps too psychotic, to conform easily to the notion of a movie hero. Another is that first-time director Jonathan Hensleigh is hampered by the excesses of the '80s, which rendered the one-man-army genre ridiculous (Commando, anyone?).

Despite being boxed-in by a tight budget, Hensleigh does at least bring Castle into the real world with some inventive and brutal fight scenes. And, in the lead role, Tom (no more Thomas, if you please) Jane does prove suitably brooding.

But neither can do enough to make up for a creaky script which avoids tackling the morality of Castle's actions, while Hensleigh doesn't do himself any favours by slowing the film's momentum with leaden editing. Maybe it'll be a case of third time lucky, eh Frank?

Marvel's first serious misstep for a while, this is a clunky set-up for a sequel that should never come.