The Punisher (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Although The Punisher has a certain one-dimensional comic book theatricality to it which distinguishes it from the similar movies made in the 70s and 80s, it is still fundamentally a Charles Bronson movie updated to the new millennium. An undercover cop named Frank Castle runs a sting in which the son of a mobster gets killed. The mobster (Vinnie Barbarino) pays a gazillion dollars to find out the cop's real identity, and then he pulls a Kyser Soze on him: he kills his parents; he kills his wife; he kills his children; he kills all of his friends and family, and then he kills the cop. Only one problem. The cop survives the hit.

About five months later, a fully recuperated Castle is really ready to kick some major Sweathog ass, especially since the standard legal procedures have produced no results at all. Castle builds his body up, accumulates an armory, lays low in a seedy tenement building, and prepares to "punish" the mobster in vicious and sadistic ways involving the worst things that a man can ever face: financial ruin, crossbows through the neck, blow torches to the skin, imagined betrayals by those who love him, explosions, and Celine Dion concerts.

OK, the Punisher didn't really use Celine Dion music. He considered it, but realized that if he did something that cruel, there would be no difference between him and the bad guys, so he went with the 2000 degree blow torch instead.

The Bronsonesque Punisher is played by Tom Jane. Up until recently, this actor (who is actually a pretty cool guy) was known as Thomas Jane, but I suppose that someone finally told him that guys named Tom Jane appear in macho revenge movies which people might actually pay to see, while guys named Thomas Jane appear with Emma Thompson in the sort of Masterpiece Theater productions in which people get revenge by raising an eyebrow archly and saying "Oh, I daresay not, my dear Alistair! I oppose it ever so much."

Although he is a Marvel "super hero", The Punisher is really just a regular guy. He has no "super" powers, and he doesn't even have a decent costume. No tights or cape or utility belt or anything. The only thing that makes him different from Charles Bronson is that he went to a head shop and picked up one of those "black-light" t-shirts with a white skull on it, so that he would look kinda cool in a dark room with a black-light. Unfortunately, there have not been many opportunities to hang out in such rooms since 1973, so mostly he just looks like an alkie hobo wearing his kindly brother's castoff 60s t-shirts, except that T. Punisher really has a great body for a seedy bum. I guess those homeless shelters must be adding work-out rooms.


This is some gratuitous and insignificant nudity - two topless waitresses in a Tampa casino and a woman bending over in a short skirt who appears to have forgotten her panties.

At any rate, the story arc proceeds in the usual predictable ways, and the characters are all undeveloped and uninvolving. Some of the fight and torture scenes go on too long, and the director spends a ridiculous amount of time and money blowing things up, but there are some good ideas cropping up here and there.

The initial reviews were dismal, but IMDb voters have rendered a different verdict, awarding a score in the 6s, indicative of the fact that the film may appeal to you if you are a young person who is either into faux-testosterone movies, or someone who has never seen any of the dozens of very similar films which have come before this one.

Check out the scores by age:

Age Average score
Less than 18 7.3
18-29 6.3
30-44 5.9
45+ 5.6

Whatever the reason, it is clear the average young moviegoer liked the film more than the critics, as further reflected by Yahoo's "C" average from critics and "B" from their visitors, and by the box office results. Despite the weak reviews, the film did a respectable $33 million domestically, and Jane has been signed for two sequels, although I don't think the sequels have been officially greenlighted yet.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic.

  • two short and unimportant deleted scenes

  • four featurettes

  • full-length director's commentary

NOTE 1: The traditional Will Patton Arrogance Award, in a major upset, was awarded to Will Patton. I know that seems predictable, but he had Travolta to contend with.

NOTE 2: Rebecca Romijn looks pregnant in this movie. I was not the only person to notice this. At least two reviewers mentioned it. Yet I can find no record of her ever having been preggers. If she was not, she really put on some weight rapidly, especially on her formerly thin waist and bum. If you will recall, she was in superb shape in X2.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: lower than two stars. James Berardinelli 1.5/4, Roger Ebert 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.3/10. According to the voting demographics at IMDb, women rated this film higher than men did, and that was true not only in general, but across every single age group. I'll be damned if I can understand that, other than that Tom Jane is one impressive physical specimen.
  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed $33 million domestically. The production budget was also $33 million, and marketing costs were estimated at another $20 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Better than expected, but nothing worth a great amount of your time and trouble.

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