Franchise Evolution: The Punisher (part 2 of 2)

After recovering, Frank heads to Florida to seek his revenge. Said revenge is a little more cerebral than one would expect from the character. He plays mind games with Saint, turning him against his wife and best friend, while slowly chipping away at the man’s criminal enterprise.

In between bouts of ‘70s style action, we get comedic interludes with Frank and the neighbors in the apartment adjacent to his. There’s pretty much every sort of cliché covered here. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is on hand as a sweet woman who Frank can confide in and get comfort from, Ben Foster is a heavily pierced slacker who figures in the film’s most unpleasant sequence, and comedian John Pinette is the requisite fat funny guy. Sadly, John is nowhere near as funny in the movie as he is in his act.

Frank eventually goes after Saint in a more direct manner by way of shooting up the man’s club, killing everyone in sight, and finally delivering some poetic justice to Saint himself. It’s a decently over the top finale, but it’s a rather strange tonal change when you go from what’s basically a ‘70s style revenge picture to an ‘80s style climax, with cheesy CGI at the end.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Franchise Evolution: The Punisher
Tag: Franchise Evolution

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  • Cristiona

    I know I’ve seen the first two Punisher movies, but I can’t remember if I saw War Zone. Jigsaw seems familiar (film Jigsaw, I know he was a major villain in the comics) but for the life of me, I’d have to look at Netflix to tell if I watched it. Maybe I should queue up all three some time for a marathon.

    Personally, I’m dumbfounded about why this title has had so much trouble. It’s not complicated: ex-cop’s wife and kids are slaughtered by the mob, he goes on a one-man vengeance kick which expands to all criminals everywhere, his only rule is not to hurt innocents. This isn’t rocket science. He doesn’t even have any super powers. I mean, honestly, it’s not that hard. Frankly, I think The Punisher would probably work best as a 70’s style grindhouse pic. You don’t need a lot of plot. Just a lot of guns. Hell, at times, Death Sentence was more Punisher than the Punisher movies.

    Of the three, the thing that sticks with me the most is the horrible miscue in the Jane version, where he did the “gettin’ guns together” montage something like 1/3 of the way into the movie. Way to early, guys.

    Also, it would be nice if freaking Micro could get a role some time.

    • sillstaw

      Micro was in “War Zone.” Played by Wayne Knight.

      • Cristiona

        Huh. Maybe I saw War Zone and it just didn’t leave an impression. Still, Wayne Knight’s pretty good casting for him.

      • katmore9

        One of my major beefs with “War Zone” was under-utilizing Micro. Frank Castle became way more efficient acting doling out justice because of Micro’s help.

        In the movie, they didn’t even say why Micro had joined with Frank in the first place. All it took was one well-placed sentence and the script didn’t deliver.

    • Ed

      It is pretty bizarre, especially considering the freaking Death Wish movies are almost decent subs for a Punisher movie. As you said, it’s really not that complicated.

  • Fantasy Mission Force

    The problem with getting off a decent Punisher movie is that Steven Segal, Van Damme and Charles Bronson have, collectively, already made every decent Punisher movie, about a dozen times.

    • Ed

      Yep, in fact the most recent script I wrote is essentially a Punisher movie only the guy’s family doesn’t die.

  • Connie333

    I quite liked the Thomas Jane Punisher film if only for the scene where he blows up dozens of cars to make the iconic skull image. That is truly dedication to being a superhero – if probably not that good for the environment and must have taken a lot of planning.
    Ray Stevenson was pretty good as the titular hero but some of the action scenes made me worried for anyone suffering from epilepsy.

  • Michael J. Schwarz

    While I was watching Warzone all I could think was, the film needed the Garth Ennis style narration by Castle. If it had been written with the same kind of world weary sarcasm, it could have made the film at least entertaining.

    • katmore9

      Totally agree with you.

      Heck, considering how bad the script was, they should have consulted Garth Ennis while writing the story. Garth has masterfully written Frank Castle in the Marvel MAX series and the movie is inspired by and (loosely) based on his work.

  • CBob

    Cool article.

    I feel like The Punisher is a bit too thin to make for a good superhero movie all by himself. As a grindhouse revenge flick, as others have said, yes , but not really as a superhero movie.

    I could definitely see him showing up in another superhero’s movie as a supporting character. Kind of like how Black Widow was in Iron Man 2.

    Like say, have Spider Man or some other super-powered code-of-honor driven hero have to split his attention between the big main super villain of the film and a new, elusive, faceless, street level “villain” who’s been executing people in back alleys and hotel rooms. Make him seem like a serial killer from the “honorable” main hero’s perspective, even as it becomes apparent that his victims are all criminals. Keep it escalating through the first two acts, making catching him feel more and more urgent for the main hero, while never actually seeing him, only the aftermaths of his kills. Then have the second/third act changeover be when the main hero finally catches up with him, they have a showdown that ends in a draw, and the two grudgingly team up to take on the main villain for the third act. Just one idea.

    (Looks up) Wow. Apparently my super power is run-on sentences. It seemed smaller/simpler in my head.

    • katmore9

      I like your point about him showing up in another hero’s movie. Hmmm… considering the character though, only Daredevil seems appropriate. Spiderman isn’t dark enough in tone to allow the Punisher.

      • CBob

        Good point. Spider Man is also maybe too honorable: I can’t picture him ever being cool enough with what Punisher does to consider him an ally, even circumstantially.

    • frodobatmanvader

      Wow. I gotta love how your comment, written 4 years ago, turned out to be strangely prophetic. Here’s hoping season 2 of Daredevil knocks it out of the park!

  • katmore9

    From the rather bland 2004 version, we come to the 2008 version, which is the cinematic equivalent of giving a kid with ADD a handful of chocolate bars and some Red Bull, putting him in a room with some fragile objects, and stepping back to watch what happens.

    HA HA. Hilarious.

    Overall, good article. I’m a big Punisher fan and I own the latter 2 movies. Why not complete the movie trio? Mainly b/c I hate the Lundgren version. As you mentioned, it was awful. But the main problem for me was it never felt like I was watching a Punisher film. The other 2 movies, though flawed, achieved that.

    I’m most entertained, yet disappointed, by “War Zone”. Ray Stevenson looks just like the Marvel MAX version of the Punisher. They had great source material, and the writing still stunk. [sighs]

    Here’s hoping they try a fourth attempt, or at least do an R-rated web series like “Mortal Kombat.”

  • Wait, wait, wait… I can understand hate for “Spider-Man 3”, but “Spider-Man 2”? The hell?

    • Monoceros4

      No, really, it’s bad. A few good bits with Alfred Molina are not enough to make up for Tobey Maguire moping for most of the movie, James Franco pouting and drinking himself stupid in every scene, and Kirsten Dunst doing…well, anything on screen at all. It doesn’t help that the sci-fi elements of the plot are impossible to take seriously even for a second.

  • Black Mr. Scott

    I have a sentimental attachment to the Lundgren version because my sister and I saw it on some cable channel back in the early 90’s and had a great time giving it the full Mystery Science Theater treatment. I enjoyed War Zone, though — excess is an asset for an action movie, especially since the Punisher’s inherently one-note personality precludes any real drama.

    Thank you for agreeing with me about Spider-Man 2. I got so tired of hearing everyone rave about it, when I spent the whole film wanting to kick Parker in the face for being such a self-pitying loser.

  • Warzone is wrong for all the right reasons.

    I just liked the idea of superhero movie that doesn’t spend time explaining the character and his motivations, but just exists for the sake of existing (Batman, Superman, Dick Tracy should follow this route).

    Warzone did that, like the fourth TMNT film. Just exist, for Pete’s sake!

    Oh, but Warzone is a bad movie, like the Dolph movie, but I like to grindhouse it late at night after a long workday (I work afternoons/evenings).

  • Lizuka

    Personally, I loved and still love the 2004 movie.