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Punisher, The

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // June 27, 2006
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted August 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(51, 51, 255);">The Movie:


 

The back of Liongate's Blu-Ray DVD of The
Punisher
boasts that the film
is "a
tale true to its Marvel comics origin."  Being
a comic geek from way back, this intrigued me.  A
movie based on a Marvel character that
stayed true to the comics?  Could it
be?  Well, the answer is "no." 
Apparently the person who wrote the cover
copy has been reading a different Punisher comic than I have, since
this film
has only passing resembalance to the comic.

 


That's okay though.  I
can live with that.  As long as the story
is interesting and told well I can keep the fan-boy in me at bay.style=""> 
Unfortunately this film in neither
interesting nor well told and basically amounts to two hours worth of
bad
acting, stupid plots, and really stupid assassins. 
Oh yeah and the Punisher doesn't appear as a
character until the last fifteen minutes. 
A more accurate title for this movie would have been style="font-style: italic;">Frank
Castle Mopes.


 

Well let's see if I can make enough sense of this mess of a
film to relay what happens.  The movie
starts off in Tampa
with Mickey (Eddie Jemison) and his stupid buddy meeting their
connection at
the harbor.  The two are going to buy a
load of illegal guns and then sell them to gang members for a huge
profit.  Their dreams of quick riches turn
to dust
however when the cops come swarming in. 
The connection gets killed and the moronic friend pulls out a
gun after
they've been surrounded and points it at a cop. 
All while protesting his innocence. 
Really bright move there fella.  Being
way to dumb to live he gets killed (raising the average intelligence of
all of
humanity in the process) and Mickey gets arrested.


 


At the morgue the ambulance unloads the body bags and, would
you believe it, the connection isn't really dead.  He
was really undercover FBI agent extraordinaire
Frank Castle.  The agency just faked his
death so….well, I mean they had to. 
Otherwise, ummm, the bad guys might know that the FBI is…
actually trying
to catch them.  Or something. 
Just trust me, they had to do that! 


 


In any case Frank goes to his retirement party; he's being
transferred to the FBI's London
office so his buddies naturally throw him a retirement party 'cause,
well that
doesn't make sense either.  But I'm sure
there's a reason.  It could be that the
transfer
was just a gag so that they could see if Frank was really stupid enough
to
think that the FBI has offices in w:st="on">London.  When
he gets there he'll find he's been
fired, and that's the reason for the retirement party. 
Yeah! 
That's it!


 


Anyway, the moronic kid who was killed turns out to be the
son of local millionaire and evil doer who bears the unlikely name of
Howard
Saint (John Travolta).  When Saint finds
out that his son was killed, he looks into who was behind the deal and,
after
some hefty bribes, discovers that Castle is the man responsible for his
son's
death.  Never one to take the killing of
a son lightly, he sends a squad of goons to Castle's family reunion in
the Bahamas
and has
them kill the whole clan.  This they do,
including shooting Frank in the leg, shoulder and right in the center
of his
chest at point blank range.  They then
douse the pier he's lying on with gas and blow it up just for good
measure.  Frank survives all this and swims
out to a far off island where an old medicine man cures his injuries.style="">   Apparently
the bullet in the chest luckily missed his heart, lungs, and spine.style=""> 


 


Back on the island, the officials can't find Frank's body,
so he is immediately declared dead.  I
mean if you find someone's wife and child murdered, it's only natural
to assume
that they are dead too.  Right?


 


Five months later Frank is as good as new!  (With
only very minimal scarring too.)  He goes
back to Tampa
aiming to mope around and get revenge
on the people who killed his family.  The
first thing he does is get about a million dollars worth of weapons
from a
warehouse (all those legally-dead-but-not-really FBI agents know where
tons of
explosives and guns are hid) and tricks out his low-rent apartment with
a bunch
of booby traps and spring loaded guns that don't help him at all when
he's
finally attacked.  But I'm getting ahead
of myself.


 


Having a military background, Castle knows that surprise is
his best weapon.  So he totally throws
that away by announcing to Saint and his cronies that he's actually
alive and
pretty much dares them to kill him.  Saint's
not worried about one lone ex-cop, so he looks high and low for the
stupidest
assassin he can find and sends him after Castle.  Idiot
Assassin #1 tracks his quarry down to a
diner where Frank is moping and eating breakfast.  He
enters the eatery, stares at Frank, and then
he… sings him a song on his guitar.  This
was a riveting scene, one of the best
assassin-singing-a-song-to-his-victim-in-a-diner sequences that have
ever been
filmed.


 


After warning Frank that he's gunning for him, the singing
assassin goes after Castle who has to audacity to look surprised when
he see
this guy trying to kill him.  They fight,
and since it's only the middle of the movie Frank wins.


 


Next Frank mopes in his flat for a while, there's some comic
relief with a fat guy and a skinny guy with a lot of facial piercings,
and then
Idiot Assassin #2 knocks on Frank's door. 
He may be a cold blooded killer, but at least he's polite.style="">  Frank opens the door and is shot dead.


 


At least he would have been, but Idiot Assassin #2 forgot to
bring a gun.  So they have to fight
mano-a-mano.  IA2 is really strong and
tough.  Frank stabs him in the shoulder
with a knife, pushing the blade all the way to the hilt and IA2 just
stands
there not even flinching.  Castle gets
thrown through walls, hit with iron bars and a toilet, has a grenade
explode
near him but then manages to push IA2 down a flight of stairs which
naturally
kills him.


 


Okay, now Frank is mad. 
Killing his entire family is one thing, but don't EVER interrupt
him
while he's moping.  That gets him
pissed.  He finally decides to go after
Howard Saint and end this thing once and for all.  So,
with 15 minutes left in the film, he
finally puts on his Punisher
outfit and gets ready to kick some bad-guy butt.



This was a really bad movie. 
I don't mean Fantastic Four
bad, this was more like Incredible
Hulk
bad
or worse.  There were so many plot
inconsistencies and holes that it's almost impossible to list them all.style="">  Even the action scenes which weren't as
frequent as I was expecting were generally short and rather dull and
the
violence was so over the top that it was almost comical, something that
I'm
sure the director wasn't going for.


 


And Hollywood
wonders why people aren't going to the movies as much these days.



style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(51, 51, 255);">The DVD:





This disc comes in a standard clear blue Blu-Ray case like
all of the other releases so far.  Since
this is a Lionsgate disc, they actually put art on the DVD itself; a
nice
Punisher logo.


 


Note:
The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time
of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into
the
design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned
on which
creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, though a
firmware upgrade
to fix the problem is supposed to be released in the fall.


 

Video: 



This is the first Lionsgate Blu-Ray disc I've seen, and I
was hoping that this would be more impressive than the offering from
Sony, but
it really isn't.  Like most of the other
Blu-Ray
releases, the movie looks good but not as eye-popping or impressive as
an HD
movie should look.  The widescreen 2.35:1
image is a bit soft; the lines are not as tight as they should be.style="">  There is also more grain and digital noise in
the image than I was expecting.


 


The one thing that really harms the presentation of this
film though is the dark transfer.  Most
of this film takes place at night and a lot of detail is lost in these
scenes.  When the comic relief characters
are confronting Joan's ex-boyfriend in the hall, you can't make out
background
details and this causes the image to look very flat. 
The climax of the movie where Frank Castle
goes to Howard Saint's club to end the battle is also really
disappointing.  It's obvious that the
director and
cinematographer went to a lot of trouble to make the different rooms in
the
club have distinctive colors.  The bottom
floor is bathed in blue light and the higher floor is painted a pale
orange
color.  These colors aren't reproduced
well and it really harms the look of the film. 
When Frank enters the club with a bow, he pauses and takes aim
at a
guard.  Instead of the background being
light blue, it is very dark, nearly black. 
Details are hard to make out, and even the Punisher icon on his
shirt is
very dark and easy to miss.  Likewise on
the upper floor, the orange colors are washed out ruining the careful
work that
the set designers went to. 


  style="color: rgb(51, 51, 255); font-weight: bold;">
Audio:



Audio options for this disc include Dolby Digital Surround
EX and DTS-ES 6.1, both in English.  The
aural portion of the film was reproduced better than the visual portion.style="">  Technically the disc sounds fine; there are
no audio defects; no hiss, distortion, or pops. 
Unfortunately the soundtrack itself isn't too impressive.style="">  The action sequences make use of the full
soundstage, but the rest of the time the movie is basically a stereo
mix.  This rather simple soundtrack doesn't
provide
the atmosphere that it could.  Incidental
sounds and background noises are pretty much absent. 
The music does get thrown to the rears, but
this is usually used to let the audience know that something
suspenseful is
going to happen.  As if we didn't catch
that from the fact that the main character is strapping on 200 pounds
of weapons.  Overall there wasn't anything
wrong with the
sound, it just wasn't too impressive, like the rest of the movie.


 


There are also subtitles in English and Spanish.




Extras:



Ziltch.  They didn't
put any extras on this disc.



Final
Thoughts:




I've receive e-mails saying that I'm too easy on movies, and
I'll admit that I am.  I can usually find
some redeeming quality that makes a film at least worth a rental.style="">  That's not the case with this film.style="">  It's just bad.  I
could watch Stealth and get some visceral
enjoyment out of it, but there weren't any such thrills in this picture.style="">  The plot was inane, the pace was slow, and
even the action scenes lacked a punch.  I
went into this film with low expectations and I was still disappointed.style="">  Add to that a flat and colorless HD transfer
and I can't think of any reason to buy this Blu-Ray disc. 
Skip it.
Buy from Amazon.com

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