The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Punisher (2004)

Photobucket

I first saw this when it came out in the theater. I thought it was pretty good, until I found out its mere existence meant the Dolph Lundgren version, which is far superior, was put out of print. That made me hate this movie. I don't know that I still hate it, but I also don't like it as much as when I first saw it either.

The Punisher, though it has Frank Castle (played by Thomas Jane) as its lead character, the story is loosely based on the original, with this one taking place in Tampa, FL, with not only Castle's wife and kids being killed, but his whole extended family, and with him being an FBI agent instead of NYC cop. Anyway, after John Travolta's gang kills his family, he survives, comes back, rents an apartment that looks like a high school shop class, and exacts his revenge on Travolta in a fairly bloody way.

Photobucket

At the time it came out, I kind of dug this, and watching it again last night with my friends I could understand why. It's not so much the Punisher, as much as a bad action film with a character that's loosely based on the comic book character. Thomas Jane, though, doesn't work in the lead role. Most of the time his facial expressions make no sense. He kind of looks like Christopher Lambert, so imagine Lambert as the Punisher, only with more of a Southern accent than how Lambert talks. Also, I have no idea why the story was altered. Having his wife and kids murdered wasn't enough? And why did it take place in Tampa? That would be like Spiderman taking place in San Diego or something. I just got the sense that the film makers took liberties because they didn't get what the Punisher was all about. They figured they could just take an action movie, make it darker, and boom: there you go.

One of the fascinating things about the DVD is a featurette about the origin of the Punisher, where the people who created him talk about him as a comic book character. There was something similar in Catwoman, but in that one, they linked the history so it would eventually get to them discussing what they wanted to do with their version of her. Not so here. It's like they knew just how much their Punisher wasn't the comic book one, that they didn't even bother. Also, a lot of what they discussed about the Punisher that made him so great, this film didn't have. They put in weird things like a dude having his piercings ripped out and called them Dark. The conflict that made him so great was explained in one phrase in the featurette: "He'd go in and save a baby in a burning building without hesitation, but if he thinks you deserve to die, he'd kill you without hesitation as well." See, they had the burning building part down, but the conflict wasn't there, because all he was doing was avenging his family's death.

Photobucket

Travolta as a villain was hilarious. We just kept saying "Man Animal" whenever he spoke. I just don't know what we were buying with that. Casting of a villain is just as important as casting the lead, and when all you have is an older version of Vinnie Barbarino that kills people, it's impossible to take the film seriously. It's amazing how much Tarentino made Travolta into an A-List celebrity. Looking at his bio, in 1993 he did Look Who's Talking Now. Could you see him being cast as the villain here if he didn't have that career revival? I don't see the star of Look Who's Talking Now getting a role like that. But he's essentially that guy. One Tarentino role does not a great actor make, yet it's what Hollywood has been trying to give us in Travolta since 1994.

I had planned on discussing Rebecca Romijn here as a continuation on our look at who is the hottest female lead in a comic book movie. Laura Herring as Travolta's wife would make a great entry as well. Anyway, I decided I'm focusing too much on the hot babes, and figured some of my gay male and straight female readers would like me to dedicate a little time to who might be the hottest male comic book movie lead. Well, if Hugh Jackman was allowed to use his Australian accent, there'd be no contest, right? I do think Jane would have to be considered though. I mean, he's right at home in the Romantic Comedy lead. Does that make him a great Punisher? Probably not. I'd have to say, for me, number one best male lead in a comic book movie, if you're going on pure dreaminess, would be George Clooney as Batman. (By the way, I'd put Rebecca Romijn here as a tie for second with Eve Mendes in Ghost Rider, both behind Jennifer Connelly in Hulk as hottest female comic book movie leads).

Photobucket

I'm a huge John Pinette fan. His stand-up is hilarious. This is the second film of his here we've reviewed, the other being Dennis Rodman's Simon Sez. The problem with his role here was he was relegated to playing the part of Donkey Lips from Salute Your Shorts. What a waste. Let him improvise some scenes, let him do some rants about people browsing in line ahead of him, or how the people at the Chinese buffet tell him "You go now!" As an aside, I'm pretty sure I saw Pinette at Disney World like fifteen years ago. My mom was trying to get me to video tape my younger siblings talking to Mary Poppins, and I was like "But that's John Pinette!"

There's one The Punisher out there, and it's got Dolph Lundgren as the lead role. This is is the film that should be out of print. This is the film that was sautéed in wrong sauce. This is the film that didn't get the point of the Punisher. Yet, because it's constantly aired on FX, this is the film people think of when someone says The Punisher's on, which is a shame.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330793/

9 comments:

  1. What did you think of the last PUNISHER film that came out? It certainly looked much more hard-core in terms of the ol' ultraviolence.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually didn't mind the changes to the Pnisher character in this film, though that's probably because I was never really into comic books, so I didn't really have any exact expectations of how I wanted the film to play out, in fact I wasn't really expecting much from this film at all, but it exceeded my expectations, though War Zone was slightly better as it had a more consistent tone(I.E. it didn't have any highly misplaced and unfunny humor like that dance scene or the popsical torture)and had the same type of crazy over-the-top violence that Lundgren's version had. P.S. on an unrelated note, would you like me to send you my copy of Demolition University? You know, so you have something to review in honor of Corey Haim.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Dolph Lundgren version is in print by the way http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_14?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+punisher+dolph+lundgren&sprefix=The+Punisher+D (The link will probably be dead but according to amazon they're still selling it. I think it's rental stores more or less don't have it but in that regard most old movies aren't there anyway. The Punisher with Dolph still has a cult following. It is defended along with Superman III as underrated. In fact so are all The Punisher movies.

    I just thought that this one was boring.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You know I actually DID come across Lundgren's version in a video store-Hollywood Video to be specific, they had alot of older movies on DVD, it's a shame all the Hollywood Video stores near me closed down, as they put Blockbuster to shame.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Demolition University would be great, Michael. I'm also planning to review License to Drive next week, which is my own personal favorite Haim film, but any movies you send would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for mentioning that the Dolph Punisher is back on the shelves, Ryan. I don't know if this is a relatively recent development, or it's been out for some time now, just because I stopped looking since I have my own copy, but either way, that's great news.

    JD, you can check out the review I just wrote of Punisher: War Zone, but I'll say here briefly that I did like that one better than this one by quite a bit.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Aussie release DVD of the Dolph Punisher goes cheap on eBay (where I got mine) and it's 16:9 enhanced to boot!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just another reason why the Australians just know better how to enjoy the finer things in life.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Come on Matt, George Clooney? I wouldn't even consider him in the running of most attractive male comic book movie lead. I approve of Thomas Jane, but Iron Man is my favorite. And sorry, Dolph doesn't make my list these days either, not after his back-patting in Command Performance. The buttcrack drumsticks were a turn-off as well.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Robert Downey jr. was great in Iron man, but Clooney just looks cooler in a tux. Like, when Robert Downey jr. or Johnny Depp wear a tux, they wish they looked as cool as Clooney does. You have to go back to Cary Grant to find a competitor. Robert Downey jr. was a better fit in his role than Clooney was as Bruce Wayne, but he wasn't as good looking.

    ReplyDelete