DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Punisher (2004)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 13, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    The Punisher (2004)


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Lions Gate
    Year: 2004
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 123 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DD Surround
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $26.95





    The film opens with FBI agent Frank Castle (Tom Jane) being involved in a sting, which eventually leads to the death of a gangster’s son. After this sting Castle goes into retirement with his wife (Samantha Mathis) and son. The three travel to Puerto Rico for a family vacation but back in the states gangster Mr. Saint (John Travolta) has his plans for revenge. Mr. Saint sends a couple goons led by Quentin Glass (Will Patton) to the family reunion where they kill everyone in site, including Frank’s wife and son. They also shoot Frank and blow him up but what they don’t know is that he survived the attack and now wants his own revenge.

    I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from this film considering I’m not a fan of comic books in general and I’ve never even read an issue of the comic, which this film is based on. I’m not sure how the die-hard comic fans feel about the film because I’m not sure how faithful the film is to the comics but on an entertainment level I thought The Punisher delivered on all levels. Quite often I criticize action pictures for having way too much style and not enough story but that’s not the case with this film, which I feel is one of the better comic book based films I’ve seen.

    For starters, director Jonathan Hensleigh seems to be wanting to tell a story and not just give viewers something to see while they munch down on their popcorn. The film covers a wide range of topics from the lost of ones family to even something like alcoholism. The movie has some wonderfully touching scenes as well as scenes that will deliver on the action entertainment. There’s a moment in the film where Frank Castle gets invited over to his neighbors apartment for a dinner and afterwards they are asked to mention something they are thankful for. This is a very nice, quiet moment, which is quickly followed up by a wonderful and not so over the top battle against a huge Russian guy.

    Another thing that constantly works is the comedy, which again mixes quite well with the action and more serious sides of the film. There’s some very funny moments including the previously mentioned fight where the two are constantly being thrown threw walls while their shocked neighbors just look on not knowing what to do. The director also throws in some rather graphic and realistic violence that doesn’t settle for just cheap CGI laden effects. The massacre at the family reunion, while violent, never really goes over the top and it gets the message across without being too juvenile or offensive.

    While watching the film I couldn’t help but think of Paul Kersay, the infamous character played by Charles Bronson in five Death Wish films. In those films Bronson seems like the happiest man in the universe compared to how we see Frank Castle in this film. There are several scenes where we see him battling depression with alcohol and these come off very realistic and touching due to the wonderful performance by Tom Jane. It’s not often you find an action star who can really act but Jane’s performance takes this film up a few notches. John Travolta is also wonderfully evil as a guy you just love to hate. The actor hasn’t had too many good roles the past few years but his takes this bad character and runs with it. Rebecca Romihn-Stamos also comes off quite nicely as the neighbor who has her own demons. Then there’s Will Patton who is enjoyable in every film he does.

    The film does have a few weak spots including the opening twenty-five minutes where we get the normal boring talk as Castle tries to tell his family that he’ll be spending more time with them and so on. This here really gets in the way of the story starting and due to this the film really doesn’t start to take off until the thirty minute mark. Another weak spot is some failed comedic relief with the two dork neighbors. Some of it works well but often times the stereotypes come off a bit obnoxious. Other than that I was really taken in by the story of The Punisher and it’s a film that got better and better with each passing minute. Again, I’m not sure how this compares to the comic book but I still found the film highly entertaining in an adult fashion and not something for 10-year-old kids.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. I wish the transfer was as good as the film but unfortunately it’s not. On the whole the transfer isn’t too bad but I was rather letdown considering how good some other recent Lions Gate releases have been. The colors all look remarkably well and they capture the mood of the film perfectly. The sandy beaches in Puerto Rico look wonderful with very detailed colors and the night lights of Florida also come off look very crisp. The flesh tones look accurate throughout the film and the lighter moments also come off looking very natural.

    Now for the bad side of the transfer. The black levels are a mixed bag throughout the film. Some of the black scenes come off looking very sharp and the look of the black clothing is very nice but there appears to be all sorts of dirt in various scenes. Sometimes when the night sky is shown we also see dirt all over the print and there’s a very good shot of this whenever the moon is also displayed in the scene. Another problem with dirt occurs in Puerto Rico right before the family massacre. When the boat pulls up on shore take a look at the sky and here you will notice more dirt that doesn’t seem like it should be there. Finally, the biggest problem is some major edge enhancement that is quite alarming and looks pretty bad. I’m not one to pick on edge enhancement too much but it was very distracting in several scenes here. Take a look at the scene where Frank goes to Mr. Saint’s building to “pass out” some money. The buildings all have halos around them. The EE isn’t noticeable in every frame but when you see it the stuff is pretty bad.

    AUDIO---The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does the film very nice justice. The dialogue is clear throughout without any sorts of video noise or scratches. The dialogue is crisp throughout and packs a nice little punch with a wide range that mixes well with the louder action scenes creating a nice 360 degree track. The Surrounds are perfectly used throughout the film especially during the action scenes that sound very good. The explosions are loud and contain some nice bass creating a perfect atmosphere with your speakers. The car chases also sound very well and especially the massacre chase up the beach. Even the quieter moments sound very clear and full of detail. Just listen to the scene where Travolta is rearranging some furniture in Patton’s house.

    EXTRAS---Along with the extras listed below the disc comes with a collectable comic but this wasn’t included with my screener so I can’t comment on it.

    Featurettes---Four featurettes are including on the disc starting with Keepin’ It Real: Punisher Stunts, which runs just over 27-minutes. This here takes a look at various stunts and the work that went into creating them. The car jumping the bridge is the main spotlight here and it was rather interesting seeing how the car was set up, checked and then the stunt carried out. You get interviews with the director as well as the stunt guys. War Journal: On the Set of The Punisher runs just over 29-minutes and again is highly entertaining. This is more of a video diary of what the filming was like and again we get all sorts of behind the scenes information. We get to see various scenes being set up and we also gets interviews with the cast. Army of One: Punisher Origins runs just under 13-minutes and will certainly entertain those familiar with the comics. This section takes a look at the comic and its appeal towards fans and how it translates to the film. Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style runs just over 6-minutes and this is the least entertaining segment here. In this section we get to hear from Lions Gate about various products used to market the film.

    Deleted Scenes---Two deleted scenes running just over 2-minutes each are included here with an optional commentary with the director. Both scenes involve the Saint family and really aren’t too interesting. The director tells us why they were cut and what he was going for but I doubt too many people will be blown away by these.

    Audio Commentary---Director Jonathan Hensleigh does the track and fans should be pleased with it. The director is constantly talking about his thoughts on the comic and what he wanted to do with the film. There’s a lot of talk of older action director’s, which is interesting to hear and there’s even mention of some spaghetti westerns that influenced him. Also noted is talk about an alternate opening as well as several scenes that weren’t filmed. The director also goes into great detail about the look of the film and why he wanted an R-rated film instead of the currently popular PG-13.

    Also included is the music video for “Step Up” as well as a trailer for The Punisher video game. Unless it’s hidden as an easter egg I couldn’t locate a theatrical trailer, although it’s been featured on earlier Lions Gate releases.

    OVERALL---I was pleasantly surprised at how good this film was. I was expecting another mindless action film for teenagers but instead I was treated with a rather serious look at revenge. This film could have been called Death Wish 6 but it was still highly entertaining on all levels. Lions Gate delivers a nice 5.1 mix and some very interesting extras but I’m rather disappointed in the transfer. I know the budget for the film wasn’t too big but the transfer is way too dirty in spots and some of the EE is very ugly.

    A limited edition will also be available but only a select number will be released to stores.


    Release Date: September 7, 2004
     
  2. Jim Barg

    Jim Barg Second Unit

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    Nice review. Being a fan of the comic, I enjoyed seeing this in theatres and will pick it up.

    Tom Jane was easily the best thing about the film. Too bad it didn't perform as well as expected, since he keeps talking about doing a sequel...
     
  3. Eric_B_C

    Eric_B_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Jane was good, but I usually HATE Travolta in everything. Yes, even Pulp Fiction. However I thought he was fantastic in this.

    Love this movie. Definitely want this DVD.
     
  4. CoreyII

    CoreyII Second Unit

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    I'm definitely in the minority, but give the Dolph Lundgren version, I thought this new version was a big let down. The ending which took a que from the Crow and Daredevil was just plain stupid.

    But hey Michael excellent review.
     
  5. Sven Lorenz

    Sven Lorenz Supporting Actor

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    Any rumours of an Unrated Version/Director's Cut?

    I liked the movie - but not enough to buy it twice.
    If there's a better version coming I'll wait.
     
  6. Adam Portrais

    Adam Portrais Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah it looked like that in the theater. I just sat there and said "Damn, Conrad Hall Jr. was asleep on that day."

    I wasn't totally wowed by this moive but overall I liked it. But I think I'll be waiting for Punisher 1.5 or whatever they end up calling it.
     
  7. Shaun

    Shaun Second Unit

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    I am also in the minority here. This movie just rubbed me the wrong way. I found this movie offensively bad. It just wasn't the satisfying "comic book" movie I expected. Too much comic relief, not enough action, low budget, the homosexual henchman, etc. It just didn't feel right. I will give it another shot when it comes out on DVD. Hopefully after another viewing, my opinion will improve, but after movies like X-Men, Spider-Man, even Daredevil/Blade, this one really fell short.
     
  8. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    I'll probably recheck out this movie as a rental, but from what I remember at the theater, the soundtrack of this movie was terrible. It seemed like the composer wasn't even watching what was on screen. That, among other things, made me find this movie to be below average. But, I was really, really looking forward to it, so I may have been a victim of my own hype.
     
  9. Johnny Jr.

    Johnny Jr. Stunt Coordinator

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    As a huge fan of the comic books I had high hopes for this one. Ultimately the plot seemed forced and the movie left a mediocre taste in my mouth. I have no desire to revisit this film again.
     
  10. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

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    Totally agree about the transfer Michael. There are far too many specks and marks on the print, and the edge halos are very noticable. Some shots look so grainy and dirty that it's hard to believe that this film is such a recent release.

    The 5.1 EX audio track is also a disappointment as it sounds very hard-edged to me. Even at 448kbps it sounds like it's been compressed too harshly.

    The film itself is okay, but it could've been much better. At least the fight with The Russian is pretty good!
     
  11. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Are those who don't like the movie a fan of the comic? I ask because seven friends watched this movie yesterday and six of them really enjoyed it. The one who didn't was a fan of the comics. Again, I've never read the comics so perhaps that's why I enjoyed it more?

    However, for some reason I always enjoy the "comic" movies that others hate and hate the ones others enjoy. I still say BATMAN AND ROBIN is the best of the Batman movies. [​IMG]
     
  12. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    At the theater I viewed this at, the soundtrack seemed a little soft. I wonder if the movie just wasn't recorded as well as what we're used to.
     
  13. Johnny Jr.

    Johnny Jr. Stunt Coordinator

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    Michael, for me I can't get enough of the original 60's movie of BATMAN lol. I wouldn't say all fans of the comic didn't enjoy the movie I know for me I just had high hopes that this would finally put the character on the map.
     
  14. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Wow, DVD already. Wasn't this in theaters just a few months ago?

    Nice review, it's sure to many a good blind buy.
     
  15. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    I'll be getting it. I hope to find the limited edition. [​IMG]
     
  16. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    Probably. It wasn't a very good adaptation, but I've never been the biggest fan of the Punisher comic, so that's not really what I was looking for. I had problems with some of the humor (just didn't think it was funny), as well as casting. Actually, I thought everyone was really strong (especially Jane...but maybe a little too much Travolta), but I think Joan should have been cast as more of a mousey anti-social recluse, and less of a hot, leggy sex-pot [​IMG] That's just a minor quibble, though. My biggest problem was the fact that Frank Castle was simply taking revenge. Here's a line from the film:

    "This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it's an emotional response. No. Not vengeance. This, is punishment. "

    Except, it is vengeance...not punishment. He's taking revenge for his family, not for punishment's sake. What made the Punisher an interesting comic book character was the fact that after he got his vengeance, he didn't quit. He kept killing the bad guys, no matter who they wronged. He crossed a moral line that he couldn't un-cross. They can definitely take the films in that direction if there are sequels, but at this point it's just a simple revenge movie.
     
  17. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    [​IMG]

    To each his own. Personally, I'd rather watch "The Punisher" a million times over than sit through "Batman & Robin" one time.
     
  18. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

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    Batman & Robin, now thats Punishment.
     
  19. Bob clamer

    Bob clamer Supporting Actor

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    Is there any way to tell if you had gotten the Limited Edition? I know that the Limited Edition is only a different cover of the comic but...
     
  20. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Anyone who likes BATMAN & ROBIN should NOT ever, under any circumstances, be allowed to review comic-book films..
     

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