The Punisher (2004).  The best embodiment of this character

Over the past dozen years or so, entertainment cinema has been dominated by films based on (mainly American) comic books, with the greatest success in this field having been achieved by titles about Marvel superheroes. Although there are productions of other fairy tales, such as “The History of Violence” or the fantastic “The Adventures of Tintin”, the most popular are boys and girls in leotards. But even before the world went crazy for Iron Man and his pals, there were at least some noteworthy proposals. I will talk about one of them today, which is “The Punisher” by Jonathan Hensley, from 2004, which is, in my opinion, the best embodiment of this character.

The Punisher made his comic book debut in February 1974 in issue #129 of the Spider-Man series. At first, he played the role of an antagonist and was rather a background for the others. For several years, he has been wandering the Marvel Universe, meeting Daredevil and Captain America and clashing with Spider-Man. But in 1984, he got his own mini-series, and after it ended, he became a series regular, and with small breaks, the character appears to this day. The plot idea was simple, not to say trite. Here, Frank Castle, a Vietnam veteran, goes with his family (his wife and two children) for a walk in New York's Central Park. Unfortunately, they find themselves in the middle of gang conflicts, shootings happen, Frank's relatives become accidental victims, and he himself is taken to the hospital in serious condition. After recovering from his wounds, he swears revenge on all kinds of murderers, rapists and criminals. And that's it. No philosophy. Simple entertainment with the scent of gunpowder.

The Punisher, which was miraculously reworked into Polish by TM-Semic as Pogromca, was a child of its time. Like tough detectives Harry Callahan or Popeye Doyle, fight crime ruthlessly. It provided little respite to residents of America's major cities, plagued by drug problems and rampant crime. He didn't stick with the bad guys, which provided readers with a quick alternative to justice.

Cinema first saw it in 1989, and Dolph Lundgren gave Frank the face. A typical mid-range action car was created. Fans of The Slayer had to wait fifteen years for their next on-screen visit. Jonathan Hensley (screenwriter of Die Hard 3 and Armageddon) wrote and directed a slightly modernized version of the Punisher adventures. Castle (Thomas Jane) has become an FBI agent who has upset the head of the criminal organization, Howard Saint (John Travolta). The Saint prepares for bloody revenge and sends assassins to kill Frank and his family. You can guess the rest – the hero miraculously survives, but after recovering, he vows revenge and sets in motion an elaborate plan to punish the saint and his followers.

Against the backdrop of bombastic superhero films, filled with lavish action sequences and CGI effects, “Punisher” feels like an intimate proposition. Although there are a lot of dynamic scenes and explosions, overall everything is very ordinary. We only encounter the comic book aesthetic a few times, for example during the fight with the Great Russian (Kevin Nash). However, the whole thing is just a well-made thriller, without any great threads. Thomas Jane is fantastic as the Punisher. His sullen and slightly hoarse voice reflects this character's personality. Although Lundgren, Ray Stevenson, and Jon Bernthal (the latter two as Frank) also did a good job, the perfect character for me will always be Jane. He played the Punisher twice more – as a voice actor in a brutal computer game from 2004 and in the wonderful short film “The Punisher: Dirty Laundry.”

The Punisher

Today, the film is somewhat overshadowed by MCU productions and later incarnations of The Slayer, but I would really love to revisit it. Simple story, simple hero with a simple motivation. The film has a very strong musical theme. Definitely worth a visit or viewing for the first time.

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