The Punisher (2004)

6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

More classic Punisher than the first film

Not a Travolta fan, loses speed

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Punisher

Studio:  Marvel Enterprises

Genre(s):  Comic Book/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  April 16, 2004

MPAA Rating:  R


There’s a new Punisher in town!

FBI agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is at the end of his work as an FBI undercover agent after taking down the son of Tampa drug lord Howard Saint (John Travolta).  Howard Saint is out to avenge his son and his wife (Laura Harring) demands Castle pays in blood.  With the murder of his family including his wife (Samantha Mathis) and son (Marcus Johns), Frank Castle sets out on a path of revenge as the Punisher…and Howard Saint will pay!

Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, The Punisher is an adaptation of Marvel Comics’ hit character.  The movie is actually the second live action version of the character with a low-budget film starring Dolph Lundgren being released in 1989.  The movie was met with largely negative reviews but a positive box-office response.


Dead family…Check!

The Punisher was never my favorite Marvel character.  To me, his appeal is pretty limited in a comic sense.  He is a normal guy who solves his problems with guns and explosives.  The comics have him dealing with drug dealer and gun runners…not the most compelling events issue after issue.  A movie format of The Punisher however makes a bit more sense, but once again, the movie kind of misses the mark.

The first Punisher was a straight-to-video dud.  This movie at least went big with production and made the big screens.  Unfortunately, the movie kind of feels like it stutters.  The opening sequence takes too long to get the slaughter sequence (which does up the ante from the original family picnic slaying to an all-out Castle family massacre).  Frank then does not lay low, makes a public spectacle, and announces his presence to the world…very un-Punisher.  The book is a partial adaptation of Garth Ennis’ The Punisher:  Welcome Back Frank which introduced the Punisher’s apartment residence and the Russian…here they feel a little tacked on to the origin story.


Yep…I get the shirt….unlike a certain Punisher

Thomas Jane is an improvement over Dolph’s Punisher in that he is better at emotions and at least he gets his signature skull shirt (I did rather like Ray Stevenson’s Punisher in the next film).  I’m not a John Travolta fan and his Howard Saint and family are rather generic.  I love Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive but here she doesn’t have much presence as Saint’s wife Livia.  Wrestler Kevin Nash adds a bit of a comic book element as the unstoppable Russian and the Punisher’s housemates are played by Rebecca Romijn (Joan), Ben Foster (Spacker Dave), and John Pinette (Bumpo).  Frank’s murdered family veteran actor Roy Scheider as Frank’s father and Samantha Mathis as his doomed wife.


I like to be stabby with knife-knife!

The movie’s action was moved from New York to Florida and in a way loses grittiness.  I always picture the Punisher down and dirty and feel he needs to be in a big gloomy city.  I can see getting out of New York, but something like Detroit or Chicago would work better than Tampa.  I like the movie has more style than the previous film, but I think it could have even been bigger and more extreme when it comes Frank’s attack on crime.

The Punisher just isn’t there, but with the character, I don’t know it can ever reach a “good” film.  The film is an improvement, but still second class to other superhero movies like X-Men and The Avengers.  I always see the Punisher as more of a supporting character and I think he could work in a Spider-Man film (Thomas Jane’s Punisher did have a small cameo in Spider-Man 2 in 2004).  The Punisher was intended to have a sequel but problems in productions led to the project being scrapped for the stand-alone recast Punisher: War Zone in 2008.

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Related Links:

The Punisher (1989)

Punisher:  War Zone (2008)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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