Sorry, fanboys. No matter how you slice it, you can’t polish a turd. Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Punisher remains arguably the most misguided and ill-informed comic book adaptations of recent years. The biggest complaint from Punisher lovers: not staying truthful to the comic.
This writer has little problem with that; I’d far rather have filmmakers take liberties with source material if it makes the end result more interesting. But in addition to Hensleigh’s film meandering from the gritty action of the comic (so I’m told), the film is damned boring.
Thomas Jane portrays Frank Castle, a secret agent whose family gets ruined by a seedy businessman (played by John Travolta) and sets his entire existence toward seeking vengeance against the violence that has befallen him. The whole me-against-the-world ethos of the character is understandably appealing (I know at least two gentlemen with Punisher tattoos), but Hensleigh has no idea what to do with his characters.
Thomas Jane is perfectly capable enough to carry the role – in addition to buffing up for the part, he really projects a sad, driven charisma – but The Punisher’s screenplay is so paper-thin and predictably rat-a-tat that it has no dramatic deviation from the norm. Even for dumbasses like myself who have little to no familiarity with the source material, one can smell every move The Punisher makes a mile away.
And this extended cut of the film doesn’t make anything better. Yeah, there are a few more flushed-out storylines (Castle’s best friend – Jimmy Weeks – gets a lot more screen time, showing us how he betrayed his buddy and fed him to Travolta’s meanie) but the core problem with the film – meandering dramatic dullness – isn’t remedied.
Even with a two-hour plus running time, The Punisher is a lost cause. Neither made interesting by straying from the comics that bore it nor playful as a straightforward translation of the source material, this one’s a turkey through and through.
The Video: How Does The Disc Look?
The Punisher’s 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is quite strong. Small object detail is impressive and consistently clear. Black levels are thorough and punchy. Flesh tones seem to be a bit off – hues don’t appear to be spot-on. But shadow detail is nicely conveyed and this presentation is free of compression artifacts. Not reference-grade, but passable enough.
The Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
Here’s where The Punisher comes galloping out of the gate. The DTS 6.1 ES track disc is a knee-wobbler. Dynamic range is exceptional. There is intense fidelity on both high- and low-ends. The .1 LFE channel rumbles and grumbles with clarity and heft. The dialogue comes through loud and clear. The film’s score bullies its way into the soundscape a bit too aggressively in some parts, but when effects and atmospherics are given this nice of a treatment, it’s hard to hold much of a grudge. Hell, it’s almost solid enough of a mix to make me forget how dumb a movie it is!
Also included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track, English and Spanish subtitles, and English Closed Captions.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
I was definitely looking forward to a commentary track, but no dice; no such track is included. Instead, we’re left with a weak selctio of extras. The deleted scene is a half-animated/half-live action alternate opening sequence that was never fully completed the way Hensleigh envisioned. You’ll find a standard-grade making-of featurette and a stills gallery featuring different The Punisher comic book covers from throughout the years.
Exclusive DVD-ROM Features: What happens when you pop the disc into your PC?
There are no DVD-ROM features on this DVD.
It’s not good, boys. The Punisher: Extended Cut is not a stellar picture, and its DVD package isn’t exceptional, either. Video quality is fair, but the DTS track will have you grasping your armrests. The bonus features are not much of anything. For super-duper Punisher fans, put this on the rental queue, but don’t waste your money on a buy.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment / 2004 / 140 Minutes / Unrated
For more in depth DVD reviews please visit the CraveOnline’s partner site DVD File.