Grade C+

2004 gave us the second Punisher movie; not a sequel, but a fresh start.  Thomas Jane plays the title role this time.  He starts off as undercover, FBI agent Frank Castle.  During his last mission, the son of a powerful mobster is killed; and the big, bad boss (played by John Travolta) finds out the true identity of Jane, blames his son’s death on him, and sets forth a plan to destroy Jane and his entire family.  With a bit of luck and a lot of stupidity on the part of Travolta’s henchmen, Jane survives and comes back with a vengeance and a new name: “The Punisher.”

Twice I had hoped Hollywood would make a good Punisher movie, and twice I was disappointed.  Jane is a good actor and looks the part of The Punisher, so I have no problems there.  Travolta, on the other hand, was miscast as the main bad guy.  As I watched Travolta act mean and crazy and evil, I kept thinking he was going to revert to his Vinnie Barbarino role and say “Oh ma gad, the Punisher…where?”  He was unconvincing as the main villain; and every time a character is unconvincing, the audience gets taken out of the movie.

“The Punisher” also has plot holes that can’t easily be shrugged off.  Jane reveals to the world that he is still alive, which puts him at a serious disadvantage because now his enemies know who is coming after them.  Of course, Travolta finds out where Jane lives; but instead of sending out a large, assault force, one hitman is sent at a time…and one of them gives Jane a heads up that he was gunning for him!  The second hitman didn’t even bring weapons.  He was just a big brute who relied on his strength to kill The Punisher — you know, the guy with all the guns and explosives and military training to kill a small army by himself.  Adding to all this stupidity is the comedic overtones of the fight between the large hitman and Jane.  (sigh)  All these glaring mistakes I see in so many movies makes me believe that people involved in movies are mostly high on something.  Moving on.

Third place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Jane’s bloodline is wiped out by Travolta’s goons.  In the comic books, it was The Punisher’s wife and kids who were killed; but in this movie, Jane was at a family reunion at the time the hit was made, so everyone there went along for the ride.

Second place goes to the dinner scene with Jane and his neighbors in a dilapidated, apartment building.  One neighbor (Rebecca Romijn) says that she’s thankful for being sober, having a job, and just being alive.  Wow, just thankful to be alive.  Next time you flip out because the airline is charging you more money to bring in your carry-on luggage, just think of all the people out there who are struggling to stay above ground.

First place among my memorable, movie moments of “The Punisher” (2004) is the punishment that Travolta receives at the end of the movie.  It was so over the top that I laughed!  Travolta’s funny way of moaning in pain combined with the silly music turned this scene into a Monty Python sketch.

Do I recommend this movie to fans of The Punisher comic books?  Mmmmm…I guess.  But only because I know that die-hard fans of comic book characters will always want to check out the movie adaptations just to see for themselves how good or bad it is.  To all the fans of The Punisher, I suggest you watch Netflix’s “Daredevil” Season 2 for a great portrayal of the man who wears the white skull on his chest.

— M