The Punisher (2004) is the closest thing to a good Punisher movie. Which isn’t saying much. The Punisher was created in 1974 by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and John Romita Sr. First appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 as a Spider-Man villain. Stan Lee was unaffiliated, but he did suggest the name. Fortunately readers saw something more and the Punisher grew into a more complex anti-hero. Standing out as one of the only Marvel characters willing to kill his enemies. His mature war on crime is the main reason for my limited exposure growing up. I only enjoyed his less violent depiction on Spider-Man: The Animated Series and ignored his movie’s entirely. But like the equally R rated Blade trilogy, I couldn’t avoid them forever.
The Punisher (2004) was released at the peak of Marvel’s adaptation frenzy. Since Marvel foolishly sold their rights to Lionsgate, the film is more independent with a very low budget. Practical effects and stunt work are in place of any special effects. Although I’m willing to call The Punisher (2004) underrated in an age that’s embraced R rated superheroes, clichés and a first time director hold it back. Along with excessive 2000’s hard rock edginess. Almost like Daredevil if it went a step further. Flaming logo and all. It’s violent, but not overly graphic. Thomas Jane was a good physically imposing choice to play Frank Castle/The Punisher. Although he does feel a bit nondescript.
Frank is turned into a retiring FBI agent, but he does retain his military past. A sting operation results in the death of a mob bosses son. Resulting in not just the death of Frank’s wife & kid, but his entire family reunion. Which is so needlessly excessive. When he recovers, Frank adopts a much better skull t-shirt and black trench coat ripped straight out of the comics. Until he trades it for an illogical sleeveless look. A lot of comic storylines are used almost word for word. Some are cool like Frank’s popsicle interrogation and intense fight with the hulking Russian. Others are lame like including one-off tenants instead of more well known allies like Microchip. The Punisher’s quest for vengeance leads to some badass gunplay, but John Travolta isn’t good enough as a generic mob boss. The Punisher (2004) makes the most of a standard revenge plot.