The Punisher (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 4/16/04
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Cast: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Roy Scheider

Good stuff! This film successfully washes away the bad memories of the 1990 version starring Dolph Lundgren. However, it would have been quite a feat to actually make a worse movie. FBI heavy hitter Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) retires after that fateful one last job that accidentally leaves the son of a psychotic crime lord dead. After squeezing enough connections, Howard Saint (John Travolta) finally tracks down Castle and exacts his revenge by slaughtering his entire extended family. Frank miraculously survives, and starts to walk the long and bloody path to judgment and punishment. He ultimately achieves his goal by utterly destroying his adversary, and even manages to make some friends along the way (including delicious Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). A couple of kooky assassins and a dash of self indulgence betray the film's comic book roots, but for the most part it's played totally straight. First and foremost, Thomas Jane makes an excellent Frank Castle. His physique and presence are right on the money, and his eyes are cold, focused, and soulful. He plays the tormented avenger to perfection and still manages to sneak in some subtle humor and heartfelt emotion. John Travolta plays the over-the-top psychotic villain (what a surprise), and continues to stun audiences with his incredibly bad hair. The credits are rather amusing in that he had more assistants on the film than anyone, and he even had his own personal craft service. Hmmm... Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is lovely, but her role is ultimately peripheral. The action scenes are nicely staged and occasionally quite stunning. Overall, a good mix of action and angst that satisfies the comic book junkie in me.