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View Full Version : Which Punisher Is The Better Punisher?



Shawn Francis
07-23-2010, 06:22 PM
So, now, we have three Punisher movies currently in existence: Dolph Lundgren's version, Thomas Jane's version, and some guy I have never heard of, Ray Stevenson's version. I just saw Ray's portrayal last night on Showtime, and while some of the stuff works, as a whole, it doesn't. This new version looks more like it was trying to emulate the comic book. Too hard, in my opinion. The color palate in some of the scenes was more reminiscent of Joel Schumacher's Batman And Robin. The bad guys in this version were also too comic bookish, as in a bit over-the-top. In some scenes WAY over-the-top.

And, why was Ray running everywhere? Not once did I ever see him drive a vehicle. When he has to get back to his "lair" he's seen hauling ass, on foot! I got the feeling all the locations he needed to go to were just a hop, skip and a jump from each other.

The carnage was appropriate for the material, but I didn't like the CGI blood spurts and too loud squish sounds when bullets and artillery separated flesh and bone. That, too, felt rather comic bookish.

It did have some good points, but these good points came only in a few scenes. The drama on the porch when he's visiting the mother and daughter of the cop he accidentally killed completely pulled me into the flick. Most of his angst scenes kept me glued, and the "real world" scenes were done well, but then it would shift into comic book mode and I would get pushed right out of the flick.

Favorite scene (possible spoiler): Frank Castle is in the house holding that little girl, and Colin Salmon, who played a character named, Paul Budiansky, has just thrown one of Jigsaw's right hand men into a chair, and is in the process of arresting him. The scene pulls to a wide shot so you can see Frank casually holding the little girl against him while he also casually points his shotgun at the henchman. Then out of the blue he blows the man's face clean off, and Budiansky hollers, "Dammit, Castle!!" as face and brain matter go everywhere.

There's another nifty scene at the end that had me wondering how the hell is he gonna save his friend and that little girl, let's just say the resolution was actually unexpected.

For the most part Thomas Jane's version is better and played more realistically, bad guys included. Too bad he and that director couldn't get back together and make a sequel. I heard rumors that Jane wanted more money than the studio was willing to pony up, and/or that he wanted to play Frank Castle more along the lines of Death Wish (i.e. realistic), which would have worked for me.

Even though Jane's version is the better one, it still wasn't good enough to keep me from turning in the DVD this summer when I needed cash. The only version of THE PUNISHER I can truly watch over and over is Dolph Lundgren's. Still got it, too. But that may be because I'm a Lundgren fan.

Truth be told, the best version of THE PUNISHER there is out there is Liam Neeson's TAKEN. Just slap a skull on that man's shirt, and you could have called that film THE PUNISHER, too.

Paul A J Lewis
07-23-2010, 06:50 PM
The Lundgren film is my favourite of the three. I've got an original Spanish one sheet poster for the film at home, and one of my favourite DVD possessions is the Austrian DVD release (in a metal tin with a holographic cover), which includes the workprint. Some fans gripe about the lack of a skull on his shirt, but that's a minor detail. It's a solid action film by a more than competent action editor-turned-director (Mark Goldblatt). I love the opening credits sequence, and the picture's got a great, brooding score.

The Jane picture is fine and has some very good sequences, but I'd also argue that it too slavishly emulates the Garth Ennis books. I also thought that some aspects of the characterisation of Frank/The Punisher in the Jane picture were questionable: Frank drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Wild Turkey, for example. The transposition of Frank's family's murder from a family day out in New York (as per the comics) to a lavish family reunion in Miami also gets my back up - in the Jane picture, Frank's monied background makes it hard to see him as the 'everyman' he was in the comics. (Roy Scheider's short role as Frank's father was worthwhile though.)

I liked the Lexi Alexander film, with Ray Stevenson making a very good Punisher: he's got the physique and the imposing build, and generally I like Stevenson as an actor. However, the film was a mess, apparently re-edited extensively by the producers, and there are a number of sequences that contain shots which are either poorly thought-out or have been optically reframed (perhaps to hide information that was relevant in the original cut of the film - we can only speculate). Some strong action setpieces are present, and I like the film more than Jonathan Hensleigh's Punisher film (with Thomas Jane), but it needed a firmer hand and a more experienced director, I feel.

There's a good thread on WAR ZONE here: http://dvdmaniacs.net/forums/showthread.php?t=39322
http://dvdmaniacs.net/forums/showthread.php?t=34335
And another on Goldblatt's PUNISHER here: http://dvdmaniacs.net/forums/showthread.php?t=29924

Shawn Francis
07-23-2010, 07:19 PM
I understand Lundgren's version has got scenes cut from it. There's one on the back of the R1 DVD. Would love to see a director's cut of that one, for sure. Yeah, Ray Stevenson makes a pretty good Punisher, it was just the movie his portrayal was wrapped up in that didn't work for me. The execution of it, let's say.

Chad Haden
07-26-2010, 05:46 PM
I liked Ray Stevenson's the most out of all three, it was just so over the top bloody and silly that I got a kick out of it

Gary Banks
07-26-2010, 06:30 PM
1) Punisher (89)
2) Punisher War Zone
3) Punisher (04)

Shawn Francis
07-26-2010, 06:34 PM
I liked Ray Stevenson's the most out of all three, it was just so over the top bloody and silly that I got a kick out of it

He actually punched a hole in one of Jigsaw's henchmen's face. Remember that scene? I thought, woe, woe, let's keep the carnage, at least, somewhere in the range of believability.

Darcy Parker
07-26-2010, 07:08 PM
He actually punched a hole in one of Jigsaw's henchmen's face. Remember that scene? I thought, woe, woe, let's keep the carnage, at least, somewhere in the range of believability.

That is why War Zone worked. It was as over-the-top as the comic is at its best. And Stevenson was a perfect choice to play Frank.

Dolph was good, but the rest of the film was crap.

Tom Jane was really not right for the part, and having an origin story for the T-shirt, WTF? I did get a laugh out of the ridiculous overkill of the family reunion massacre, but that movie was HORRIBLE. I bought a copy for $3 in a bargain bin, having already seen it once, and couldn't even watch it in its entirety, I just kept shaking my head.

Alex K.
08-07-2010, 08:32 AM
Ooh, good question. I wish I could fuse the best elements of all three films together and you'd have the perfect Punisher movie.

Punisher (89): Lundgreen is horrible in this film. Probably his worst performance. But to its credit the film has a great nasty late 80's/early 90's action vibe, and the gore (in the uncut version) is pretty good. I've got a workprint version somewhere that's very different from the finished film I need to see. Louis Gosset doesn't do a hell of a lot, and doesn't add much as a result. I also didn't like the homeless guy who spoke in rhyme. Overall this is the weakest of the three.

Punisher (2004): Thomas Jane IS the Punisher. Best overall portrayal of the character. The problem lies in that there's not much actual punishing going on, the violence is overtly tame up until the 3rd act, and I didn't like the pseudo-family. However I thought Travolta was all right, I didn't mind the wife like everyone else, I liked how the Punisher used manipulation to slowly take down the empire, the fight with the Russian was amazing, and it has a lot of great moments. Some bad moments like the family reunion massacre of course, but I think it's an all right action picture.

Punisher: War Zone (2008): Ray Stevenson looks the part but he's no Thomas Jane. It's obviously the most violent film in the series, but it's so over the top and the plot so nonsensical that it becomes funny. There's a scene where the Punisher literally punches in a guys face. So it forsakes any kind of seriousness in favor of being an OTT B movie. It's success depends on if you're into so bad it's good action pictures. If you enjoy action flicks like Terminator, the first two Rambo pictures, etc, you probably won't like it. But if you enjoy action flicks like The Last Hunter, Jungle Heat, and Hard Boiled you'll probably like it. It receives bonus points because the annoying sidekick Micro Chip is played by Wayne (Newman) Knight and finally dies.

So to me, the perfect Punisher film would have been made in the late 80's/early 90's, star Thomas Jane, be somewhat realistic, but have the violence of War Zone.

Jonathan Douglas
08-08-2010, 04:47 AM
There's still an older thread on this from last year, anyway I've only seen Dolph's but remember liking that one at the time so it's perhaps due for a new watch.