The Punisher (2004 film)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2011)|
|Directed by||Jonathan Hensleigh|
|Produced by||Avi Arad
Gale Anne Hurd
|Written by||Jonathan Hensleigh
|Based on||The Punisher
by Gerry Conway
John Romita, Sr.
|Music by||Carlo Siliotto|
|Cinematography||Conrad W. Hall|
|Editing by||Steven Kemper
Valhalla Motion Pictures
|Distributed by||Artisan Entertainment/Lionsgate (Domestic)
Columbia Pictures (International)
|Running time||124 minutes|
|Box office||$54.6 million|
The Punisher is a 2004 American comic book vigilante film, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, starring Thomas Jane as the antihero Frank Castle / The Punisher and John Travolta as the villain Howard Saint, a money launderer who orders the death of Castle's entire family.
The story and plot were mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories; The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank along with scenes from other Punisher stories such as Marvel Preview Presents: The Punisher #2, Marvel Super Action Featuring: The Punisher #1, The Punisher War Zone, and The Punisher War Journal.
The Punisher was shot on location in Tampa, Florida, and surrounding environs in mid- to late 2003. It was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment in North America, although Artisan Entertainment, which produced 1989's The Punisher, financed and co-distributed the film with Lionsgate, while Columbia Pictures distributed the film in non-North American countries. Director Jonathan Hensleigh agreed to helm the film during its development stage despite a dispute with Marvel Studios.
The film was released on April 16, 2004, by Lions Gate Entertainment, grossing $13,834,527 in the United States over its opening weekend. A DVD release followed on September 7, 2004 - with $10.8 million in copies sold. The success of the DVD sales prompted Marvel Comics and Lionsgate to start development on a sequel titled The Punisher 2, which instead became a reboot titled Punisher: War Zone after Jane and Hensleigh left the project due to creative differences. This was the last film produced by Artisan Entertainment.
Bobby Saint- son of the business mogul and crime boss, Howard Saint- and Mickey Duka arrange to buy guns from a smuggler, Otto Krieg, at a seaport in Tampa, Florida, only to be caught in an FBI sting. A fire-fight ensues and Robert and Krieg are shot, and Mickey is arrested. Krieg is revealed to have survived, and is an undercover FBI agent and ex Delta Force operator Frank Castle (Thomas Jane). After retiring, Castle attends a family reunion at his father's oceanside home in Puerto Rico.
Howard Saint (John Travolta) is enraged by the death of his son, and with right-hand man Quentin Glass (Will Patton) uncovers that "Krieg" is Castle. He orders Glass to kill Castle, but his wife, Livia (Laura Harring), demands that Castle's entire family be killed as well to "settle the score". While Frank visits with his father (Roy Scheider), several heavily armed men- including Glass and Bobby's brother John Saint- start firing on everyone. Frank and his father try to fight back, but his father is killed. Castle's wife (Samantha Mathis) and son try to escape, but are run down and killed before Frank arrives. Castle is shot in the chest by John and blown off a pier in an explosion set by Glass. Castle is rescued and nursed back to health by a local fisherman, Candelario.
Castle travels to Tampa and moves into a rundown tenement, where he becomes the neighbor of three outcasts— Dave, Bumpo, and Joan. Castle acquires numerous weapons and builds a custom armored car, then abducts Mickey. Used as little more then an errand boy, Frank easily coerces Mickey into divulging their personal and financial information. He willingly agrees to become a mole within their household, given that he despises the Saints as much as Castle does. Castle begins sabotaging the Saint's money-laundering business- to the point that Howard is in conflict with his Cuban mob partners, the Toro Brothers. Castle starts tailing Livia and Glass, who he discovers is a closeted homosexual. Glass hires "a pro from Memphis" named Harry Heck to kill Castle. The guitar-playing assassin nearly succeeds, after a violent car chase, but is killed, with Castle taking Heck's car in place of his ruined one. Enraged, Saint sends an assassin called "the Russian", an unstoppable behemoth who brutally attacks Castle.
Moments later, Saint's men arrive, led by Glass and John. Dave, Joan hides Frank and Dave and Bumbo refuse to tell where he is, even as Glass tortures Dave. They leave a man behind to kill Castle upon his return, but Castle sneaks up on him with the blade from a paper cutter and kills him with it. Dave is taken to the hospital, and Castle prepares for the final battle against Saint, despite Joan's attempts to dissuade him. With Mickey's help, Castle manipulates Saint into believing that Glass and Livia are having an affair. Saint, unaware that Glass is gay and convinced of Livia's infidelity, personally kills both of them- neither knowing why. He goes to his nightclub and gathers his men, paying each $50,000, and offering $50,000 more to whoever finds and kill Castle.
Castle infiltrates the club, killing the guards and setting up trip-mines. He then uses a dumbwaiter to send a bomb to the lounge- where Saint and his men are- then attacks the survivors after the explosion. He finds John Saint trapped under debris and places a trip-wire activated grenade in his fully extended arm, then leaves. Castle confronts Saint in the car lot, and Saint tries to pull a gun, but is too slow and taken down by a single shot. Castle then walks up to Saint and dispassionately explains how he manipulated him, pausing at the sound of the bomb killing John. "I made you kill your best friend, I made you kill your wife, and now I've killed you." Saint is powerless as Castle ties him to a moving car, then sets off a bomb- setting the car and Saint on fire as he's dragged to his death. Several bombs go off, engulfing the lot in flames. The fires culminate into the shape of the Punisher's iconic skull.
Later that night, Castle returns to his apartment and prepares to commit suicide, but after a brief vision of his wife, decides to continue his vigilante mission to deliver "punishment". Before leaving, he leaves most of Saint's money for Bumpo, Joan and Dave. On the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, he vows, "Those who do evil to others—the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists—will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me... the Punisher."
- Thomas Jane as Frank Castle / The Punisher
- John Travolta as Howard Saint
- Roy Scheider as Frank Castle, Sr.
- Will Patton as Quentin Glass
- Rebecca Romijn as Joan
- Laura Harring as Livia Saint
- Ben Foster as Spacker Dave
- John Pinette as Bumpo
- Samantha Mathis as Maria Elizabeth Castle
- Marcus Johns as Will Castle
- Russell Andrews as Agent James "Jimmy" Weeks
- James Carpinello as Robert "Bobby" Saint and John Saint
- Eddie Jemison as Mickey Duka
- Eduardo Yáñez as Mike Toro
- Omar Avila as Joe Toro
- Kevin Nash as The Russian
- Mark Collie as Harry Heck
- Veryl Jones as Candelaria
- Tom Nowicki as Lincoln
- Hank Stone as Cutter
Director Jonathan Hensleigh and Avi Arad said in many interviews that Thomas Jane was the first and only actor to be asked to play the title role. Jane initially turned down the role twice, as he did not see himself as a superhero actor. Jane said, when asked the second time to play the Punisher, that he became interested when Arad sent Tim Bradstreet's artwork of the character. After learning more about the Punisher, he accepted. Jane went on to read as many Punisher comics he could find to understand the character, and became a fan of the Punisher in the process. Jane trained for six to seven months with the United States Navy SEALs and gained more than twenty pounds of muscle for the part.
|I had to ask myself intellectual questions like, "To what extent do crimes against a person become so unconscionable, so heinous, that even a person who does not believe in vigilantism can resort to vigilantism in a more just way?" That was the equation for me. I told Marvel that I didn't just want to do a revenge story, that I wanted to do the mother of all revenge stories. I wanted to ramp everything up. I can't really go further without doing spoilers here. The underlying events that give rise to Frank Castle's vigilantism are not from the comic. I invented a lot of that. I made it a lot worse.|
|—Jonathan Hensleigh on The Punisher|
Before filming began, Hensleigh was not given the budget he wanted or needed from the studio, Hensleigh knew that most action pictures get a budget of around $64 million. He was only given $33 million, with only $15.5 million going towards the shooting budget and post-production for the film, with only 52 days to shoot, which is half the time allocated for most action pictures. Most of Hensleigh's original script had to be edited and re-written many times due to budget issues. According to the DVD commentary, the first scene in the film would have been a battle set in Kuwait during the Gulf War, but they were unable to film this scene as a result of the budget cuts.
The Punisher was filmed on location in Tampa, Florida. The Florida location was first chosen at the insistence of screenwriter Michael France, who advised Marvel and Artisan that "it would be cheap to shoot [there] - that they'd get a lot more for their money than in New York or Chicago" as well as wanting to use "both sunny locations, and dark, industrial locations" in the screenplay. For inspiration, Hensleigh and cinematographer Conrad W. Hall looked at dozens of action films from the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Dirty Harry series, The Getaway, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde. In an interview, Hensleigh also stated the film pays homage to Mad Max and William Shakespeare's Othello, though while he was inspired by Othello, the characters were reversed for the film, making the Punisher the instigator of the jealousy which leads to Howard Saint murdering his best friend and wife.
The story and plot were mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories: Welcome Back, Frank and The Punisher: Year One. Speaking about which source materials he drew upon, Hensleigh stated:
"There were two, and one in particular. The first was Punisher: Year One. It was a four-issue set that came out in 1994-1995. It has this really cool cover art and I highly recommend it. I took just pieces of the plot. The plot line was way, way too involved and it would have been Gone with the Wind - a four-hour action movie. So there was that, and I was very heavily influenced by Garth Ennis', Welcome Back, Frank. That's where I took the tenement apartment, the characters of Spacker Dave, Joan the Mouse, Mr. Bumpo and the Russian. The Russian is appearing in probably the most elaborate and costly of our set pieces."
During shooting of the film, Lionsgate (then known as Lions Gate Films) purchased Artisan. In an interview with Jonathan Hensleigh, Hensleigh said that even though the film is distributed under the Lionsgate imprint, they had nothing to do with the film. Lionsgate never gave a green light for the film to be made. The film was still under Artisan Entertainment.
The character of Microchip was originally included in an earlier Michael France draft (along with the character Jigsaw), but was excised from later drafts because of director Jonathan Hensleigh's distaste for him. Instead the character of Mickey Duka (who was heavily based upon the character Mickey Fondozzi) serves as an ally of Frank Castle. Regarding the exclusion of Microchip, Hensleigh had this to say:
"There are a couple of years where I did not want to go; Microchip, the battle van, all that stuff where it got really high-tech; we're not going there at all. I deemed that too complicated, too lacking of the spirit of the sort of urban vigilante. The Punisher does not just go around blowing people away using such things that Batman or James Bond would have or would even be in envy of; he uses guile and cunning just as much as he does weaponry and physical combat."
Prior to The Punisher's release, a novelization of the film was written by D.A. Stern and released in March 2004. The Punisher opened in 2,649 theaters on April 16, 2004 and grossed $13,834,527 over its opening weekend, ranking at #2 at the box office. The film has a domestic gross of $33,810,189 and a foreign gross of $20,889,916, giving it a worldwide total of $54,700,105.
On its release, it was met with mainly negative reviews, and received a 29% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 167 reviews with an average rating of 4.5/10. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, stating, "The Punisher is so grim and cheerless, you wonder if even its hero gets any satisfaction from his accomplishments." Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter said, "By the end, the Punisher's greatest adversaries emerge as an unwelcome trio known as jokey, hokey, and hammy." A few reviewers have defended the film, stating that, compared to most comic book-based films, it is a well-done throwback to the old-school action films of the 1960s and 1970s. Critic A.O. Scott stated, "But lightness is not among Hensleigh's gifts. Making his directorial debut after a successful run as a screenwriter and producer (on projects like Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jumanji, and The Rock) he has clearly conceived The Punisher as a throwback to the leathery, angry urban revenge movies of the 1970s." Drew McWeeny of Ain't It Cool News said of the style of the film that "The Punisher has more in common with the work of Don Seigel and John Frankenheimer than it does with the work of Michael Bay or Simon West. Which isn't to say that it's the equal of those classics, but at least Hensleigh's got the right idea. ... The Punisher is pulp, served up gritty and ugly and brutal. It's not jam-packed full of one-liners. What humor there is in the film is dark."
Home media 
The Punisher DVD was released on September 7, 2004 and sold nearly 1.8 million copies in its first five days and netted $10.8 million in rentals its first week out, making it number one in DVD sales. Sales continued at a steady pace, ultimately topping 4 million units. During October, The Punisher DVD rentals were still in the top ten and various cable and satellite providers had started to offer The Punisher as a pay-per-view feature. Between worldwide film box office and DVD sales, it grossed $115 million ($55 million worldwide + $60 million from DVD sales).
An extended cut DVD was released on November 21, 2006 with 17 minutes of additional footage, most of which revolves around the character Jimmy Weeks (Russell Andrews), and Castle realizing that it was his friend who had sold him out to Howard Saint. In retaliation, Castle forces Weeks to commit suicide. Features also include a black-and-white stop-motion animated scene, set in Kuwait, based on and partially done by artist Tim Bradstreet, and a Punisher comic-book gallery. An extended version of "In Time" by Mark Collie also appears in the closing credits of the extended-cut DVD. This version does not include the special features on the standard DVD release.
|Original Score from the Motion Picture The Punisher|
|Soundtrack album by Carlo Siliotto|
|Released||June 15, 2004|
|Marvel Comics film series soundtrack chronology|
|Film Score Monthly|||
The score to The Punisher was composed and conducted by Italian composer Carlo Siliotto. Director Jonathan Hensleigh wanted the music to be very emotional, and was aware of Siliotto's previous work which led to him being chosen. When scoring the film Siliotto saw Frank Castle as a tragic figure stating, "This man, Frank Castle, is somebody who has a slaughtered family. He comes through that slaughter, and becomes a punisher. But he's a sad man - he drinks, and has bad memories always coming to him. There's a lot in the film, and at times it is like a modern version of a classic tragedy - like Othello."
All songs written and composed by Carlo Siliotto.
|5.||"I Can't Believe I'm Home"||1:23|
|6.||"His Whole Family"||1:27|
|8.||"Death and Resurrection of Frank Castle"||1:47|
|9.||"God's Gonna Sit This One Out"||3:57|
|10.||"Ice Lolly and Meat"||1:28|
|11.||"You're Gonna Help Me"||1:24|
|12.||"Entering the Fort"||1:58|
|13.||"About Your Family / Setting a Trap"||3:11|
|14.||"A Bomb for John Saint"||1:08|
|15.||"Good Memories Can Save Your Life"||1:13|
|18.||"Elevator and Headache"||1:07|
|19.||"A New Family / Joan's Suffering"||3:34|
|20.||"Quentin's Glass Home"||1:32|
|21.||"Killing a Best Friend"||1:43|
|22.||"You Don't Understand... End of a Dark Lady"||2:34|
|23.||"She Took the Train / Punishment"||1:47|
|25.||"Both of Them"||1:32|
|28.||"Call Me ‘The Punisher’"||2:23|
|29.||"Jealous One" (Performed by J.C. Loader)||3:52|
|30.||"La donna è mobile" (Performed by Peter Dvorský)||2:06|
Awards and nominations (2005)
- Prism Awards
- Wide Release Feature Film
- Taurus World Stunt Awards
- Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman (Donna Evans)
- Best Stunt Coordinator and/or 2nd Unit Director (Gary Hymes)
- Best Work with a Vehicle (Keii Johnston & Dane Farwell)
Sequel / reboot
Despite the modest reception the film received at the box office, Lions Gate Entertainment had greenlit a direct sequel titled The Punisher 2 to be made based on the film's strong DVD sales performance. Avi Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, stated that the second film would "become the fifth Marvel property to become a sequel." Jonathan Hensleigh said that he was interested in working with Thomas Jane again for The Punisher 2. Jane said that the villain for The Punisher 2 would be Jigsaw. The project, however, lingered in development for over three years. Jonathan Hensleigh completed a first draft of the script before pulling out around 2006. John Dahl was in talks to direct the film but pulled out due to script quality issues and the studio not wanting to spend a lot of money on the project. In a statement on May 15, 2007 and in two audio interviews Thomas Jane said that he pulled out of the project due to creative differences and the budget of the film being cut, in addition to director Walter Hill being turned down as director by Lionsgate. After reading the new script by Kurt Sutter, Jane stated:
"What I won't do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don't believe in. I've always loved the Marvel guys, and wish them well. Meanwhile, I'll continue to search for a film that one day might stand with all those films that the fans have asked me to watch."
In Summer 2007, Marvel Studios announced that Lexi Alexander would direct the film as a result of Dahl pulling out, and that actor Ray Stevenson would play the Punisher in the new film, thus replacing Thomas Jane. The Punisher 2 then became Punisher: War Zone, a reboot of The Punisher film series with no connection to the 2004 film. The reboot was released on December 5, 2008. This is the second time the film series has been rebooted, after the 2004 production rebooted 1989's The Punisher.
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