Grossly Inaccurate Review: The Punisher

Grossly Inaccurate Review: The Punisher
The Punisher

Lions Gate

Tom Jane

John Travolta

Review by Dr. Albert Oxford, PhD
Former Chairman of the London Film Institute

Comic books are masturbation. And, just as the inflamed adolescent mind will concoct elaborate fantasies involving the capture of his school's cheerleading squad by a panty-eating spankmonster and their subsequent rescue at the hands of you, the valiant Sir Sexxon Cocklance, by day a pimply tuba player, by night a knightly Knight with an afro'd Bishop no codpiece can contain, so comics are meticulously geared to feed these bitter hormone-fried minds.

Thus, in each of the top-selling comics (and the films they spawn) a repressed, misunderstood misfit - who has never harmed a soul - is wronged terribly by the world. He is then endowed with magical powers that allow him to soar high above the city, at long last free to prance through the air in brightly-colored tights, daring all to just try to make sport of him.

As sad as that may be, and it is very, very sad, the depth of sadness in the Comic Book Film medium reaches almost David Lee Rothian levels with The Punisher, a truly modern American superhero in that he has no special power other than unthinking murderous rage and an epileptic trigger finger. This 21st Century American Idol could seamlessly be replaced by a gun-toting robot or a tormented baboon and some duct tape.

Frank Castle, you see, has seen his family - yes, his whole family - brutally murdered by Howard Saint (John Travolta), a wealthy industrialist who secretly runs a Scientologist terrorist camp.

One must take a moment to step back and appreciate the spectacularly elaborate setup that makes this orgiastic murder fantasy possible: Castle has extensive training as an assassin, he has endless elaborate weapons, he has no human connections to protect, he has an enemy impossible to sympathize with, he has absolute justification. It's a bloodthirsty self-gratification fantasy just slightly more realistic than the Panty Monster.

And it's all so Castle can be free to live the Sociopath's American Dream: a moral blank check for endless flesh-shredding vengeance. For Castle there is no danger of bodily harm or arrest or failure; he is a machine that harvests death in the way that a wheat thresher would thresh death if it threshed death instead of wheat.

I would, as you Americans are fond of doing, write off all this murderous spectacle as harmless fun. Only I know better. I know that a people can be measured by who they hold as idols. Modern psychologists, in fact, often will perform a complete analysis of a teen using nothing but a simple review of his comic book collection. He is, in a sense, the superhero he roots for. To wit:

Superman - The teen likely has a "Lois Lane," that is, a female who he stalks and whose kitchen he sneaks into at night to rub her family's silverware on his groin. He also most likely has a "Fortress of Solitude," which is typically a cardboard box worn over the head.

Spider-Man - Has "sticky palms" in the sense that he likes to steal; under pressure the real superhero makes "wisecracks" whereas this teen smokes "pipes of crack."

X-Men - The teen empathizes with the "mutants" and most likely has some sort of physical deformity; also likely to start fires.

Thus, when historians from the year 3,000 look back on America and contemplate ways to keep such a country from happening again, surely they'll study the monsters that you yanks have built your myths around. Gone are your old stories of liberators and underdogs and noble lost causes. Today Americans crave unstoppable killing machines with superior training and firepower and unquestioned moral justification, mowing down rooms of hopelessly overmatched foes with absolute impunity, the result of the conflict never for a moment in doubt.

In a sense The Punisher is The Matrix: Recycled, a black-clad Ãœbermensch unbound by the laws of man or gravity or gun magazine capacities. Today's superhero doesn't use his powers to save a helpless woman from a burning building. He's the one who burns the building, women and men alike left inside (that was a hotel Neo bombed from the elevator). When James Bond makes his next witty remark over the dead body of a foe ("not a good time to lose one's head"), ask yourself: who in the devil is he talking to?

But I digress. I never like to get into the morality of a film in its review and I shan't do it here. Nor do I need to; the incompetence with which the Punisher production is handled is on such a scale that, if you enjoy the film, the statement it makes about your character would crush you into dispondency if only you were capable of understanding anything more complex than the pretty flame The Punisher's gun barrel makes.

The lead is played by total unknown Tom Jane, who was the studio's 237th choice after Matthew Broderick and before Steven Segal. Out of fear that audiences would not recognize the hero when he walks on screen, they have forced Jane to wear a gigantic Punisher logo on his chest (an oversized skull of a beast that apparently died of starvation as its elongated teeth would not allow for a diet of anything but plankton).

The woman with the honor of playing Castle's post-murder sex reward is bikini model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, taking a step up from her X-Men role as a silent naked woman with patches of blue latex glued to her genitals.

I will stop here because I do not enjoy negative criticism and detest those who revel in it. Let me just point out that the studio hired Jonathan Hensleigh to direct, a man who has never directed before (he was the screenwriter on Armageddon and thus was responsible for none of the spectacular special effects in that brain-melting explodathon, but all of the dialogue).

Let me further add, not as a criticism but just as objective information, the fact that the cast includes both a professional wrestler (Kevin Nash) and a country music singer (Mark Collie). It is also wholly without bias that I quote the production notes which state Mr. Collie's character is, "a musical assassin from Memphis."

I will let the audiences decide for themselves just how ignominious a place this film should hold in the anal of film history. As for me, I give The Punisher one star.


Posted by
4.10.04 - 2:55 PM
Subject: ...

Message: the thing about comic fans stealing is b.s. i read spidey from the time i wuz little and i only stole on four occasions and i did my time. i dont consider the cars i stole to be stolen becuz they have air in the tires and air belongz 2 everybody


Posted by mohair
4.10.04 - 3:12 PM
Subject: ??????????

Message: Is this Oxford guy for real?


Posted by JOJO
4.10.04 - 3:43 PM
Subject: yes

Message: yes i looked him up he was chairman of the london film group and he has a fwe books on movies on but under a slightly different name hes a film expert. they made one of his books about movies into a movie. dr. oxford was played by sean connery


Posted by eroticgoddess
4.10.04 - 4:02 PM
Subject: Moms who think

Message: I have a 12 year-old who looooooves Spider-Man and I have seen NO signs of theft or any other deviant behavior as a result. He's a thoughtful young boy who works hard and saves his $$$. He's more hard-working and frugal than most adults. I sent him to the store with five dollars the other day and he came back with two bags of groceries and a new stereo.


/\ /\
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Posted by mohair
4.10.04 - 4:22 PM
Subject: ...


>they made one of his books about movies into a movie.

maybe somebody will write a book about that lol


Posted by cremecorn
4.10.04 - 4:38 PM
Subject: heh

Message: itz so funy to see grownups get so workd up by comicz and video gamez........ supermans fortress of solitude lol??? i read supermn from the time i wuz 6 and i sometimz like to put a canvas bag ovr my head it help me sleep


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