An undercover FBI agent's cover is blown and his family murdered, prompting him to become a vigilante and kill the mobsters responsible.
The Punisher (2004)
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh and Michael France
Starring Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton,
Laura Harring, Rebecca Romijn, Ben Foster, John Pinette,
Kevin Nash, Roy Scheider, James Carpinello, Mark Collie
Reboot of 1989's The Punisher
Based on characters from Marvel Comics
Amazingly, the Punisher is one Marvel pop culture icon who can't seem to stick the landing for either fans or critics. Sure, the Netflix/Disney Plus series is hailed by fans as the definitive Frank Castle thanks to Jon Bernthal but before that, The Punisher had three failed franchise starter films in 1989, 2004, and 2008. I revisited the 2004 film for my podcast, and it's not nearly as terrible as I'd been told it was. Is it a great movie? Absolutely not. But it's a decent watch that is saved by the great action sequences and commitment to an R-rating.
After a successful arms deal bust, undercover FBI agent Frank Castle (Jane) is looking forward to a long retirement. But mob boss Howard Saint (Travolta) discovers Frank's involvement in his son's death, and sends his goons to murder Frank and his entire family. Frank is the sole survivor, and after he recovers, he reinvents himself as a vigilante called the Punisher. Frank unravels Howard's organization and kills everyone close to him, culminating in an assault on Howard's nightclub. The scene with Harry Heck (Collie) in the diner and the fight with the Russian (Nash) is enough reason to see this movie. But if we're talking story and dialogue, it could be better.
Personally, I think Jon Bernthal is the best Punisher. Ray Stevenson is a close second. Thomas Jane has the look of Frank, but his interpretation of the character is too stiff and hard to relate to. I adore Travolta's super hammy performance as Howard Saint, but I'm on an island with that one. Still, it could be worse.