I know, I know. Two posts in one day, and they're both about movies that didn't get much critical acclaim or box office. But I've just watched this (I got it free with another purchase), and I've got to talk about it. This is perhaps the most bizarre movie I've ever seen.
We all know the story right? Frank Castle has his family killed by some underworld figures (I haven't read the comic, but I guess the origin is similar) and he goes slightly off the wall. In the movie, his family (and when I say his family, it seems EVERYONE in his family - aunts, uncles, 3rd cousins, you name it) are killed in retribution for his part in the accidental murder of John Travolta's son. So far, so Greek Tragedy all around.
So, the tone of the piece. I'm guessing serious. Heavy. Broody. That kind of genre. What I wasn't expecting was the broad knockabout comedy that occasionally punctured the movie, or the sublimely bizarre characters he has to face up to. For a start, there's a character that seems to have been lifted wholesale out of "El Mariachi". He sings Frank a song which he has written especially for him. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not buying the whole "writing a song for your funeral" rubbish. That's just plain odd. It just doesn't happen. It's been years since any Mexicans wrote a song for me.
Similarly, there is a scene involving The Russian, who's a walking stereotype of every single Russian sailor theme night I've ever been to (it was the one time, I was very drunk, and Vladimir was a true gentlemen). He is right out of a Cold War Bond movie, and is completely out of place. The whole fight, which is quite brutal, is played as knockabout comedy, with opera going on in the background.
Just when you think you've got the tone down, it shifts. There's a rather unpleasant scene involving Paxton who tortures one of the comedy sidekicks. This scene lingers on as if the director kinda enjoys filming a bit of broad sado-masochism. The whole movie is dichotic. I suppose the closest analogy would be if Batman Begins had scenes from the 1960s Burt Ward Batman and Mel Gibson's Payback spliced into it.
In many other ways, it is similar to the overblown action movies of the eighties. Bullets are fired and rarely hit anything (some scenes are reminiscent of the A-Team when people simply fail to die) and there are explosions a-plenty. But it's just all wrong. It's not helped by Travolta chewing the scenery like a pup with an old slipper. His performance is so over-the-top he'd put Robin Williams in the shade. And that's Mork Williams, not One Hour Photo Williams.
How to do a Punisher movie right:
Don't set it in Sunny Tampa, Florida. Set it in rainy, dark New York. That way, it'll look better when he blows the bad guys away.
Keep Thomas Jane. He worked with what little he had to produce something interesting.
Don't do knockabout comedy, witty banter, or chatty sidekicks. It doesn't work with the character.
Hire someone who knows how to write a script, and someone who can direct.
4 steps. You wouldn't think it was that hard. Obviously, it was.