The Punisher

Comic anti-hero Frank Castle on the big screen

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OPENS SEPTEMBER 24, CERT 18, 124 MINS

Marvel’s resident vigilante originally turned up as a supporting character in The Amazing Spider-Man and limped along as a bit character for 30 years. That is, until writer/artist duo Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon revamped him, adding a darker edge and filling his adventures with ultra-violence and black humour. First-time director Jonathan Hensleigh uses Ennis and Dillon’s opening story arc, “Welcome Back, Frank”, as a jumping-off point for this screen rendering of the revenge-obsessed Castle.

Bulked-up indie actor Thomas Jane nails Big Frank’s cold-eyed stare and growling voice, Hensleigh whips up an enjoyably dopey revenge fantasia in which Castle doles out bloody retribution to the man who slaughtered his family, corporate gang boss Howard Saint (John Travolta, chubbier than ever). Hensleigh struggles with the humour, which lurches between ill-judged and outright embarrassing, but his gloriously violent action sequences have a refreshingly downbeat ’70s exploitation edge. Nasty, brain-dead fun.

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