A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has intense and graphic violence with many characters killed, including the Punisher's parents, wife, and child. Characters are tortured and beaten. A character attempts suicide. Characters drink (and Castle abuses alcohol). They also smoke and use bad language.
What's the story?
Based on the comic book, THE PUNISHER centers on heroic undercover agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane). The target in his last big case unexpectedly brings a friend along to the takedown, and when things go wrong, the friend is killed. It turns out he was the son of big-time bad guy Howard Saint (John Travolta), whose wife orders the slaughter of Castle's whole family, conveniently all vacationing together on an island. Castle himself is attacked and badly wounded, but the explosion that is supposed to finish him off blows him to safety. But a quick montage later he is a lean, mean revenge machine with a newly low and growly voice. He moves into a crummy apartment building and devotes all his time to drinking and orchestrating the destruction of everything Saint cares about.
Is it any good?
Translating tone and pacing from the pages of a comic book to the screen is tricky, and this second attempt to turn the story of comic hero The Punisher into a movie Punisher fails. The revenge is too elaborate to be viscerally satisfying, slowing the story down. And it is not intricate enough to be intellectually satisfying, too dependent on a highly improbable chain of events all coming together at just the right moment for everything to work.
Jane gives his character notes of desolation and hunger for justice, and he has what it takes to hold the screen. But Travolta's villain is never more than a posturing despot. John Pinette, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and Ben Foster are appealing but superfluous as neighbors who befriend Castle. The fight scenes are well-staged but so brutal that they throw the thin plot out of balance. The pacing is poor. It takes much too long to get to the massacre of Castle's family, then the slaughter itself is dragged out unnecessarily and then it is reprised even more unnecessarily.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the risks that undercover law enforcers take and what they can do to protect their families. How can good memories save your life? Families could also talk about the line between justice and vengeance. What is the answer to TK's question about what makes Castle different from Saint? What does it mean to say "if you want peace, prepare for war?"
- In theaters: April 15, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: September 6, 2004
- Cast: Ben Foster, John Travolta, Thomas Jane
- Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
- Studio: Artisan Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive brutal violence, language and brief nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.