The story opens with a police sting operation as an undercover Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) fakes his own death and exposes an illegal weapons deal, resulting in the death of Bobby Saint, son of Howard Saint, a dangerous mob boss (played by John Travolta). It’s actually surprising how not over-the-top John Travolta plays his character. I’ll admit that when I first saw this I assumed he’d chew through the scenery like he was teething, but to my surprise, he's a bit low key. He plays Howard Saint as both paranoid and insecure with a slight touch of eloquence. After his son dies, he rapidly begins his own investigation and manages to find out who the undercover cop was. Meanwhile, retired Frank Castle and his family are having a family reunion in
Despite my praise of the film, I’m not trying to say that there are no flaws here. Certain aspects of the film detract from the experience a little bit. The other tenants in the building (played by Rebeecca Romijn, John Pinette and Ben Foster) where the Punisher lives are mainly there for comic relief. At times this works alright, but at others it feels out of place. There are other scenes that contain more of a comic-book feel such as the cars exploding into a flaming Punisher symbol, the very presence of "The Russian", and the fact that Frank Castle was rescued from death at the hands of the mobsters thanks to the help of what's basically explained to be a witch doctor. But the majority of my complaints boil down to mere nitpicking. The Punisher is a strong and entertaining revenge story balancing comic book elements with a very dark and serious tone. This is not a story of the rise of a hero, but the bitter and bloody fall.