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Film: The Punisher (2004)

Those who do evil to others - the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists - you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me... The Punisher.

The second film adaptation of The Punisher, released in 2004.

FBI agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) retires just after an undercover assignment that lead into the death of Bobby Saint, the son of famous Tampa crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta). Holding Castle responsible for the death of his son, Saint orders Frank's entire family to be butchered during a family reunion; the kill squad leaves Frank for dead after slaughtering his family and killing his wife and son right before his eyes. Burnt out and taunted by memories of his murdered family, Frank returns to Florida and sets out to avenge his family. Becoming a one-man judge, jury and executioner, Frank decides to punish Howard Saint and his associates for their crimes — and he isn't willing to give up until they're all dead.

This film has the examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Joan the Mouse in the comics is a small, quiet, frumpy woman. In the movie she's played by Rebecca Romijn—freaking Mystique herself.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film is largely composed of many characters or scenes from Garth Ennis' "Welcome Back, Frank" arc. Frank's next-door neighbors in particular, The Russian, and Harry Heck (who even gets an upgrade over his original appearance where he was merely one of many hitmen that was hired to kill Frank that Frank assassinates in a single panel).
  • Altum Videtur: Si vis pacem, para bellum note 
  • Ancestral Weapon: Frank's pistols come from his father.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Quentin Glass, a secret that Frank used for his advantage.
  • Badass Boast: The page quote, which double as the last lines of the film.
  • Badass Longcoat: Castle himself, as the poster above shows.
  • Batman Gambit: Castle's plot relies on Howard not trusting his own closest associates and loved ones.
  • Big Applesauce: Averted. Frank is nearly always depicted as a New Yorker, but this flick moves his story to Tampa. The DVD commentary reveals that the main reason to move to Tampa was Florida's tax incentives for film productions. The budget was too tight to film anywhere else. Hand Waved by an exchange between Frank and his son, suggesting that his line of work has required the family to move several times.
  • Car Fu: Harry Heck started his assault by driving his Cool Car into Frank's own. A case of TRAIN Fu happens when Saint kills his wife by dropping her in front of train tracks.
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: Big Bad Howard Saint has the body of his associate Quentin wrapped in a carpet when he confronts his wife Livia over her supposed infidelity.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: With the exception of the ballistic knife, nearly every weapon Castle uses is shown beforehand either in a montage or as part of a scene.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Subverted when the MC hangs his victim upside down, threatens to torture him with a torch, and runs a Popsicle up and down his back.
  • Comicbook Adaptation: Like with the previous adaptation, it featured material that was left out from the theatrical cut. See Re Cut down below for more.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Howard Saint is violently vindictive towards anyone he suspects of going after his wife. Castle exploits this as part of his plot.
  • Darker and Edgier: The film was basically this for the entire comic-book movie slate up to that point save for Blade and its sequels.
  • Diagnosis From Dr. Badass: Frank takes a blowtorch to Mickey Duka's back and describes what he's doing in great detail, including telling him that it's not painful yet because the nerve endings are seared and when the flame's that hot, it actually feels cold. This turns out to be a subversion, as the Punisher is really just swiping a popsicle across the man's back to create the described symptoms, while simultaneously using the blowtorch on a steak to create the smell of charred flesh.
    Castle: Isn't science fun, Mickey?
  • Driven to Suicide: Jimmy Weeks in Extended Cut.
  • Flaming Emblem: At the end of the film, Punisher sets off a series of car bombs that form his iconic skull symbol.
  • Guile Hero: Frank Castle. How so? As part of his Batman Gambit, Frank's plan for revenge was that after returning to the States, make it appear to Howard Saint that his wife and his right-hand man are having an affair. After Saint kills both of them for the perceived betrayal, Frank makes his final assault on Saint's posh nightclub; Castle kills Saint's other son, tells Howard he killed his wife and best friend for nothing (he framed Saint's wife as cheating with his best friend, not knowing his friend was gay), then sends him to a fiery death.
  • Guns Akimbo: Punisher uses a pair of pistols once to dispatch two Saint goons. Rest of the time, he's using one pistol
  • The Juggernaut: The Russian, a massive behemoth of a man who shrugs off punches, kicks, blunt force trauma, stab wounds, and walls as if they were minor nuisances. The first thing that seems to faze him is getting several quarts of boiling water thrown in his face.
  • Karma Houdini: Jimmy Weeks, in the theatrical version. It leaves out a sub-plot where Howard Saint had blackmailed Weeks over the latter's money issues, making it seem like Weeks was innocent and Glass was able to figure out how to find Castle on his own, appearing with a file in hand. In the Extended Cut, it restores the sub-plot and Frank would figure it out and went to Weeks' apartment where he subtly killed him through Driven to Suicide.
  • Leitmotif: Saint's wife has one. The Punisher himself gets a very memorable one.
  • Magical Negro: There is a brief reference to a 'Witch Doctor' living off on an island near the Puerto Rico resort. He later saves Castle after he gotten a round straight to the chest, near the heart, and left to die after a massive explosion on the pier he was on. After Frank's recovery, he then proceeds to never show up again.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Mickey turns into The Mole for Frank, who correctly guesses that Mickey doesn't want to spend the rest of his life as Howard Saint's lackey. He plays a crucial part in getting the pieces together to make Frank's Batman Gambit against Howard Saint work.
    Mickey: I hate the Saints. All of them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Livia Saint, played by former Miss USA Laura Harring.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: The colossal blonde hitman known simply as "The Russian" (who is almost impervious to pain).
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: "You are one dumb son of a bitch. Bringing a knife to a gunfight." Little did Harry Heck know, it was a spring-loaded ballistic knife.
  • Re Cut: An extended cut of the film was released on DVD in 2006; it featured seventeen minutes of additional footage that fills in some of the plot holes (such as one that revolves around Jimmy Weeks, Frank's best friend, and Frank realizing that it was Weeks that sold him out to Howard Saint), features an animated introduction that follows Frank's time in Kuwait (based on the work of artist Tim Bradstreet), and generally improves on the film as compared to its theatrical cut. (This version of the film often airs on the FX network as well.)
  • Revenge by Proxy: Howard was content to simply have Frank killed in return for the death of his son, but it was his wife who insisted that Frank's entire family had to die, too.
  • Rich Bitch: Livia Saint. She was the one who expressed desire to see Frank's family dead in retaliation for him killing her son in the first place.
  • Shout-Out: Harry Heck is a tribute to Johnny Cash's character in Five Minutes to Live (a.k.a. Door to Door Maniac).
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Frank's Batman Gambit against the Saints is very similar to Iago's plan in Othello. See Guile Hero above for how.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Castle's fight with The Russian is drowned out by Verdi's "La donna mobile".
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Harry Heck sits down in a diner, whips out a guitar, and proceeds to sing a song to Frank that basically sums up Frank's character in a nutshell, then leaves. This serves no purpose except maybe to try and throw Frank off his game.
  • Suspicious Spending: Inverted in the Extended Cut. Frank doesn't suspect anything about Weeks until he notices that his former partner no longer owns many of his luxury items, including his Rolex and his beloved Porsche. He sold them off to cover his immense gambling debt, which is what Saint used to blackmail him into betraying Frank.
  • That Man Is Dead
    The Punisher: Those who do evil to others-the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists-you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me...the Punisher.
  • Think Happy Thoughts: At the end of the film, Castle has killed all the criminals responsible for his family's deaths, and thinks he has nothing further to live for. He puts a gun to his own head, but a memory of his wife prevents him from pulling the trigger.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the film, Frank Castle accepted his fate as a wanted vigilante by forsaking his name and calling himself The Punisher.
  • Torture for Fun and Information: The Punisher strings a man up by his ankles and explains that a blowtorch will kill nerves so quickly that the victim doesn't feel pain so much as a sense of numbness. He then lights his blowtorch behind the victim so he can't see, directs it at a raw piece of meat, and drags a Popsicle along the man's back. The victim almost instantly gives up everything he knows, totally convinced he can smell his flesh burning even as it's numbed by the intense heat. In this case, the Punisher used intense mental anguish rather than physical agony, but the pain was just as real and probably more severe. This is directly taken from the comic book.
  • To the Pain: Frank Castle interrogates low-level mob gofer Mickey Duka by making a show of turning on an oxy-acetylene torch and going behind the mook to burn his back, explaining to him that "You won't feel the pain at first, you'll just feel... Cold." He pretends to start burning off his skin as he asks questions, all the while he's just pointing the torch at a raw steak and touching his victim's skin with a popsicle to simulate being burned. Mickey talks.
  • Tranquil Fury: While Frank's entire revenge is one big example, special mention goes to the scene where Quentin Glass and his gang torture Frank's neighbor David for info. David says nothing to rat out Frank and has all his piercings removed — with pliers. In return, the henchman left guarding the complex gets brutally cleaved in the head with a paper cutter by Frank, who moments before was forced to watch the poor guy through the entire torture, even blaming himself for the whole ordeal.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Some deleted scenes show how Howard Saint found Frank's hideout. He blackmailed Frank's FBI buddy into telling him, which he did because of his gambling addiction.
  • True Companions: Frank doesn't believe he's friends with his neighbors. That changes when he gets to know them after he helped with Joan's boyfriend problem and left them some of the stolen mob money he took early in the film. This is cemented for him after the bad guys round up his neighbors and apply some Cold-Blooded Torture to one of them to find out where Castle is. The guy doesn't talk. Later, Castle demands to know why. The reply? Because he's their friend.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Saint suffers one once Frank is alive and well, and had begun targeting his criminal empire. It comes to a head when Saint kills his best friend and cruelly kills his wife, after being led to believe they've been cheating on him.
  • Villainous Virtues: Howard Saint loves his family very much, and grieves greatly when his son Bobby is killed early on. Unfortunately, he is also a cruel and vindictive gangster.

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