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Marvel’s dark anti-hero to return to the silver screen

The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, has been my favorite comic book character since childhood, so naturally I was excited this week when news broke of a third silver screen adaptation of Marvel Comic’s vigilante anti-hero.

The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, has been my favorite comic book character since childhood, so naturally I was excited this week when news broke of a third silver screen adaptation of Marvel Comic’s vigilante anti-hero.

It does strike me as odd though, practically remaking a film only 3 years after the last adaptation. Even odder? They are doing the same thing with another Marvel hero, The Hulk, to be played in human form by Ed Norton. It worked well for Batman, whose film franchise was in death throes before Christopher Nolan started afresh with Batman Begins.

For those of you unfamiliar with the origins of The Punisher: he was a Vietnam vet whose wife and children were gunned down in the crossfire of a mob hit in Central Park. When the police and courts failed to bring the killers to justice, Frank Castle tracked down the killers and exacted his own brutal revenge, and found his calling in life: killing criminals.

No superpowers, and no qualms about executing, torturing, and kidnapping, separate The Punisher from Spiderman and Daredevil. Comic writer Garth Ennis has brilliantly deconstructed the character in recent years, penning gritty, graphically violent, and multilayered story arcs, and pushing dangerously close to portraying The Punisher as a psychotic, and fascist, serial killer. Which he kind of is, when you think about it. And it is obvious Ennis has thought in depth about it.

The two previous screen adaptations include the abysmal 1989 film which starred Dolph Lundgren in the title role. 2004 saw a much-improved (The) Punisher film, this time starring Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. Jane’s square jaw, gravelly voice, and Charles Bronson-like stare, not to mention over thirty pounds of additional muscle he packed on for the role, made for a perfect Frank Castle. He’s also a talented enough actor to add some dimension to the role. Unfortunately, the script read like a PG-13 revenge flick, and combined with hard-violence, just made for an uneven and sadly average film.

Now The Punisher is coming to the screen for a third time, with Green Street Hooligans director and former world kickboxing champ Lexi Alexander behind the camera, and “Rome” star Ray Stevenson in the title role.

My opinion, as a long-time Punisher fan? I liked Jane in the role, and am somewhat disappointed that he’s not returning. I have always thought Richard Burgi would make an excellent Frank Castle (he should be recognizable to the few dozen of you who went to see Hostel 2 this summer). Stevenson has the right look for the part, and has already proved he can pull off a brutal-but-likeable character. And truthfully, the right man for the job is a woman director, especially a woman director coming from an indie background. Look what Mary Harron did with American Psycho.

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