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The Punisher

With STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI setting the box office ablaze, it is apparent that the saga set in a galaxy far, far away is still one of the most sought after, beloved, and profitable entities in all of entertainment. When looking at the pop culture landscape as a whole, however, you’ll discover that STAR WARS doesn’t have the market cornered when it comes to popularity and craft.  In the years that have passed since the release of IRON MAN, the Marvel Universe has exploded.  Each film has become one of the most popular productions of that particular year, and the studio is now producing high quality programing for the small screen as well.  While network productions such as AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., AGENT CARTER and INHUMANS have been hit-or-miss, Netflix has become the home of the surprisingly intriguing incarnations of DAREDEVIL, LUKE CAGE, JESSICA JONES, and, most recently, THE PUNISHER. 

Audiences were first introduced to the Marvel Universe’s Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) in the second season of DAREDEVIL.  Played with a seething bravado by Jon Bernthal, Castle was a character who dangerously toed the line of hero and villain.  While Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) was a likable, tried-and-true, standard issue hero, Castle was a homicidal maniac with a puzzling set of ethics.  Yearning to destroy those who brutally murdered his family, he was willing to go to whatever gruesome lengths were necessary in order to exact his revenge.  

The Punisher was a character that worked well in DAREDEVIL, but would he be able carry an entire series?  The vigilante storyline had been done countless times before, and in order to succeed, THE PUNISHER needed to weave a tale that would resonate with audiences and stand alongside the other giants at Marvel.  With a spectacular 13 episode season currently streaming on Netflix, this brutal drama consistently finds a way to excite and entertain.

With the entire world under the impression that he had perished, a broken Frank Castle finds himself working as an anonymous stiff on a construction site.  Devoid of outward emotion and virtually mute, he spends his days furiously swinging a sledgehammer into any wall unlikely enough to stand in his way.  Haunted by the deaths of his wife and children, he longs to make sense of the horrific tragedy.  Unbeknownst to him, a former NSA agent known as Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) has tracked him down, and wants to team up to unveil a vast conspiracy that may also provide Frank with the answers he has been searching for.  Castle is reluctant to work with anybody, particularly with someone he doesn’t know or trust, but he will go to any lengths necessary to uncover the truth.

For those looking for a series that is based upon non-stop action, you may find yourself disappointed.  That is not to say, of course, that THE PUNISHER doesn’t have a number of thrilling sequences. Each episode features moments of unrelentingly intense combat, most of which are fueled by a bloody ferocity that certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.  Unsettlingly realistic and shockingly savage, it is the type of violence that is typically found in war movies and Tarantino flicks.   These moments are relentless in their depravity, but they are not the focal point of the production.  There will certainly be those who won’t be able to look past it, but ultimately, THE PUNISHER is about Castle’s story, not his rising body count. 

The constant conflict raging inside of Frank makes him a fascinating, and often times frustrating, character.  In the comic books, he is a beloved, quintessential anti-hero, one that audiences failed to identify with in three previous cinematic attempts.  Now that Bernthal has taken the reins, this is no longer the case.  The actor, who was excellent in his short stint on THE WALKING DEAD, and has provided attention-grabbing supporting turns in FURY, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, and BABY DRIVER, was the perfect choice to play Castle.  Fatally flawed, and endlessly tortured, he is a character that is difficult to love, yet impossible to hate.  His rage-fueled resiliency is wholly believable, and despite the depravity he unleashes on a regular basis, he is somehow enduring.  This makes him one of the more interesting protagonists in the Marvel canon, which is a credit to the writers of the series as much as it is to Bernthal.  This group includes talented CNY native Angela LaManna, who not only served as the story editor for the entire 13 episode run, but also penned one of the most engaging and important installments of the series, FRONT TOWARD ENEMY.  It’s wonderful to see any Central New Yorker thrive in the world of entertainment, but particularly rewarding when one of our own is directly involved in the creation of such a high profile project.  With the recent announcement that THE PUNISHER has been renewed for a second season, there is every hope that Ms. LaManna, and this newfound franchise, will continue to thrive.

THE PUNISHER- A-

(Currently streaming on Netflix)

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.