Ty Burr
April 26, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Punisher (2004 film)

type
Movie
genre
Mystery and Thriller, ActionAdventure
Wide Release Date
04/16/04
runtime
119 minutes
performer
Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Jeff Chase, Mark Collie, James Carpinello, Samantha Mathis, Rebecca Romijn, Roy Scheider
director
Jonathan Hensleigh
distributor
Lions Gate Films
author
Gerry Conway, Garth Ennis
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R

We gave it a B

Based on a Marvel Comics character, The Punisher concerns a clench-jawed cop (Dolph Lundgren) who survives a mob hit and goes underground to become a one-man anti-Mafia vigilante squad. When the movie opens, he’s already had such success that the ensuing power vacuum is filled by two new villains: a smarmy European thug (Jeroen Krabbe) and Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori), a sort of Catwoman for Japan-bashers. Onetime Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) plays the Punisher’s ex-partner, and Barry Otto (Howling III) tenders witless comic relief as a drunken Shakespearean ham who speaks only in rhyme. Worse than all this, the action sequences look unduly tacky, especially a climactic brouhaha that takes place under red lighting and turns into a glowing blur on home video.

As for Dolph, he remains the most enigmatic of the current batch of muscle boys. Big as an old Buick, he has been not only a championship kick-boxer but also a Fulbright scholar at M.I.T. Yet his movies still haven’t found a good way to take advantage of his fighting chops or his smarts: They just prop him up like a big, scowling hunk of untapped potential. D+

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