Punisher (Extended Cut)
Review by James Harvey

Click Here!Much like extended cuts of Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 2, and the many more that came before, November 2006 saw the release of The Punisher – Extended Cut. With over 17 minutes of all-new footage integrated into the film, including an animated introduction, The Punisher - Extended Cut adds new scenes and a new subplot to the film. But, does the new footage add to a movie that already has a fanbase divided? Personally, I think it does. While the cut footage can really remain on the cutting room floor, as it originally did, it does add a new aspect to The Punisher’s vengeance.

Starring Thomas Jane, John Travolta and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, The Punisher follows Special Agent Frank Castle who takes the law into his own hands as he tries to right all of the wrongs that found his entire family murdered and him left for dead. Born again, Castle takes on the role of judge, jury and executioner vigilante as he wages a one-man war against those who have done him wrong. Based on the popular Marvel Comics character, this film stays true to the comic book origins while adding a few twists to keep the story fresh. The Punisher made his first appearance over 25 years ago and remains just as popular today, if not moreso.

Before I continue, I do realize this film was released last November. However, I just received a screener for it now (thanks to the kind folks at Lionsgate), so I'm going to review The Punisher - Extended Cut, regardless of how late this review is. For those who still haven't picked up this release, this might help with the decision-making process.

After reading all the press for this release, the hype seemed to be focused mainly on the new animated “Kuwait Scene,” which was originally set to open the film (budget complications made that impossible). So, for just this DVD, the animated version was made and . . . well . . . I have to say I was expecting a bit more. It’s a great sequence and the animation provided does give a good idea of how the scene would play out. The animation could be better, but then the illustrations by Bradstreet would have likely suffered. However, the opener does add to the additional footage added. Viewers have the option of playing the animation before the picture begins so the scene can be appreciated within its original planned context.

The added footage adds roughly 17 minutes to the movie running time, but it fits in so seamlessly. I can understand these scenes were eventually dropped, especially with the “Kuwait Scene” originally missing in action, but they do add to the film.

As for the film itself, it’s not a perfect one. Personally, I find the killing of Castle’s entire family to be a bit . . . well . . . a bit of overkill (pun not intended). We don’t know who 98% of these people are, which robs us of the impact of their deaths. Personally, I think the movie should have focused on the death of his wife and kid, and probably his Dad, too. It’s good motivation, however, no matter how loony the scene may seem sometime. Thankfully, with this new cut, some of my favorite scenes are intact. The best, in my opinion, is the awesome “Russian” sequence, where Castle has to face off against a muscle-bound hitman. While it’s not as crazy as the comic-storyline from whence it came (The now classic Garth Ennis tale, “Welcome Back, Frank”), it’s still a great scene.

It’s not a perfect movie by all means, as there are problems here and there, but it’s the best “Punisher” movie to date. Then again, since the previous version featured Dolph Lundgren, it’s not too hard to beat. Still, it’s a movie worth checking out. However, if you’re a Punisher fan, it’ll either upset you or please you. I can see why this movie would upset fans, with Frank Castle moved off to Miami (again, for budget reasons), and the over-the-top massacre of his whole family. However, in a way, the family-wide massacre does work in order to make him truly alone, but it does rob impact from the death of his wife and child. Oh, and the origin of his infamous skull shirt is kind of lame. Personally, I was pleased. It does have a few mistakes, but it’s a worthy effort and justifies the cult following the grew from it’s release.

However, the DVD isn’t as packed as it should be. The DVDs are housed in a cardboard fold-out case. After removing the “Skull” logo off the package, the case opens up to reveal an insert and the DVD in a clear plastic holding try. The insert contains images from the “Kuwait Scene” opener. Outside of the seventeen minutes of new footage and the animated “Kuwait” scene, the DVD included a “Tour of Duty – Making the Extended Cut” featurette, The Punisher comic book gallery, and the Tim Bradstreet illustrations. Not that much, which is disappointing since the original DVD contained a nice assortment of featurettes and content.

Still, this new cut is worth picking up. The “Jimmy Weeks” subplot, on top of an extended background on Howard Saint and the “Kuwait” scene, really do round out the movie. It’s a good movie and the addition scenes do add more punch to the flick. Personally, based on the movie alone, I would Recommend picking it up. The extras are a bit thin, and really serve to compliment the extras of the original release. The Punisher – Extended Cut serves as a great compliment to the original release and it definitely worth a shot (pun intended).

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