Before I give you my opinion regarding the Punisher film, let me share with you a conversation I had when I was deliberating whether to see it or another film first.
Christian: So what did you guys think about the Punisher
Comic Book Store Employee 1 (CBSE1) "a cute, but not hollywood sexy female, CMC grad USC Law dropout": I thought it was pretty good.
Comic Book Store Employee 2 (CBSE2) "an overweight, but likable fellow high school grad, Comic Book Guru": Ha, ha, ha! It was terrible.
CBSE1: You just have to set your standards pretty low.
CBSE2: You can't set them low enough.
Christian: What if you have seen the Dolph Lundgren version?
CBSE2: Even worse than that, worse than the "Fantastic Four" Corman movie.
CBSE1: Hey! I like the Dolph version. Look Christian, sure the first hour is dull, but the last half hour is pretty good. That's when he finally gets Punishy.
Christian: Once it gets Punishy? Hmm....
So... What did I think?
Couple things. First, you can set your standards low enough and using the first movie (or Daredevil) as you level of expectations works pretty well. Now when I say that, I mean what Daredevil was like not what your expectations of Daredevil were before it came out. So it is possible to enjoy the movie with sufficiently low standards.
Second, John Travolta sucks as a villain. Think Swordfish, Battlefield Earth, Broken Arrow. He usually overplays it. Here he both gets it and doesn't so he only sucks half the time. His performance is better than any of those others, but lacks the gravitas (people hate that word) of his roles in Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, or even Look Who's Talking. Travolta is at his best when he allows himself to be likable. He could make a great villain if he would just allow us to like him.
Third, this film can't decide if it is a mob revenge story or a western. Two showdowns with cued western gunfight music with requisite bell tolls.
Four, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos cannot act. There is a reason they gave her no lines in X and X2.
Five, Tom Jane... doesn't make a good effeminite Dutch eurotrash twit, but he does make an intense Punisher. Carried the movie, and it was a heavy load. Very charismatic, but not as cool as he was in Deep Blue Sea.
Six, the score is awful. It sounds like it is out of a weekday cartoon. In fact, I think I recognized a few bars from Punisher appearances in the Spiderman Cartoon in the 80's.
Seven, almost has visual style. Can't decide whether it is noir or miami vice. Either works.
Eight, there are moments where you can see they added things just to get the R. Just like some movies have obviously edited for PG-13 this looks like it inserted for R.
1 star. I liked it though, but I liked the Fantastic Four movie. This was way better than the Dolph.