Well here’s something unexpected. A new ‘Punisher’ fan film (that debuted at Comic-con) was posted online today. But unlike most fan films this actually stars (and was financed by) an actor (Thomas Jane), who previously played the character in the 2004 film.
2004’s ‘The Punisher’ was the second take on the character (after the awful 80s effort) and despite having a big budget and the creative freedom of an R-rating it wasn’t up to much. Like a lot of comic-book adaptations it wasted a lot of its running time on an origin story, introducing a big bad guy who kills Frank Castle’s family inspiring him to become ‘The Punisher’ and seek his revenge. It was essentially no better than a standard revenge action-thriller.
Something that wasn’t wrong with it though, was its lead, Thomas Jane made a good Frank Castle and (as today’s news shows) clearly has a love of the character.
Considered a disappointment all round, it lead to the character being essentially rebooted 4 years later in ‘Punisher: War Zone’. Many things sounded good about ‘War Zone’, it was reportedly inspired by the excellent ‘Punisher: Max’ comics, and wouldn’t deal with any origin story. However, the result was again a very mediocre effort that might well have spelled out the end of the character’s screen appearances.
The Punisher is clearly a difficult character to get right, but while these sub-par films were being produced, comics writer Garth Ennis was busy writing the best stories The Punisher had ever been involved with. The afore-mentioned ‘Punisher: Max’ stories mostly divide into 6-issue arcs with an overall narrative across its 60-issue run. Each arc could be adapted into an episode of a mini-series and you’d likely have an awesome TV show. To be honest, a lot of comics properties would likely translate far more successfully into TV series than movies.
So now we have ‘Dirty Laundry’, which is directed by Phil Joanou (who made ‘State of Grace’ way back in 1990) and co-stars Ron Perlman. In its very brief 10-minute running time, it easily and completely eclipses the previous incarnations, and it is brutal. This is what Jane had to say on the matter:
“I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans. It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.”
And from the reactions online already, this does seem to be the Punisher the fans want to see. What will become of this I don’t know, will Marvel pay any attention and decide to get this creative team involved in a big or small screen project? (Jane does currently star in a successful HBO series; ‘Hung’ – just imagine them involved). Whether or not this leads to anything, we’ve still been gifted with a great little film to watch.