Damn, it seems like forever, but after staving off the dual beasts of work and weariness, here I am again – hope you’ve all been well…
I’ve got quite a lot I want to say over the next week, but I’ll start with my trip to the cinema.
Finally got to see The Punisher earlier; I did notice a few discrepancies, like the somewhat uneasy mix of lighthearted, PG-13 comedy and extreme violence, but on the whole, the whole affair failed to disappoint. I loved the way the writers/directors set up the protagonist’s family, allowing the viewer to actually give a shit about them despite the fact they’re destined to become bullet bait; it gave Frank Castle’s revenge a little more in the way of substance and plausibility. As much as I love action films, they usually scrimp on the depiction of strong relationships between the revenger and the to-be-revenged, preferring instead to throw a template – brother, father, lover – at the viewer’s feet and expecting them to be content with that. Not so with this movie, which actually takes the time to show the audience how important and valued Frank’s family were to him – this has the effect of making their subsequent massacre all the more poignant.
I also loved that, in the end, they didn’t shirk from portraying Castle as the bastard I expected him to be – ethical, yet at the same time totally ruthless in pursuit of his goal. The line, “I made you kill your best friend…I made you kill your wife and… now I’ve killed you!” ranks as one of the most morally merciless ever uttered in cinema. Halfway through the film, I was worried that they’d stop short of giving the villains the going-over they thoroughly deserved, what with the psuedo-love interest spouting cliched, “You’d be no better than they are” garbage, straight from the hippy-dippy 90s. (Why do Hollywood continue to portray females in action flicks as irrational busybodies?) Fortunately my fears proved unfounded as the tone of the whole film darkened in the last forty-five minutes; I won’t give too much away, except to say manipulation can be just as potent a weapon as machine-gun fire in an action hero’s arsenal…
Returning to that “You’d be no better than they are” line for a moment…where is the logic in a statement such as this, both in the world of The Punisher and in the real world? Frank Castle’s only victims are a coven of thugs, gangsters and murderers, the kind of guys who’d slit their mothers’ throats to get ahead in the world. In short, the Punisher kills those who deserve death; compare his actions to those of his enemies, the same guys (and girl) who gave not a second thought to having his family -including his mother, wife and kid – shot to shit. It should be obvious where the moral high ground lies, no? Equally, in our lives, we live in a society where self-defense and natural justice are increasingly seen as cardinal crimes; a society where real crims get nowt more than the proverbial slap on the leg for their actions.
In such a climate, I find it refreshing to see a film like The Punisher which treats criminals as villains instead of victims and personifies, in its protagonist, the model of the perfect justice system – just as Arnie and Sly did back in the good ol’ 80s.
Rock on, blood-soaked, comic book-derived, moral vigilantism!