The Punisher (2004) is simultaneously somewhat better and somewhat worse than the first Punisher movie. The film somehow manages to get some elements right and other aspects completely wrong. Likewise, the actors either do a remarkably decent job or fail dismally.
For some bizarre reason, they decide that the Punisher isn’t a war vet or from NYC. Instead, he is an undercover FBI agent who lives in Tampa. This is the kind of directorial choices that infuriates fans of the comic. Tampa is way too bright a setting to put the dark force that is the Punisher in. He doesn’t blend into his surroundings; he sticks out like a sore thumb.
The movie also decides that it would be way to logical and timely to have Frank Castle’s family die in Tampa. A family reunion in Puerto Rico is where the criminals decimate the Castle clan. The movie then decides to introduce a character of its own invention known as Candelaria. He discovers the severely wounded Frank and nurse him back to health. If you think about this, it is completely inane.
Puerto Rico is a developed US territory with modern hospitals. Why would a fisherman choose to play doctor to a complete stranger, when professional medical care is only a short distance away? Also, it is just a bad movie choice that distracts from the legend of the Punisher as a lone wolf.
The film does do some things right, like not omitting the death’s head from the Punisher’s wardrobe. Spacker Dave and the Russian are convincingly played by actors who at least mostly resemble their comic counterparts. While, Thomas Jane has the right voice for the role, he could be a just a little bit buffer and a little less fresh faced. John Travolta is just too recognizable an actor to be a proper villain for this comic book movie.
The Punisher (2004) is definitely a step up from the original Punisher film. However, ultimately it is still a far cry from a good movie. Future movie directors would do well to be more faithful to the comics when they do a film adaption.