The Punisher Frank

Lock and Load: What Works

Without Jon Bernthal, The Punisher would be almost unbearable. Bernthal continues to be the best thing that ever happened to Frank Castle, and he has enough raw charisma to carry the show on his slumped shoulders. Once again, Bernthal understands that deep down, Frank Castle isn’t a hero – he’s a dangerous, angry man who thrives when he’s killing people. At one point, Frank gives a speech about how he always had two families  – his wife and kids at home, and his Special Forces family. He also reveals how there were times when he’d be hanging out with his kids and realize he’d rather be somewhere around the world getting shot at instead. This is a very smart interpretation of the character – someone addicted to death. And Bernthal plays that perfectly. Whenever Frank is overwhelmed, Bernthal resorts to a rage-filled scream over dialogue, and it really sells the uncontrollable anger flowing through Frank. It’s a truly great performance overall – I just wish it were in a better show.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach, as Micro, is very good as well, and he’s practically the co-lead. A better name for this series would’ve been The Punisher And His Pal Micro, as Micro ends up having more of an arc than Frank does. The character is a bit of a weirdo, and Moss-Bachrach gets that, playing him as twitchy and aloof. Amber Rose Revah is also very good as the determined Dinah Madani, although she gets stuck chasing shadows for most of the runtime and doesn’t get to shine until the final few episodes.

The Punisher is always a controversial subject, and here, in 2017, where deadly mass shootings have terrifyingly become the norm, that controversy is impossible to shirk. The show was originally planned for an earlier release date, but the mass shooting in Las Vegas delayed it for a few weeks. With all that in mind, I was very curious about how the show would handle its controversial subject matter.

To The Punisher’s credit, it doesn’t shy away from rushing head-on into this. A large chunk of the storyline is devoted to characters who addicted to guns, and gunfire, and death. It would’ve been very easy for the series to glorify all the mayhem, but it doesn’t. The action sequences in the show aren’t cool, or stylish, or fun. They’re brutal, and nasty. People die here, and they die violently. This is going to be rough watching for anyone who has understandably grown sick of non-stop carnage, but at least The Punisher is smart enough to present it in an un-glorified manner.

punisher 01

Out Of Ammo: What Doesn’t Work

Hey, here’s a question: are the people who make Marvel’s Netflix shows unaware of the practice of color grading, also known as color correcting? Color grading can make or break the visual feel of your show or film, but the folks who handle Marvel’s Netflix shows apparently aren’t fans of it. This has never been more apparent than on The Punisher, which is one of the most visually unappealing shows I’ve ever seen.

I’m not saying The Punisher needed to look like a beautiful work of art, but holy shit is this show ugly. Awash in dull gray landmarks and skies the color of curdled cream, The Punisher is void of any style or visual panache. It’s like watching an assembly cut of rehearsal footage, and being forced to sit through it for a whopping 13 episodes is tantamount to torture.

Speaking of that 13-episode length: STOP DOING THAT, MARVEL. There is no reason to keep stretching these shows to 13 hours total. It never works out. Even the superior Jessica Jones began to drag after a while. The Punisher is the worst offender yet: there’s simply not enough story here to pad that runtime, and to get there, the show resorts to interminable scenes of characters sitting in rooms, and talking, and talking, and going over stuff we’ve already established, and talking some more. There are long stretches where Frank and Micro sit in a bunker and bicker, and it’s the exact opposite of entertaining.

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