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The Punisher (2004 film)

The Punisher
Theatrical poster
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Produced by
Written by
Based on Punisher 
by Gerry Conway
Ross Andru
John Romita, Sr.
Music by Carlo Siliotto
Cinematography Conrad W. Hall
Edited by
  • Steven Kemper
  • Jeff Gullo
Distributed by Lionsgate Films (US)
Columbia Pictures (non-US)
Release dates
  • April 16, 2004 (2004-04-16)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $33 million[2]
Box office $54.7 million[2]

The Punisher is a 2004 American comic book vigilante action film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, starring Thomas Jane as the antihero Frank Castle / The Punisher and John Travolta as the villain Howard Saint, a money launderer who orders the death of Castle's entire family.

The story and plot were mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories; The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank along with scenes from other Punisher stories such as Marvel Preview Presents: The Punisher #2, Marvel Super Action Featuring: The Punisher #1, The Punisher War Zone, and The Punisher War Journal.

The Punisher was shot on location in Tampa, Florida, and surrounding environs in mid- to late 2003. It was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment in North America, although Artisan Entertainment, which produced a 1989 film adaptation of The Punisher, financed and co-distributed the film with eventual Artisan owner Lionsgate, while Columbia Pictures distributed the film in non-North American countries. Screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh agreed to helm the film during its development stage despite a dispute with Marvel Studios, marking his directorial debut.

The film was released on April 16, 2004, by Lions Gate Entertainment, grossing $13,834,527 in the United States over its opening weekend. Marvel Comics and Lionsgate began development on a sequel, The Punisher 2, which instead became the reboot Punisher: War Zone after Jane and Hensleigh left the project due to creative differences. This was the last film produced by Artisan Entertainment.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Box office 4.1
    • Critical response 4.2
  • Home media 5
  • Music 6
  • Accolades 7
  • Legacy 8
    • Cancelled sequel and reboot 8.1
    • Fan film 8.2
  • References 9
  • External links 10


When Bobby Saint (James Carpinello) and Mickey Duka (Eddie Jemison) meet with European arms dealer Otto Krieg at the Tampa, Florida seaport, the FBI intervenes and Saint is killed while Duka is jailed. "Krieg", supposedly killed in the shootout, is actually undercover FBI agent and former U.S. Army Delta Force operator Frank Castle (Thomas Jane). Shortly thereafter, he retires from the FBI and attends a family reunion at his father's (Roy Scheider) oceanside home in Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico. Tampa crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta) is enraged by the death of his son, and with right-hand man Quentin Glass (Will Patton) bribes the FBI for confidential information about "Krieg". Saint orders Castle murdered, and Saint's wife, Livia (Laura Harring), demands Castle's entire family be killed as well to "settle the score."

At the reunion, gunmen including Glass and John Saint (Carpinello), Bobby's identical twin, kill most of the extended family. Castle and his father kill several of the attackers before Castle's father is killed. Castle's wife and son try to escape, but John Saint runs over them with a truck, killing them. Castle, shot in the chest and blown off a pier in an explosion set by Glass, survives and is nursed back to health by a local fisherman, Candelaria (Veryl Jones). Once recovered, Castle goes to Tampa and takes refuge in an old tenement where three young outcasts — Dave (Ben Foster), Bumpo (John Pinette), and Joan (Rebecca Romijn) — live. Castle abducts Duka, who fearfully gives up information about the Saints — whom he, too, hates, and so willingly becomes Castle's mole. Castle starts exacting revenge on the police and FBI agents who have been bribed to close the investigation of his family's murder. In the process, he sabotages Saint's money-laundering business and severs Saint's partnership with Cuban mobsters the Toro Brothers, and starts tailing Livia and Glass, learning in the process that Glass is a closeted homosexual.

Saint, realizing Castle is alive, sends two assassins to kill him. Castle kills the first, guitar player Harry Heck (Mark Collie), by shooting a ballistic knife into Heck's throat. The second is "the Russian" (Kevin Nash), a behemoth who beats Castle in a brutal fight but is defeated when Castle throws boiling oil in his face, blinding him long enough for Castle to throw him down a staircase, breaking his neck. Moments later, Saint's men arrive, led by Glass and John Saint. Dave, Joan and Bumpo hide Frank and refuse to tell Glass where he is, despite Glass sadistically pulling out Dave's multiple facial piercings with a pair of pliers. They leave a man behind to kill Castle upon his return, but Castle kills him once Glass and the others are gone. With assistance from Mickey, Castle manipulates Howard Saint into believing Glass and Livia are having an affair. Saint, unaware Glass is gay, and believing Livia to be capable of cheating on him, kills them both personally, neither of them knowing why.

Castle attacks Saint's headquarters, the downtown Tampa nightclub Saints and Sinners, killing many of Saint's henchmen. He kills John Saint by having the crime boss' son hold an eight-pound, trip-wire activated grenade until his arm wearies and the grenade explodes. Castle wounds Howard Saint with a pistol when Saint attempts to shoot him in the parking lot of the nightclub. Castle then ties Saint to a slow-moving car, but not before revealing that Glass and Livia were not having an affair, and that he set the whole thing up. As the car drags Saint through the lot, Castle sets off several hidden bombs; the resulting destruction and wreckage kills Saint and culminate in the shape of the Punisher's iconic skull. Later that night, Castle returns to his apartment and prepares to commit suicide, but after a brief vision of his wife, decides to continue his vigilante mission against others who in his mind deserve punishment. Before departing on his next mission, he leaves most of Saint's money for Bumpo, Joan and Dave. On the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, he vows, "Those who do evil to others — the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists — will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me the Punisher."


Hensleigh and Arad said in many interviews that Jane was the first and only actor to be asked to play the title role.[3] Arad had previously pursued Jane for other roles in Marvel Studios films.[4] He turned down The Punisher twice, as he did not see himself as a superhero actor.[3] Jane said, when asked the second time to play the Punisher, that he became interested when Arad sent Tim Bradstreet's artwork of the character. After learning more about the Punisher, he accepted. Jane went on to read as many Punisher comics he could find to understand the character, and became a fan of the Punisher in the process. Jane trained for six to seven months with the United States Navy SEALs and gained more than twenty pounds of muscle for the part.


Marvel Studios began development for a new Punisher film as early as 1997.[6] In 2000, Marvel made a long-term agreement with Artisan Entertainment to turn 15 of their characters into films and TV shows, among them The Punisher with Gale Anne Hurd to produce.[7] The Punisher marked Marvel’s first major independent release as an equity owner, whereby it contributes characters and creative support to lower-budget pics in exchange for a financial stake in the negative cost.[8] Screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh signed on in April 2002, and The Punisher also became his directing debut.[7] The story and plot were mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories, Welcome Back, Frank and The Punisher: Year One. Hensleigh explained he had to excise much of the influence from Welcome Back, Frank as it would have likely been a four hour long film.[9]

Before filming began, Hensleigh was not given the budget he wanted or needed from the studio, Hensleigh knew that most action pictures get a budget of around $64 million. He was only given $33 million, with only $15.5 million going towards the shooting budget and post-production for the film,[10] with only 52 days to shoot, which is half the time allocated for most action pictures. Most of Hensleigh's original script had to be edited and re-written many times due to budget issues. According to the DVD commentary, the first scene in the film would have been a battle set in Kuwait during the Gulf War, but they were unable to film this scene as a result of the budget cuts.

Principal photography for The Punisher began in July 2003[11] on location in Tampa, Florida. The Florida location was first chosen at the insistence of screenwriter Michael France, who advised Marvel and Artisan that "it would be cheap to shoot [there] - that they'd get a lot more for their money than in New York or Chicago" as well as wanting to use "both sunny locations, and dark, industrial locations" in the screenplay.[12] For inspiration, Hensleigh and cinematographer Conrad W. Hall looked at dozens of action films from the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Dirty Harry series, The Getaway, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde.[13] In an interview, Hensleigh also stated the film pays homage to Mad Max and William Shakespeare's Othello, though while he was inspired by Othello, the characters were reversed for the film, making the Punisher the instigator of the jealousy which leads to Howard Saint murdering his best friend and wife.[14]

During shooting, Lionsgate (then known as Lions Gate Films) purchased Artisan. In an interview with Hensleigh, Hensleigh said that even though the film is distributed under the Lionsgate imprint, they had nothing to do with the film. Lionsgate never gave a green light for the film to be made. The film was still under Artisan Entertainment.

The character of Microchip was originally included in an earlier Michael France draft (along with the character Jigsaw),[15] but was excised from later drafts because of director Jonathan Hensleigh's distaste for him. Instead the character of Mickey Duka (who was heavily based upon the character Mickey Fondozzi) serves as an ally of Frank Castle. Regarding the exclusion of Microchip, Hensleigh had this to say:

"There are a couple of years where I didn't want to go; Microchip, the battle van, all that stuff where it got really high-tech; we’re not going there at all. I deemed that too complicated, too lacking of the spirit of the sort of urban vigilante. The Punisher doesn’t just go around blowing people away; he uses guile and cunning just as much as he does weaponry and physical combat."[16]


Box office

Prior to release, a novelization was written by D.A. Stern and released in March 2004.[17] The Punisher opened in 2,649 theaters on April 16, 2004 and grossed $13,834,527 over its opening weekend, ranking at #2 at the box office. The film has a domestic gross of $33,810,189 and a foreign gross of $20,889,916, giving it a worldwide total of $54,700,105.

Critical response

On its release, it was met with mainly negative reviews, and received a 29% rotten rating[18] on Rotten Tomatoes based on 167 reviews with an average rating of 4.5/10. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, stating, "The Punisher is so grim and cheerless, you wonder if even its hero gets any satisfaction from his accomplishments."[19] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter said, "By the end, the Punisher's greatest adversaries emerge as an unwelcome trio known as jokey, hokey, and hammy."

A few reviewers have defended the film, stating that, compared to most comic book-based films, it is a well-done throwback to the old-school action films of the 1960s and 1970s.[20][21] Critic A.O. Scott stated, "But lightness is not among Hensleigh's gifts. Making his directorial debut after a successful run as a screenwriter and producer (on projects like Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jumanji, and The Rock) he has clearly conceived The Punisher as a throwback to the leathery, angry urban revenge movies of the 1970s."[22]

Drew McWeeny of Ain't It Cool News said of the style of the film that "The Punisher has more in common with the work of Don Seigel and John Frankenheimer than it does with the work of Michael Bay or Simon West. Which isn't to say that it's the equal of those classics, but at least Hensleigh's got the right idea. ... The Punisher is pulp, served up gritty and ugly and brutal. It's not jam-packed full of one-liners. What humor there is in the film is dark."[23]

Home media

The film was released via DVD on September 7, 2004 and sold nearly 1.8 million copies in its first five days[24] and netted $10.8 million in rentals its first week, making it number-one in DVD sales that week.[25]

An extended cut DVD was released on November 21, 2006 with 17 minutes of additional footage, most of which revolves around the character Jimmy Weeks (Russell Andrews), and Castle realizing that it was his friend who had sold him out to Howard Saint. In retaliation, Castle forces Weeks to commit suicide. Features also include a black-and-white stop-motion animated scene, set in Kuwait, based on and partially done by artist Tim Bradstreet, and a Punisher comic-book gallery. An extended version of "In Time" by Mark Collie also appears in the closing credits of the extended-cut DVD.[10] This version does not include the special features on the standard DVD release.

The Punisher was released via Blu-ray Disc on June 27, 2006.[26]


Original Score from the Motion Picture The Punisher
Soundtrack album by Carlo Siliotto
Released June 15, 2004
Genre Orchestral
Film score
Length 67:41
Label La-La Land
Producer Michael Gerhard
Carlo Siliotto
Marvel Comics film series soundtrack chronology
The Punisher: The Album
Original Score from the Motion Picture The Punisher
Music from and Inspired by Spider-Man 2
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Filmtracks [27]
Film Score Monthly [28]

The score to The Punisher was composed and conducted by Italian composer Carlo Siliotto. Director Jonathan Hensleigh wanted the music to be very emotional, and was aware of Siliotto's previous work which led to him being chosen. When scoring the film Siliotto saw Frank Castle as a tragic figure stating, "This man, Frank Castle, is somebody who has a slaughtered family. He comes through that slaughter, and becomes a punisher. But he's a sad man - he drinks, and has bad memories always coming to him. There's a lot in the film, and at times it is like a modern version of a classic tragedy - like Othello."[29][30]

All songs written and composed by Carlo Siliotto. 

Track listing
No. Title Length
1. "The Punisher"   0:56
2. "Otto Krieg"   3:14
3. "Unusual Resurrection"   1:40
4. "Moving"   3:09
5. "I Can't Believe I'm Home"   1:23
6. "His Whole Family"   1:27
7. "The Massacre"   5:45
8. "Death and Resurrection of Frank Castle"   1:47
9. "God's Gonna Sit This One Out"   3:57
10. "Ice Lolly and Meat"   1:28
11. "You're Gonna Help Me"   1:24
12. "Entering the Fort"   1:58
13. "About Your Family / Setting a Trap"   3:11
14. "A Bomb for John Saint"   1:08
15. "Good Memories Can Save Your Life"   1:13
16. "The Thugs"   1:30
17. "The Torture"   3:12
18. "Elevator and Headache"   1:07
19. "A New Family / Joan's Suffering"   3:34
20. "Quentin's Glass Home"   1:32
21. "Killing a Best Friend"   1:43
22. "You Don't Understand... End of a Dark Lady"   2:34
23. "She Took the Train / Punishment"   1:47
24. "The Arrow"   1:48
25. "Both of Them"   1:32
26. "The Skull"   2:34
27. "Castle's Loneliness"   1:35
28. "Call Me ‘The Punisher’"   2:23
29. "Jealous One" (Performed by J.C. Loader) 3:52
30. "La donna è mobile" (Performed by Peter Dvorský) 2:06
Total length:


  • Prism Awards[32]
    • Wide Release Feature Film
  • Taurus World Stunt Awards
    • Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman (Donna Evans)
    • Best Stunt Coordinator or 2nd Unit Director (Gary Hymes)
    • Best Work with a Vehicle (Keii Johnston & Dane Farwell)


Cancelled sequel and reboot

Lions Gate Entertainment planned to produce a direct sequel titled The Punisher 2, with Avi Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, stating that the second film would "become the fifth Marvel property to become a sequel."[33] Jonathan Hensleigh said that he was interested in working with Thomas Jane again for The Punisher 2.[34] Jane said that the villain for The Punisher 2 would be Jigsaw.[35] The project, however, lingered in development for over three years. Jonathan Hensleigh completed a first draft of the script before pulling out around 2006. John Dahl was in talks to direct the film but pulled out due to script quality issues and the studio not wanting to spend a lot of money on the project.[36][37] In a statement on May 15, 2007[38] and in two audio interviews Thomas Jane said that he pulled out of the project due to creative differences and the budget of the film being cut, in addition to director Walter Hill being turned down as director by Lionsgate.[39][40] After reading the new script by Kurt Sutter, Jane stated:

"What I won't do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don't believe in. I've always loved the Marvel guys, and wish them well. Meanwhile, I'll continue to search for a film that one day might stand with all those films that the fans have asked me to watch."[41][42]

In Summer 2007, Marvel Studios announced that Lexi Alexander would direct the film as a result of Dahl pulling out,[43] and that actor Ray Stevenson would play the Punisher in the new film, thus replacing Thomas Jane.[44] The Punisher 2 then became Punisher: War Zone,[45][46] a reboot of The Punisher film series with no connection to the 2004 film.[47] The reboot was released on December 5, 2008.[48] This is the second time the film series has been rebooted, after the 2004 production rebooted 1989's The Punisher.[49]

Fan film

In July 2012, Jane reprised his role as Frank Castle in the fan film Dirty Laundry, which premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con International. The 10-minute film also stars Ron Perlman.[50]


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  2. ^ a b "The Punisher (2004)".  
  3. ^ a b "Capital Punishment: The Punisher's Tom Jane tells Slasherama about his "balls-to-the-wall, punk rock action movie"...". Slasherama. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  4. ^ Brian Hiatt (2004-04-17). "Jane Says".  
  5. ^ "Hensleigh Talks Punisher". IGN. 
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  8. ^ Meredith Amdur (2004-05-04). "Heroic Marvel gain". Retrieved 2014-10-11. 
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  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ Michael Fleming (2003-04-03). "‘Punisher’ main man Jane". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-11. 
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  13. ^ "Page Title". 
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  17. ^ "D.A. Stern Handling 'Punisher' Novelization". 
  18. ^ "The Punisher Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes".  
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  20. ^ Dean Kish. "Movie-List - Reviews - The Punisher". Movie-List. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  21. ^ Chuck O'Leary. "The Punisher - Extended Cut (2004/DVD-Video Set)". Movie-List. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  22. ^ A.O. Scott (2004-10-08). "The Punisher's rage is superhuman". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
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  24. ^ Brett Sporich (2004-09-16). "Man On Fire, 'punisher' Top Retail Sales".  
  25. ^ "Top 10 DVD Sales". 2004-09-11. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  26. ^ "The Punisher (Blu-ray)". Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  27. ^ "Filmtracks: the Punisher (Carlo Siliotto)". Filmtracks. 2004-07-03. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  28. ^ Luke Goljan (2005-01-10). "CD Reviews: The Punisher and Du Barry Was A Lady". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  29. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2004-05-10). "SoundtrackNet : Interview - Carlo Siliotto - Music for Punishment". SoundtrackNet. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  30. ^ "SoundtrackNet: The Punisher Soundtrack".  
  31. ^ "Nominees/Winners - Taurus World Stunt Awards". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  32. ^ "2005 Wide Release Film". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  33. ^ Morris, Clint (2004-02-27). "Lions Gate starting on The Punisher 2". Archived from the original on May 5, 2004. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  34. ^ P., Ken (2004-03-05). "An Interview with Jonathan Hensleigh".  
  35. ^ Keck, William (2004-04-13). "Rebecca is quiet at 'Punisher' premiere".  
  36. ^ Jessica Barnes (2007-06-15). "John Dahl Says 'Punisher 2' Script Not That Good". Cinematical. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  37. ^ Frosty (2007-06-11). "John Dahl is not directing Punisher 2". Collider. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  38. ^ Quint (2007-05-15). "AICN Exclusive: Thomas Jane dropping out of Punisher 2?!? - Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  39. ^ Fanboy Radio - Thomas Jane
  40. ^ Fangoria Radio - Thomas Jane
  41. ^ "Thomas Jane Pull out of Punisher 2". Superhero Hype!. 2007-05-15. 
  42. ^ "AICN Exclusive: Thomas Jane dropping out of PUNISHER 2?!?". Ain't It Cool News. May 15, 2007. 
  43. ^ Ryan McLelland (2006-06-12). "Punisher 2 Lands A Director". Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  44. ^ "". 
  45. ^ "'"Official Sequel Title Now 'Punisher: War Zone. 2007-08-28. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  46. ^ diva (2007-08-09). "Punisher 2 Working Title and Start Date". Archived from the original on 2007-09-22. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  47. ^ Todd Gilchrist (2007-12-06). "Interview: Lexi Alexander". IGN. Archived from the original on 2007-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-01. Alexander: I would say it's a complete reboot because the first one -- neither of them -- are relevant to us at all 
  48. ^ "Punisher Will Enter War Zone 3 Months Later". Superhero Hype!. 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  49. ^ Michael Fleming (2007-08-01). Punisher' gets Lionsgate overhaul"'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  50. ^ Bettinger, Brendan (16 July 2012). "Watch DIRTY LAUNDRY, the PUNISHER Short Film Thomas Jane Brought to Comic-Con; Plus 10 Images and a New PUNISHER Logo". Retrieved 17 July 2012. 

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