The Punisher

By Casey Toner

Hello, class. Welcome to action filmmaking 101.

Today, we’ll learn how to spend a few million bucks with little to show except two hours of head punches, bloody stabbings and car-flipping explosions. Now, for the sake of teaching stereotypical, clichéd action romps, I’ll teach and explain “The Punisher.”

-“The Punisher,” Marvel’s latest flop, aggravates an already-stale approach: good cop shamed, bad cop out for revenge. With an Uzi. DUN DUN DUN!

And kids, use that exact sound effect — or an appropriately placed thunder boom — to emphasize the tension on screen. Remember, one “Ka-BOOM” (complete with scary lightning shadows!) for every deplorable act.

Then, cast an aging, flailing star that should have burnt out many, many moons ago. “The Punisher” casts everyone’s favorite slick-haired Scientologist disco dancer, John Travolta. Also, every super villain should act loathsome and despicable. Screw character depth, inner conflict and complexity.

CEO billionaire Howard Saint (John Travolta), for example, has everything: a hot wife, a sweet car, wealth, an ironic last name and a lucrative prostitution ring.

Everything except his misfit, moron son Bobby. Bobby is dead. An FBI illegal-arms sting led to young Bobby’s death. In turn, Howard Saint murders FBI agent Frank Castle’s (Thomas Jane) entire family … except Frank Castle. Ka-BOOM! See how that works?

Frank survives stabbings, gunshots, explosions and death-defying logic in exchange for sweet, head-stomping revenge. Hooah!

Besides, who needs logic when we have endless budgets to blow on whiny Nu-metal, butt-rock songs?

Speaking of, no action film is complete without your standard car-flipping or head-punching Nu-metal butt-rock song. Amy Lee from Evanescence rocks! Nothing says “super hip four years ago” quite like “Drowning Pool.”

Finally, if you learn anything from today’s class, understand the power of an action film’s budget. Understand the explosions, punches, villains, stabbings, sadism, blood, guts and anarchy you can fudge into two hours.

Then, understand that with all the assorted, chaotic nonsense, there’s no point in any script that’s ever worth more than the spare change in my pocket. Because while you can’t buy genius with spare change, you can always fake it with sentimental, insipid voice-overs.

That wraps up today’s class, kids. Next time we’ll learn about action movies that pair a totally clueless white dude with a hilariously crazy, ethnic partner! Wackiness ensues.