This Friday, super bae Denzel Washington returns to screens in The Equalizer, your standard tough guy R rated action movie designed to woo you back to the movies y’know since you never went back after seeing Guardians of The Galaxy. Now, I love me a good action movie, I love comic book movies, I love Denzel Washington so this is a win win for me but something struck me about the trailer, take a look:
A man with a past who just can’t let injustice fly and proceeds to right the wrongs with all the guns and bombs, protecting an innocent girl from a ruthless violent, vaguely Eastern European criminal? It sounds too comic book-y to be real, then again, Denzel Washington has been playing Marvel Comics vigilante Frank Castle aka The Punisher for the past ten years and no one noticed it.
Behold, the truth behind Denzel as The Punisher and why Hollywood can get this archetype right but Marvel, who owns the title, keeps getting wrong.
2004 Man on Fire
Dakota Fanning is literally a child in this movie and Denzel is her body guard. A quiet man with skills that make him a nightmare for people…oh…wait wrong movie.
There is a great line about his character, Creasey, his art is death. He brings pain and disaster to everyone in his way, the way you’d want Frank Castle to knock the living shit out of everyone in his way. In a stand out scene, he basically straps a dude to a car, drenches him in gasoline and plays a very dangerous game of 20 questions.
A lot of the real heinousness happens in cars in Mexico so, that’s something to look out for.
This is one of the first time where Denzel gets all grim death dangerous and it works. It so works.
2010 The Book of Eli
Sure it didn’t of very well, the ending left people feeling a little let down and then there’s the whole iPod still works in the apocalypse thing but at the heart of it is a guy, just trying to live and protect Mila Kunis and deliver a book way past its due date to the library. Here we see Denzel in true dingy duster, western gunslinger badassery and one can truly appreciate the fact that a guy who is actually The Punisher would survive the madness of a desert America with mean Gary Oldman.
2012 Safe House
The ULTIMATE dude with a mission movie finds Denzel needing to get out of dodge quickly.
Tobin Frost is a bad bad man trying to stay ahead of the guys trying to lock him up and being chased by everyone’s favorite smart ass, Ryan Reynolds. This one has a few pretty good action sequences and a nice little twist towards the end, making it a little more like a bad guy gets the win movie than a vigilante saving the day movie HOWEVER, it does land in the Denzel is The Punisher with some of the hardest fight scenes and clever escape tricks this side of an old episode of Burn Notice.
2013 2 Guns
This one may be a cheat since he’s a good guy, posing as a bad guy with the added bonus of Mahk Whalbaghhh BUT, he still plays with the bad guys well enough to make them believe he’s one of them all in the game of saving the day. He plays rough to get the win. While I haven’t seen this movie (I know I know) it still lands in the vigilante have gun will travel and do what’s gotta get done category essential in arguing that Denzel is really Frank Castle is really The Punisher.
So just here’s the real question, given that Hollywood loves a good vigilante revenge movie, why is it that Marvel Studios has yet to produce a decent Punisher movie that hits all the notes of the comic book? The Punisher has basically had one of the longest runs in Hollywood in the form of Denzel Washington action movies. You can say that yeah, Liam Neesan probably has a longer run but he keeps playing the father who’s kid somehow manages to keep getting taken so he doesn’t count. Especially when he’s Qui-Gon Jinn, Ras Al Ghul and the guy who fought wolves with mini bar bottles strapped to his knuckles; let him be that guy. Denzel is the guy you call when someone needs a complete ass kicking who will then strut off to a Motown song you will immediately Shazam upon hearing it.
In the same year Man on Fire was released, Thomas Jane’s 2004 Punisher movie made it’s debut. While not terrible it lacked the bite that the above movies all seem to have, as though the producers were afraid to make a violent movie with a comic book character because of the fear that people have with alienating the presumed under age audience. Despite having an R rating, some of the action sequences lacked the grimness that Man on Fire had, even using the standard cut away bloodspatter in some scenes to imply that violent justice has been served. I’m not blood thirsty or a fan of mega violence but if you’re going to make a movie about a guy who does really insane things because his family was murdered, you can go ahead and show it, we know what we’re getting into with these movies. Punisher WarZone, the movie that pretended that the first movie never happened was even wilder with the theatrics, going so deep into comic book that the R rating was justified because Dominic West’s character Jigsaw’s head explodes like a Gallagher watermelon. Both movies are regarded as failures, despite their cult appeal and the success of other lesser titles in Hollywood both on TV and in films.
Marvel shows no interest in launching another film with Frank which is fine, we’ve been watching him this whole time.