The Punisher, though based on the dark and edgy Marvel Comics comic book and graphic novel series by the same name, is not a superhero movie. It's an antihero movie. Protagonist Frank Castle is at once hero and villain, tortured by his own past and making a blood pact to take a bite out of crime. Unlike do-gooder Marvel comic characters turned movie stars Spiderman and Captain America, the Punisher has no qualms with killing. He plays for keeps.
Undercover FBI Agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is part of an arms sting operation that leads to the death of the son of Tampa crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint vows revenge, and learns through an FBI mole the undercover Castle's true identity. In a massive, over-the-top shootout, Saint and his thugs murder Castle's entire extended family, including his wife, son and father.
The battle between Howard Saint's clan "The Saints" and the one-man army that is Frank Castle makes up the film's central plot line. Assassination attempts lead to scenes of torture to extract information as the deaths in the Punisher's life take him further down a spiral of darkness, even as his goal of justice becomes closer and closer.
At the core of The Punisher, both the film and the comic book icon, is the hatred for evil that drives the urge to kill in the name of justice. The film is much darker than other Marvel Comics movies. Characters are shot in the throat with ballistic knives and run over by cars. Neither is the film a mindless action flick; Castle is a well-deep character with real motivations and flaws.
A soundtrack composed by Carlo Siliotto lends a brooding, film noir air that continues throughout the film. Production took place mostly on location in Tampa, Florida on a shoestring budget for a large-scale action movie. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but won and was nominated for several industry awards for its jaw-dropping stunt work.