Thomas Jane - The Punisher

An actor with handsome, everyman good looks and undeniable screen presence, Thomas Jane has turned up in everything from low-budget indies to sprawling, big-budget Hollywood action spectacles. The Baltimore native's unusual entry into show business found him cast in a Romeo and Juliet-inspired Bollywood musical while still in high school. At just 17 years old, Jane was spotted by a pair of Indian producers looking to cast a young, fair-haired American to act as Romeo to a young Indian actress' Juliet. Alas, the lure of Bollywood weighed heavier than the prospect of another year in high school, so Jane soon dropped out to film Padamati Sandhya Ragam in Madras, India. When filming wrapped, he quickly returned stateside despite some tempting offers in India, and a year later, the struggling actor was making the move to Los Angeles.

Finding work in L.A. didn't prove easy, but thanks to persistence and hard work, Jane eventually made his way into the local theater scene. A small role in the gay-themed drama I'll Love You Forever...Tonight was followed by a small part in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two short years later, he stepped into the lead for the quirky crime comedy At Ground Zero, and a role in the ill-fated Crow sequel The Crow: City of Angels followed in 1996. The next year, Jane was cast in the major starring role of real-life beatnik Neal Cassady for the independent film, The Last Time I Committed Suicide with Keanu Reeves. By late 1997, Jane's star was steadily rising thanks to supporting parts in Face/Off and Boogie Nights. In 1998, he went indie once again with a role as a former heroin dealer looking to go straight in Thursday and then took a small part in the all-star ensemble cast of the war drama The Thin Red Line.

With his role as a shark wrangler in the open-water thriller Deep Blue Sea in 1999, Jane graduated to full-on Hollywood action hero. After returning to Paul Thomas Anderson's fold for Magnolia later that year, he portrayed baseball legend Mickey Mantle in the acclaimed, made-for-HBO feature 61* (2001). His role as a quick-tempered detective working alongside Morgan Freeman's character in Under Suspicion (2000) found Jane at the top of his game, and though performances in The Sweetest Thing (2002) and Dreamcatcher (2003) went largely unseen due to poor box-office performances, audiences could rest assured that they would see plenty of the newly buff actor when he donned the famous skull T-shirt and loaded up to rid the streets of crime in the comic book adaptation The Punisher (2004).

Thomas Jane is excellent as Frank Castle, aka the Punisher. He's tough, he handles the action well, and he more than looks the part. He's a great choice for the role. In his first scene, though, I had my doubts. We first see him undercover as a Eurotrash arms dealer with blonde hair, a pastel suit, sandals, and a bad accent. It wasn't encouraging. However, as soon as he turns to the Dark Side he totally becomes the character. I think Punisher fans will be pleased with him. I also liked the fact that after Frank inevitably gets his revenge, they show his character contemplating suicide. After all, what does he have left to live for once he has his revenge? I'm glad they covered it, not only because it justifies a sequel but also because it is an important step in developing the character.

I was afraid that John Travolta would steal the movie in the way that Jack Nicholson as the Joker stole Batman. That wasn't the case at all. He wasn't on the screen more than he needed to be, and when he is there he plays the bad guy well. He is supported by Will Patton as Quentin Glass. He's a rather surprising bad guy with a few secrets that are revealed along the way. Laura Harring plays Livia Saint, Travolta's beautiful wife with a shocking evil streak. There's one scene where she comes out of nowhere and delivers one of the most dramatic lines of the movie. You don't expect it to come from her. Then there are Saint's bizarre assassins. There's Mark Collie as Harry 'Heck' Thornton, a guitar-playing killer that ends up getting dispatched in a creative way. There's also wrestler Kevin Nash as The Russian. I have to say that I hate this character in the comics. The comic character is way over the top and in later issues they even show him with enormous breasts. No, I'm not kidding. But as much as I hate the comic character, I thought he was great in the film. He has a classic fight with Frank Castle that ends up being one of the highlights of the movie.

As far as the good guys go, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos leads them as Joan 'The Mouse'. She does a good job with the role and provides a conscience for Frank Castle. I was glad to see that they didn't have her become a love interest for Frank. It wouldn't have fit their characters at all. Providing comic relief in the otherwise dark tale are Ben Foster as Spacker Dave and John Pinette as Bumpo. In fact, I was quite surprised at just how much humor there really was in the movie. Great laughs are sprinkled here and there throughout and they give the characters heart and elevate the movie from a standard bloody action flick to something a little bit more.

It's a great action flick. Besides the awesome fight with the Russian, there's a cool car chase with Harry Heck. The final battle between Frank and Saint's men is also intense and impressive. What makes it additionally memorable is the fact that it is played out realistically. Frank Castle is not superhuman. He really only survives his deadly fights through dumb luck or good planning. He's probably the most realistic character from the Marvel Comics movies.