There was no reason why Thomas Jane, of 2004’s The Punisher, should reprise the role. Some would argue that the stink left behind by John Travolta’s Howard Saint is still just as strong today as it was back then, and that perhaps a full decade was needed before the endeavor should have even been considered. Regardless, Jane ponied up his own cash to produce Dirty Laundry, a ten minute fan film dedicated to Frank Castle. I’m glad he did.
I’ve never really liked the Punisher. He’s a vigilante, but his thirst for blood always turned me off. There’s a difference between a vigilante who extinguishes evil because he must, and one who also happens to get a weird thrill out of it. Instead of methodically meting out justice, Castle often gets creatively brutal with criminals, to the point where the line between him and the sickos he snuffs out is almost indistinguishable. He also seems dish out executions in ways that suggest that none of his victims are capable of redemption — a sad and bleak view of humanity that actually ends up making the case for earth as a morally-relativistic hellhole.
Regardless, the thing I love about the Punisher is that the world he inhabits forces even the staunchest pacifist to pause and think for a minute. Walk into the Punisher’s realm and there is good, and there is evil. In Dirty Laundry, the villains do unspeakable things to women and children. Viewers must ask themselves, “What would I do if I was in Frank’s shoes?” What would you do if the cops were needed in seconds, but they might be there in minutes, hours or … not at all? Would you put your own life on the line for a complete stranger, or would you turn a blind eye to the sick and twisted deeds of those around you if it gave a false sense of security?
The thing that is most honorable about Frank Castle is that he confronts evil head on, knowing full well that he might die. Without a doubt he is scared and afraid, and yet he charges forward, confident in his convictions. Unlike the superhero with a bulletproof chest, the Punisher could very easily take a shot to the head that would end his crusade instantly. He exists because in this world we have people who all too often make excuses for pure evil, give it “three strikes” or four strikes or more, far after they’ve shown they are incapable of abiding by the rules of civilized society.
And so, we hate Frank but we love him. He represents the frustration we have with a judicial system that nowadays lets rapists and murderers and animals who prey on children off the hook.
I wish the Punisher didn’t have to exist as a character, but he does. And I’m glad that Thomas Jane is the guy who plays him in Dirty Laundry.
Warning: Graphic Content