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Ghost Canyon

'The Punisher - 4K Ultra HD'
(Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Bob Joles, Darryl Kurylo, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / R / (2004) 2018 / Lionsgate Films)

Overview: An undercover FBI agent becomes a vigilante assassin and sets out to unleash his wrath upon the corrupt businessman who slaughtered his entire family at a reunion.

4K Ultra HD Verdict: Lionsgate Films continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this September with the release of this underappreciated cinematic gem, 'The Punisher' in the new 4K home video format on September 25th, 2018.

For my money, this 'The Punisher: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'The Punisher' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265; Resolution: Native 4K (2160p); HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10; Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like in the action scenes as The Punisher swirls and ducks, jabs and pokes, and fires his guns, the connection of each just seems to pop here now.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably some scenes where Travolta's character is wrestling with his inner demons in the remaining sunlight of the day) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 and French: Dolby Digital 5.1.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, 'The Punisher' is adapted from Marvel Comics, the R-rating alone should be blunt indicator of the path it intends to take!

I mean, half an hour into the film it still leaves us clueless and oblivious to the dark turn it will twist into. During which Thomas Jane undergoes an apt transformation of character from heartfelt family man on that one last undercover op to a hard-boiled, brooding vigilante who downs whiskey, swears, tortures and broods.

The catalyst for this development is the brutal murder of his family and now he's out to get the hierarchy of villains (headed by John Travolta) only he isn't just out for vengeance or justice, he's out to punish. In a corrupt city of thugs, Frank Castle becomes the judge, jury and executor.

What is so refreshing about Thomas Jane in the part of Punisher is that he is a sprawling surge of old school with a splash of Clint Eastwood protagonist - the detached, effortless action hero who is too cool for romantic interests, with hardcore one-liners and a merciless approach to duels.

In this way, he is easily one of the most successful 'superhero' actors of the new millennium. But alas, Jane went unnoticed and Punisher did poorly at the box office, probably because it adopted this off-beat, old-school style to acting and action.

I also want to comment on said action, which was spectacular. Truth to be told, I have been waiting a long time to say that about a film. Usually it's the obligatory "the visuals are stunning" or "it's extremely fast-paced and kinetic," but here the sheer hand-to-hand combat is the film's goldmine.

It moves back into close character mode instead of the epic scenarios that Batman, Superman and Spider-man dish out to keep our interest. It's gloriously gritty, graphic and dirty which unfortunately also begs the question of where the $33,000,000 budget went?! I mean, did they spend it all on late night taco runs?

Interestingly, Director Jonathan Hensleigh changed the story around from the original comic book. Many changes were for budget reasons, but also updates in time to bring the story into the present (2004ish) and not the 1970s when 'The Punisher' originally debuted with Marvel.

However, the ruthless spirit of a powerful avenger is here and Thomas Jane fits the part almost perfectly with his almost John McClane approach to the role making a believable hero: one that is tough as nails, but critically not invincible.

That said, 'The Punisher' is far from devoid of faults. Its fatal flaw stems, in part, from what made it a good film in the first place: its sparseness of effects, general minimalism and lack of superhero formula.

Rather it is a model-kit assembled from seedy old-school revenge action movies, the type you'd sort of casually catch a bit of on TV one night.

Still, 'The Punisher' is a hard-R rated movie delivering a great action film of this generation. Fans of the comics will love this action flick, I know I did when it first came out in 2004, and being such a dark, disturbing, complex, violent and emotional film means that it isn't just your normal, run of the mill action movie with some rather unpleasant violence.

Anyway, that's that, for the most part, so now let's concentrate on some of the special features included. Indeed, the two that do it for me are both 'Keepin' It Real: Punisher Stunts (HD; 27:45)' and 'Army of One: Punisher Origins (HD; 12:55).'

The former is a long showcase of some wondrous behind-the-scenes footage where we get to watch various action sequences being planned and shot. Including many with both Jane and Travolta, they show us that they do, for the most part, do all their own stunts and can take a "fake" punch like a real champ!

The latter is a rather indepth look at the character's Marvel beginnings, and features a number of interesting interviews with the likes of Marvel's Avi Arad. He guides us through their respective timeline's and reveal things that I, personally, had no clue about re: Frank Castle. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Hensleigh
Deleted Scenes (HD; 3:12) - featuring optional commentary from Jonathan Hensleigh.
Keepin' It Real: Punisher Stunts (HD; 27:45)
Army of One: Punisher Origins (HD; 12:55)
War Journal: On the Set of The Punisher (HD; 29:59)
Music Video - "Step Up" Performed by Drowning Pool (HD; 3:24)

Drawing Blood Bradstreet Style (HD; 6:22) - key art of the advertising campaign.

'The Punisher' (2004) Official Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link