In this special edition of Trailing Edge Film Review: The Punisher and Hero.
Both of these films had something to do with the theme of revenge. Beyond that, they have nothing in common. Hero is a beautifully shot ballet of violence and careful dialogue. The Punisher is a turd.
It is difficult for me to emphasize how disappointed I was by The Punisher. The set-up was fantastic. An outstanding FBI agent closes his last sting operation, but is hunted down in a blitzkrieg that claims his entire family. Improbably, he survives and we wait for an exquisite revenge because this a Marvel production, Punisher is a great Marvel character, and this film should not suck (see the late 80's version of The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, which did suck). Regrettably, though the ball is teed up nicely ready to be driven down the middle of a very wide fairway, we end up with an incompetently managed adventure. If it were worthwhile, I'd spend more time on the problems with this film, but it isn't. A short list would include the fact that John Travolta's villain isn't nearly as tough as he should be, the police never show up even when apocalypses occur in the middle of downtown areas, and the Punisher picks up a ridiculous little family of misfits during his few days of revenge seeking. A particularly stupid scene features the Punisher's neighbors tricking him into coming to dinner and asking him to participate in a thankfulness exercise. WHO WROTE THIS CRAP?!!! To see this story done in a much more entertaining manner, please see Deathwish. Good old Charles Bronson got it done when it was turn to take out the trash.
Hero is really interesting. Political philosophy, revenge, and exquisitely choreographed swordplay are on review in the manner of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Jet Li is superb in the title role. The plot is not as involved as Crouching Tiger, but it admirably fills the space between major acts of combat. What really stands out beyond the gorgeously enacted fight scenes is the use of nature and color. Fighters perform their deadly dances in desert, lake, palace, and rain-soaked courtyard settings. Vibrant greens, blues, reds, and oranges fill the screen at various points. I may not have hated The Punisher as much if I hadn't watched Hero immediately afterward.