”The Punisher” is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
The overall picture quality on this Blu-ray release offers a big step up from the DVD release. There is fine detail on show with droplets of rain clearly visible on the bold yellow Ferrari belonging to Bobby Saint. The contrast levels in the dark opening scenes are very strong with nice deep blacks which are particularly evident in the suits of the Saint's goons. Later on during the night time scenes and inside the dark apartments of the tenement building there's good shadow detail on display. As a result of these strong blacks some of the scenes have a nice depth to them almost verging on that sought after 3D effect at times. Primary colours are also strong throughout. Skin tones are for the most part spot on with tan lines even visible on Castle's wife. As the movie progressed skin tones could vary as lightening conditions changed but it was not overly noticeable.
Some of the scenes suffered from grain and softness (such as the Puerto Rico beach scenes) and a couple of the opening scenes seemed slightly oversaturated. Instances of these flaws are limited but it's almost as though a completely different camera or mastering technique was used for these scenes. I also noted a very fine layer of grain in other scenes, although not obvious, could be seen in the whiter shades.
“The Punisher comes with a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. When playing this track the True HD indicator lit on my receiver but the display stated that the signal was recognised as Dolby Digital EX. On my receiver's OSD I was getting TrueHD but the receiver was applying the DD EX processing to it. The following was displayed on my OSD :
Dolby Digital EX
I checked a number of other BD's and all played fine with only TrueHD showing up on the OSD as follows:
So this issue seems to be inherent to this disc. At AVForums we get promotional (screener) titles to review from some of the major studios. These are normally representative of the finished product, but very occasionally errors do creep in. The American release of this Blu-ray contained a DD EX track (no TrueHD track), so it seems that this particular glitch may be an artefact from the port process inherent only to this pressing and that the finished product will be free from defects. My only other audio option was to switch to THX post processing on the TrueHD core. I decided to stick with the DD EX+True HD combination for this review.
This is a very aggressive mix with great involvement from all the speakers. As I listened to this in DD EX mode I also had the added benefit of the surround back speakers kicking in at various moments and adding scope to the soundstage. Especially exciting are the opening scenes as helicopters hover directly overhead with police sirens pulsing from the surrounds and gunfire literally zings around the room during the Peurto beach assault. Dialogue is strong throughout with subtleties such as the piano playing in the Saint's and Sinner's nightclub, or the sprinklers at casa Saint, clearly audible. The LFE track gets a good workout too adding presence to the guttural roar of Castle's Firebird and adding huge punch to all of the explosion/impact scenes. During any of the action sequences the soundstage literally erupted in impressive fashion.
The sound field has good directionality and can create some great effects such as the Harry Heck car chase stunt producing a tremendous scraping effect directly overhead as Castle's Firebird skids along on it's roof. Another example is the tremendous explosion at the closing of the movie where a door rips through the right sound field to great effect.
The score is prominent in this movie with ominous string sections from the Punisher theme expertly portrayed by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra. There are variations on this theme throughout the movie ranging from the opening softer numbers when Frank is with his family to the darker themes when Frank fully transforms into The Punisher. With nice string and deep bass/horn sections this is an enjoyable score (that can produce it's own cheese at times but at least is sounds well!). The sound effects are also clearly audible if a little too cartoonish at times (such as the punching effects) and sound as though they were added in post production rather than happening on screen.
I have to say that I was suitably impressed with this track although it did sound a tad thin at times, slightly lacking in clean deep bass sound. If the finished Dolby TrueHD offering makes any improvements over this offering then it will be very impressive indeed.
“The Punisher” comes with a decent selection of extras in what is a pretty comprehensive package. The only omission was some comic book footage of The Punisher. I was actually hoping that they would include the episode of the Spiderman cartoon featuring Frank Castle. There are, however, plenty of extras on the movie itself and also a commentary track from director Jonathan Hensleigh, who gives insight into how he styled The Punisher as an ultra violent, gritty western with influences from Sergio Leone. Hensleigh comments on the restraints of filming with a $30 million budget throughout and also on the cast, their performance and characters as well as other assorted pieces of trivia about filming the movie. There's also plenty of background information on the production of the movie in this excellent commentary.
War Journal: On the set of The Punisher (SD 29.59) Hensleigh explains the difficulties of filming "Punisher" with time and budgetary restriction meaning that all sequences in the movie had to be very tightly storyboarded with sixteen hour days required for the duration of the fifty day shoot. We also see that Hensligh had to cut the opening Kuwait action sequence which he had based the entire script around. The studio executives decided that this sequence was unnecessary and so it was cut along with another sub-plot. We also get insight into Henslighs' aspirations to emulate his hero Sergio Leone which shines through in some of the gunfight sequences. We also see Jane's understanding of the purpose of The Punisher and how he really got into character with some rigorous training sequences. The difficulties of filming in the humid and stormy Tampa setting are also shown. Great attention to detail is evident throughout in this mini-documentary and the budget special effects or set designs certainly do not look in any way cheap in the finished product. The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra also make an appearance and it's interesting to see how many instruments are actually present in the magnificent score. With insight from Travolta into how he found playing the evil Saint and also input from the other actors on set this is a comprehensive mini-doc.
Drawing Blood - Brad Street Style (SD 6.22) This featurette gives insight into the characterization of the Punisher for this movie under the command of Brad Street who had a photo shoot with Thomas Jane in full character costumes. We get to see a variety of posters (including the theatrical poster) that Brad created for the movie.
Keeping it Real: The Stunts of The Punisher (SD 27.4) A detailed look at the meticulous planning of all stunts from The Punisher with behind the scenes and b-roll footage from the movie. We also see that all the stunts were done old school with CGI trickery shunned by Hensleigh and overseen by Gene Warren. Exciting stuff!
Deleted Scenes Here we have two deleted scenes that come complete with director's commentary. These scenes are based around the Saint family and their almost imperial status in Tampa. Hensleigh managed to get a lot of Tampa's prevalent sporting superstars to appear in one of these scenes. We also get a better introduction to Saint's two sons and also see what a nasty character Saint's wife is. Interesting but their removal is no great loss to the overall finished product.
”Step Up” by Drowning Pool A music video from the band Drowning Pool. A so-so song from a band that doesn't seem to have made it big since their first movie soundtrack outing.
Alternate Opening Sequence (4.27 SD) As the name suggests this is alternative opening sequence to the movie based on one of Castle's operations in the Middle East. This is a cell shaded, storyboard type presentation so I'm not too sure if this was the finished product or not.
Trailers Here we have 1080p trailers of “Hancock”, “Lakeview Terrace” and “Felon” complete with DD 5.1.
I know that there are plenty of people that hated “The Punisher” and slated it. I simply transported myself back to 1990 and immersed myself in a movie that could stand toe to toe with some of Schwarzenegger's or Stallone's masterpieces. With plenty of action and some savage violence, coupled with exciting action sequences, this is a modern day no brainer action movie. With some strong performances and a revenge based plotline this movie should be enjoyed rather than analysed.
The video and audio presentations have been upgraded significantly for this Blu-ray release. Video has a very impressive contrast ratio with well defined detail. The audio presentation (that I had some issues with) is very immersive with great involvement from all speakers.
There's a competent collection of extras, that although disappointingly does not contain any gems from the comic books of The Punisher, do provide good insight and behind the scenes footage from the movie itself. Overall a very enjoyable presentation and a must for all fans of the movie (that's about 17 people including myself!).
“God's gonna sit this one out”
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