Comic-Con attendees saw the first-ever footage from Marvel’s upcoming “The Punisher” in Hall H Friday night, and if you were hoping the show would be “What if ‘Death Wish’ had fewer mustaches, and also super heroes,” you’re in luck.
Bleak, menacing bordering on exploitation cinema, the footage showed off a damaged Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), who’s half Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” and half Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.”
It opened with a flashback to Frank Castle before the attack that killed his family, gave him traumatic injuries and turned him into The Punisher. As he plays guitar with his young daughter, it flashes forward to modern-day Frank attempting to play the same tune, clearly unable to (whether because of brain trauma or grief over his dead family is unclear).
Skip to a backwoods road in what a title card tells us is rural Alabama, as Frank, now in full The Punisher garb, drives a huge pickup truck chasing after two members of a biker gang. He shoots the bikers off their motorcycles, and then runs them over, killing them both.
Jump to Juarez, Mexico, where a cartel leader is throwing a huge party for his associates. These people clearly have a beef with Frank, judging by one of the henchmen, who shouts something equivalent to “f— the Punisher.” Cut to an upstairs bedroom, where the cartel leader and two women are about to have a threesome. The scene is viewed through what is clearly the scope of a sniper rifle and, indeed, as soon as the women drop out of view, the cartel leader is shot and killed in what might be the grisliest cock-block since Robocop.
The moment is cool not only because it’s an accurate-ish approximation of how long distance sniping actually works, but for pulling off a cheesy jump scare — we hear the loud BOOM of the rifle firing, but it takes two or three seconds before three-way cartel lord’s head explodes. When the camera zooms back, Frank is seen across the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, having sniped the cartel lord war on terror style.
Finally, the scene skips to New York City’s JFK International, where a sleazy, terrified crime guy is hiding in a bathroom, talking on the phone to someone bringing him up to speed about the just-seen murders. Cue Frank, who stomps into the bathroom, kicks open the stall and, basically, kills crime guy with his bare hands.
It’s way too early to say whether or not “The Punisher” will end up being any good. And Marvel’s Netflix shows have been uneven, even when they’re great. But as seen tonight, the unflinching brutality, and Bernthal’s raw animal menace go a long way to making one not care one way or the other. His performance was arguably the best thing about “Daredevil” Season 2, after all.
Here’s hoping extrapolating that to a (likely) 13-episode season works as well as it appeared to work tonight.