Touching the Void

Starring Tom Jane, Roy Schneider and John Travolta. Directed by Jonathan Hensley.
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The Punisher gives a whole new interpretation to the term "loosely based," because this film is loosely based on a Marvel comic character, but it is scarcely recognisable from its source.

Not that comics by their genre have to be all sweetness and light, indeed The Punisher was always a dark comic character, but writer and director Jonathan Hensley goes for the darkest possible adaptation of the original work.

Frank Costello (Jane) is the Delta Force agent who, on his last assignment in the force, breaks a huge drug deal between the US and Central American cartels. It makes him some powerful enemies, especially the US drug baron Howard Saint (Travolta). The ill-named Saint finds Castle and his extended family on an island having a holiday and sends his henchmen to massacre them. Castle is the only one left living.

Castle spends the rest of the film plotting his revenge on Saint and his family and is successful in this murderous endeavour.

I'm not sure what phrases I can use to dissuade you and yours from seeing this appalling film, but let me try: ultra-violent, filled with the torture, degrading and dehumanising.

John Travolta's film decisions are becoming more incomprehensible with every film. He espouses lots of family values in his public statements and interviews, but then attracts an audience for a film like The Punisher which undermines almost everything in which he says he believes. I wonder what Scientology says about graphic violence in the cinema?

The Catholic Church's position is clear: graphic violence in the cinema, no matter how noble the cause of the protagonist, diminishes the human community.

At least in this respect the film is well titled - watching it is a chastisement in itself. But what about those who made it?

Fr Richard Leonard is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.


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