Marvel's The Punisher reviews explode online in a hail of gunfire

Ryan Leston
UK Movies Writer

Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ heads to Netflix in just a few days.

And it looks as though it’s already made quite an impression.

‘The Punisher’ stars Jon Bernathal as Frank Castle – the former-US Marine turned brutal vigilante who we first saw during Season Two of Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’. But now, the badass antihero is striking out on his own… and with his score settled, it’s time to turn his attention elsewhere.

He’s a stone-cold psychopath… and that’s why we love him.

Now, it looks as though the TV critics love him too.

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Obviously, ‘The Punisher’ is going head-to-head with some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters… when it comes to the ratings, at least. And with ‘Daredevil’ still riding high atop Netflix’s Marvel output, it’s going to have to pull out all the stops to stop Matt Murdock in his tracks.

Here’s what the critics think so far:

Forbes – Merrill Barr
“The Best MCU Series Ever Made. Really.”

“The Punisher is the best Marvel series to date set within the fictional MCU,” explains Forbes. “Why? Because it does its own thing.”

“In addition to being the best, The Punisher is also the most violent, unhinged series ever produced by the house Feige (or in this case Jeph Loeb) built. Punisher fans are going to be truly pleased by the series’ take on the character. However, unlike the lackluster two (three if you count that 1989 one) feature films, The Punisher finds a way to make Frank a sympathetic character.”

“Yes, he’s still a psychopath. But he’s one you really care for.”

“By ignoring the craziness that’s gone down in the Netflix corner of the MCU in recent months, Punisher builds a world all its own full of CIA cover-ups, NSA investigations and frenemies who are so ready to go to war with one other. The Punisher is the show Marvel Television needed. It’s the show that proves there might just be hope yet for the studio’s small screen ambitions.”

The Hollywood Reporter – Daniel Fienberg
“Marvel’s latest Netflix standalone is a tight, brutal six-episode story of revenge”

“Frank Castle would make a shitty dinner party guest,” states The Hollywood Reporter.

“The man better known as the Punisher is a traumatized, monomaniacal sadist bent on revenge. Yes, he may be out to get the bad guys, which gives him a code of ethics that separates him from being a bad guy himself, but he’s basically Batman without the patina of respectability afforded to Bruce Wayne by his wealth. He’s a mumbling, grunting, wiry jolt of bloody, uncompromising vengeance.”

But while THR is impressed by Bernthal’s performance, it looks as though the story could have been a lot tighter… and left this particular critic a little bored as the series progressed.

“Bernthal’s Punisher is a perfect character for a four-to-six-hour miniseries and then maybe to occasionally weave into other parts of Netflix’s Marvel Universe.”

“Unfortunately, whether the fault lies with Marvel or Netflix, this is a partnership that violates all of Netflix’s ‘Tell your story the way it needs to be told’ rules for other shows. With the exception of The Defenders, which was always announced as a miniseries, each and every one of the Marvel/Netflix shows has been 13 episodes and they’ve all had comparable lags in pacing and stumbles in storytelling to reach that number. But Marvel’s The Punisher is the first one that feels at least twice the length it should be.”

Variety – Sonia Saraiya
“Bernthal is perfectly cast in the surprisingly great standalone series”

 “At first, ‘Marvel’s The Punisher’ seems like another misstep,” says Variety. “In the television landscape at large, another overwhelmingly gray and brutally violent show centered on a dysfunctional antihero is superfluous. Within the superhero genre, it’s even more so. But ‘The Punisher’ transcends what it appears to be. Not completely, and not always; this is still a very violent show, saturated in tortured masculinity.”

“But thanks to Jon Berthal’s seamless performance as the non-superpowered vigilante Frank Castle and showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s sharp, conscious storytelling, ‘The Punisher’ approaches the high points of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” by introducing a damaged, deadly character and telling his story as one piece of an unjust whole.”

“It’s difficult to imagine better casting than Bernthal, who communicates so fluently with impassive silences, and is convincing both when he is being terribly violent and especially gentle. But it still takes the show a few minutes of throat-clearing to find its sweet spot.”

IGN – David Griffin
“Frank Castle’s (Jon Bernthal) introduction is a bloody reminder of how vicious a character The Punisher can be”

“Marvel’s The Punisher begins its journey in brutal fashion,” says IGN. “Frank Castle’s (Jon Bernthal) introduction is a bloody reminder of how vicious a character The Punisher can be, but that’s just the opening few minutes. The rest of the premiere focuses on Castle and his quest for a peaceful existence, which was an unexpected surprise.”

“Bernthal delivers another powerful performance, portraying a man who has been completely broken by the loss of his wife and two children. Bernthal brings the kind of anger and rage you would expect, but there is an elegant subtleness to his delivery that hints at a man who can also be vulnerable. He is constantly having to play Castle as a man teetering on the edged of killing everyone around him.”

“It’s intoxicating to watch, but troublesome at the same time. It’s easy to forget that unlike Daredevil, The Punisher is supposed to be a killing machine. The only way to achieve justice through Frank’s eyes is by killing anybody that doesn’t live up to his code. You could almost write this off as just an excuse to watch senseless violence, but the premiere goes much deeper than that.”

“Marvel’s The Punisher did an excellent job reintroducing us to an iconic character, with the help of a brilliant performance from Jon Bernthal. While some of the supporting cast members are less memorable, there is still plenty of time for more character development down the road.”

It certainly sounds good for ‘Marvel’s The Punisher’ with some truly marvellous reviews.

But not everyone loved the show…

In fact, some feel it just doesn’t have a place in 2017 – mostly due to the show’s copious amounts of gun violence, alongside the rise of actual gun crime that’s currently plaguing the United States.

“In watching the series, which follows a gun-toting vigilante (Jon Bernthal) as he metes out bloody justice on those who’ve wronged him, it’s hard not to feel a little uncomfortable at the level to which the series fetishises guns and the men who wield them,” says the Radio Times. “The opening credits for the series, for example, are completely comprised of whirling gun parts.”

But will the general audience be turned off by gun violence?

For now, we’ll have to wait and see… but I’m not entirely sure it’s as straight forward as that. After all, Frank Castle is constantly reminded of the futility of his revenge quest. And I think that’s kind of the point. But then, he’s not the man he once was.

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