The John Travolta Comic Book Thrill Ride On Netflix That Deserves A Second Chance

By Britta DeVore | Updated

The Punisher (2004)

While we may now associate John Bernthal as the anti-hero known as Frank Castle aka Punisher, the comic book was first adapted into big screen form via Mark Goldblatt’s 1989 feature, The Punisher, in which action star Dolph Lundgren picked up a gun to get some vengeance. Then, fifteen years later, Jonathan Hensleigh made his directorial debut by signing on John Travolta as the crime boss Howard Saint and putting Thomas Jane into the titular role in The Punisher. Now streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, audiences can relive the high-octane film or catch it for the first time.

After Howard Saint (John Travolta), a notoriously ruthless crime boss, calls on his thugs to brutally kill Frank Castle’s entire family, the FBI Agent (Thomas Jane) sees no other way to exact revenge but to transform himself into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

John Travolta starred in 2004’s The Punisher, and you can stream it on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

Because Castle was around during the time of the slayings, Saint believes that his men hit all of their targets but the agent pulls a surprising recovery that sets him on the course of revenge. Stopping at nothing to see his enemies crushed and ground into the pavement, The Punisher follows Castle’s hunt for revenge at any cost necessary.

thomas jane
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle aka The Punisher

Pulling its story from recent comic installments that included The Punisher: Year One which was a 1994 miniseries penned by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, as well as Welcome Back, Frank, the 2000-2001 series written by The Boys co-creator Garth Ennis, the film tried to weave together part of the lore surrounding the cop-turned-vigilante while putting its own spin on things.

Having previously written the scripts for Jumanji and Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jonathan Hensleigh paired with Cliffhanger and GoldenEye scribe Michael France to adapt the screenplay. From there, casting was the creative team’s next step toward their hopeful success, quickly adding both Thomas Jane and John Travolta to their list of must-haves for The Punisher.

Despite the star power of John Travolta and Thomas Jane, The Punisher wasn’t a big hit with fans of the comic franchise.

For Thomas Jane, playing the antihero was never a part that he had seen himself in and the Boogie Nights, The Mist, and Deep Blue Sea star fought off advances to take on any role in the Marvel universe as the superhero gig just wasn’t his thing. Eventually, Hensleigh was able to wear him down, giving him his first real foray into superhero features.

Knowing that they’d need one of the most notable names in the biz to play their villain, the team struck gold when they landed John Travolta for the role of Howard Saint in The Punisher.

John Travolta as Howard Saint

A Marvel film before the Kevin Feige-helmed MCU that we all know and love today, despite the star power of John Travolta and Thomas Jane, The Punisher wasn’t a big hit with fans of the comic franchise. At the global box office, the title only managed to pull in $54.7 million against its $33 million production budget.

Darker than many of the MCU titles that were just a few years away, the film’s overarching dismal tone turned many critics off while others praised the screenplay and performers for staying true to the gloomy and brooding anti-hero’s style – after all, he’s certainly no Deadpool.

The Scrapped Sequel

Despite the negative pushback, Marvel and Lionsgate saw that there was still money to be made from Frank Castle’s story with the two quickly moving forward with plans for a sequel which was given the title, The Punisher 2.

But, as the gears began to grind, a lot changed for the follow-up feature with neither Thomas Jane nor John Travolta reprising their roles. Likewise, Hensleigh jumped away from the feature and it would be remade as a reboot titled Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevenson (King Arthur) as the Punisher.

While he’s made a name for himself in the action genre, appearing in titles including Pulp Fiction, Face/Off, Broken Arrow, The Thin Red Line, Basic, Killing Season, and many, many more, John Travolta’s first and final dip into the world of comic book films would be with The Punisher.

Sure, he’s continued to star as gangsters in films like Gotti, but the Grease and Look Who’s Talking Now star has since stayed away from any superhero adaptations. Even though we may never see Travolta in another Marvel movie or dip his toes into a DC flick, audiences can relive his glory as Howard Saint in The Punisher now streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

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