Having just re-watched The Mist [which somehow I cannot summon the interest to write about], and being very surprised at the quality of Thomas Jane’s performance, I decided to award this the prestigious “some crap on Netflix in the hour before bedtime” slot of my day. And it fulfilled all the obligations, which are ideally to be a bit stupid but also entertaining. And I did watch it to the end, an indication of how entertaining it was.
Four years before Iron Man inaugurated the current incarnation of the Marvel film, and one year before Batman Begins, this movie was released in a dark time for superhero movies, when no one really knew how to make one good. This was dismissed by critics, but held on and developed a bit of a following, and I can see why: it’s funny, it’s quirky, it has amusing side characters, and it has a decent-enough revenge story.
Jane is Frank Castle, supercop in Florida with the requisite beachside home and wonderful wife and child [it’s a very 90s action movie setup], but, because he killed someone, they send in a team to kill him ad his family, which they do. But Castle somehow survives, gathers up all his weapons, gets a not-so-secret hideout, and plots his revenge. You know the formula and it does indeed follow it.
But it is able to insert enough unusual touches to make it amusing. The Florida setting allows for a lot of tacky McMansions, colorful shirts, and different-than-normal people. Castle lands in a dilapidated house with Rebecca Romijn as a lady who always loves the wrong guy, and two nerd roommates who may very well be gay, and ends up being the badass killer of the building. Total Marvel movie sidekicks, but amusing and heartwarming enough. And throughout director Jonathan Hensleigh, who only made three films total, injects wit and unusual beats into the fight and action scenes.
Also on hand is John Travolta during the period of his career when everyone was sick of him again, and he is treating his whole high-strung Florida gangster role as a joke, which is precisely the right way to approach it, but I can see where it would seem like an awful performance if you didn’t get the humor of it. Also on hand is mysteriously sexy character actor Will Patton, who I first spotted being mysteriously sexy in Desperately Seeking Susan, but may never have been quite so mysteriously sexy as he is here, playing a gangster’s lead henchman with a horseshoe mustache who dresses in violet suits, is secretly gay, and is a depraved sadist. Hey—I think we’ve just described my ideal boyfriend.
So there you go, not great, but amusing, a perfect fit for Netflix, where you can stream the world’s most mediocre movies, day or night.