Learning to love the pain in Daredevil
If your moral compass aligns remotely to the left of Attila the Hun then the Punisher is the guiltiest of pleasures.
Judge Dredd without the irony, Dirty Harry without the all-conquering Clint cool, he feels like a hero for any seething urban fantasist with a centrefold from Guns & Ammo magazine taped to their basement wall.
His intro in Daredevil plays unapologetically into this Death Wish-fulfilment. Frank Castle shoots up a roomful of Irish mobsters and stalks, Terminator-style, into a hospital packed with terrified, innocent people. I watched these moments at a public screening in New York. People around me whooped and cheered. I sunk into my chair, preparing to make my excuses if anyone offered to show me their collection of “knives ’n’ shit”.
Then something remarkable happened. The show began to remove the layers of this remorseless killing machine, surgically expose the man behind the bullet-sprees and brutal beat-downs. “New York’s Finest” was essentially an episode’s worth of Daredevil and the Punisher discussing their respective methodologies on a rooftop, probing ideas of heroism and vigilantism with the kind of nuance and insight Zack Snyder could only dream of.
Of course Jon Bernthal’s a physically perfect screen Punisher. In real life that nose has been broken no less than 13 times. A walking mass of scar tissue, he increasingly resembles the handiwork of Victor Frankenstein as the show’s fights pile up. But Bernthal’s a genuine revelation here, imbuing Frank Castle with a humanity that leaps from the screen. It’s in his painsoaked eyes and his fleeting, crooked grin.
Jon Bernthal made me love the Punisher. Without the guilt.