THE PU­N­ISHER

Learn­ing to love the pain in Dare­devil

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen - UK Broad­cast Netflix US Broad­cast Netflix Nick Setch­field

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.

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