Written By: Zak Santucci
Most of us simply know Thomas Jane as “that guy from Deep Blue Sea. The Punisher plans on making him a household name in this gory, revenge movie adaptation. Jane seems excited about it too. For a movie that Tom Jane has been waiting to do since he was 13 years old, it is no surprise that he put on 25 pounds of muscle and trained for 6 months with Navy Seals. His overall enjoyment is easily sensed from the screen, and he even acknowledges it when questioned about this aura he seems to be emitting in his latest movie.
“I don’t think it was intentionally geared towards titillation. I don’t know what the right word is. ‘Camp’ is too strong a word for what we do, because it doesn’t stray too far from reality. But yeah, there is a type of wonderful celebration that’s in there. There’s fervor or a lust for what we portray. That just came from the film-making. What it is, is like when you haven’t seen an old girlfriend that you’ve been lusting about for like years and years and you finally see her and get that one night in a hotel room with her and you just take her apart. It’s that kind of a thing and I think what it stems from is that both of us (John Hensleigh and I) grew up with movies from the 70’s, I watched these movies with my dad. And then they just faded away. And those movies are what inspired me to be in movies in the first place. When we got the opportunity to do what we wanted we just exploded in this creative miasma of every passion; every feeling. We were always topping each otherâ€¦I think there’s a visceral element that translates to the screen there.”
The “camp” he speaks of is the B-movie air we sense in this movie. However, it’s pulled off so well, and that has to be rooted in the realism. And as for any plot holes he says, “It’s just not that type of move. It’s entertainment.” Tom Jane wants his audience to realize that “it defies preconception. The less preconceived ideas you have about what kind of movie you’re going to see, the more fun you’re going to have. It’s an entertaining movie. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and it does its job.” But in the same vein this movie has been criticized for being gruesome and gratuitously violent: “Our tolerance for violence right now as a country is I feel not what it was in the seventies. If you go back and look at Rolling Thunder with William Devane or Point Blank with Lee Marvin or even Death Wish with Bronson, you’ll find that the violence in our movie is not as shocking as it was when my parents were my age. The end of Taxi Driver is so brutally violent and shockingly real that we couldn’t do that without an X-rating,” Jane remarks.
As a comic fan he finds it ironic that as a child, he was into EC comics, which were also very gruesome, and in fact banned. The horror and brutality attracted him when he was little. When asked about all the kids that were going to obviously want to see The Punisher, he replies, “I find as a kid I could take much more violence, much more guts and gore; just bring it on, nothing was too shocking for me as a teenager. Now I’m 45, my tolerance for these things has completely changed. As I grow older, closer to the grave, that stuff becomes more and more disturbing to me. I do remember I lived in a different world than I do now as an adult. That world demanded a certain kind of shocking, take it to the limit, stretching the bounds, kind of an attitude that was cathartic for me. I sought it out in my movies, I sought it out in my comic books, in my novels. Now kids are seeking it out in their video games. You can’t do something gory or tragic enough in these video games. There’s a cathartic quality that serves a purpose that I’m not smart enough to understand except for on a gut level.”
One would be surprised that to make this movie successful, but keep its entertaining style, Jane looked to silent film star, Buster Keaton: “He was an indominable spirit in a sea of chaos” and had an “immaculate ability to portray physically great pathos and great emotion and be able to create a well-rounded human being with just his physicality.” But Keaton wasn’t his only influence, he brought Keaton to a different school of acting to see what he got.
“I related that to the silent stars of the 70’s, who did things instead of talked about them. That combination for me was a wonderful blend, because at a certain point as I got older I wanted to make fun of those action stars. The Steven Segalls, or the Van Dammes, or Stallone as he got a little tired. These guys relied more on their bravura and on the tough guy attitude than they did on their human spirit and what made them so attractive to me in the first place. One of my favorite scenes from a tough guy film is in The Getaway when Steve McQueen has a wrapped up shotgun and he’s sneaking back to the car and Ali McGraw‘s waiting and she pulls away before he can get into the car and the door hits him and knocks him on the ass and he falls in the streetâ€¦That’s what made him human for meâ€¦That’s what I wanted to inject into Castleâ€¦There’s a vulnerability to him.”
With all the mentions of famous action stars it is a wonder whether Tom Jane got the blessing of former Punisher
“I was able to tailor it to what I wanted to inject into the film. I took out as much dialogue as I possibly could. I wanted to get that silent movie quality to Frank and also that seventies thing. I tried to make him as fallible as I could. I tried to find the humor without making fun of it, which is really important.”
A lot of questions have been raised about The Punisher coming out the same weekend as that other revenge movie, Kill Bill: Volume 2. This is especially true, since there is no question that the latter will be wildly successful. Jane prophetically states that, “It’s gonna be a fantastic weekend. People will see both movies.”