Yesterday, the internet was a aglow with the news of a new Comic book Fan Film that hit the web and took no prisoners. The film was of course Dirty Laundry, starring Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman. For those that have not watched it yet (if there’s anyone left), here is the film below.
Dirty Laundry naturally made its debut at Comic-Con as part of Jane’s Raw Studios Panel. The film was directed by Phil Joanou with a script by Chad St. John. After the Con was all said and done, Adi Shankar, the film’s producer, posted the 10 minute flick online for all the fanboys to see. Jane and company have stated that they did not do this to lobby for any film deal with Marvel. This was a labor of love done to show appreciation for one of the most famous anti-heroes in comic book history. Jane released this comment with the film:
“I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans. It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.”
And enjoyment has been the general consensus from the many “friends of Frank” across the interwebs. As the title of the film suggests, it’s laundry day for Mr. Castle and he’s doing it in a rough part of town. The part of town where thugs and hoodlums pick fights with those weaker than them: street walkers and little kids. They prey on them and feed off their fear. At first, Frank keeps a low profile and doesn’t get involved. Even stops into a conveniece store to get some Yoohoo. But a line is crossed and Frank can’t take any more. So he decides to dole out punishment and what follows is a gruesome but beautiful display of straight up violence. The film ends with a tender moment of sorts as Frank drives off, leaving behind a his symbol newly designed by Tim Bradstreet.
As I said above, this film was beautiful in it’s portrayal of violence, pulling no punches and showing much more than any of the feature length Punisher films would dare. The acting was also spot on. Jane works best in the role when he’s given little to no dialogue. All of the performance comes from his facial expressions and mannerisms. He definitely looks like a guy who feels like he died when his family did. Ron Perlman also does a great job in the short. His representation of the human element that’s given up on trying to make things better isn’t anything new or all that deep, but it’s deep enough for this story. And seeing a big guy like that looking meek and beaten is a really powerful image. As for the rest of the actors involved, strong performances across the board. All did a great job with what they were given.
I can honestly say that this the best live action version of the Punisher ever to be commited to film. For a comic property, Punisher has had a fair bit of attention given to it at the movies. There have been three theatrical releases. All have been weakly received. The first attempt was in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren playing the title role. Obviously not the right guy for the job. In 2004, there was a second try with Jane portraying the man but a convoluted plot and terrible supporting cast choices took the film into the cheesey action movie realm. They tried to work in various elements from the Punisher comic book but without proper context, so it looked like a jumble of different plot points that didn’t add up to an actual story. Finally, In 2008, Punisher War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson was released and while it delivered on the over-the-top action we always wanted in a Punisher film, it had a tongue in cheek attitude in regards to its story. There was a better blending of the comic elements but a complete lack of respect to the gravitas of the character. Now, after watching Dirty Laundry, I see that somebody out there gets that there’s more to the Punisher than meets the eye. This was the closest anyone has ever come to creating a Punisher film that’s true to its source material.
Now here’s the part where I’m gonna piss off a lot of fanboys out there.
It didn’t fully capture the Punisher.
This film is great. It’s really entertaining and the action sequence kicks ass. As I said, Ron Perlman’s scene was awesome. Jane did a great job displaying a man with a lot stuff going on in his head without using too much dialogue. But it still missed the mark. Only by a hair but it still missed it. They might’ve had the perfect casting and the perfect story to tell. It was the execution of the story that was slightly off.
The Punisher, while layered in his fight against his personal demons, is very cut and dry when it comes to his war on crime. Like Rorschach and Steve Ditko’s Mr. A, The Punisher lives by a specific code. His code is not as black and white as the other characters I just mentioned but it’s still a pretty simple one: If you’re a badguy, you get punished. It’s that simple. And Frank ain’t the type to mess around with that. If he sees you doing something bad, like beating and raping a woman or pounding on a kid and robbing him of his sneakers, he springs into action. You get punished. That’s what really stood out for me with this film. Frank seems really involved in getting his laundry done. I know that this is suppose to be seen as Castle still being conflicted on his place in the world. The argument is presented in Perlman’s monologue. And the decision is made at the end of the story as to what Frank must do. I get that. But I got the feeling like he’s already been in action as the Punisher. And although I have stated that there are more layers to the character, the fact is that the best stories involving the Punisher work out of a tried and true frame work. The moment you step outside that framework, it’s not exactly a Punisher story anymore. Thankfully, Jane and company did not step very far outside the lines and gave us an excellent fan film.
All nitpicking aside, this is one enjoyable short and I recommend it to anybody who likes to see their vigilante justice bad-ass and bloody. As a friend of Frank, I have two words for Mr. Jane and all the other people involved in making Dirty Laundry: Thank you.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!