Last weekend, I watched Keanu Reeves' latest action movie, John Wick. After taking some time to think about the film, I couldn't help but realize the two directors -- David Leitch and Chad Stahelski -- would be the perfect people to bring Frank Castle into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, there might be a Punisher easter egg in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but we're talking about the anti-hero's big debut.
John Wick is a very straightforward action movie about a man who has nothing to lose. The plot feels like it could be something from a classic Sly or Arnold action movie, but what helps it stand apart from the gazillion other generic shoot 'em up films is how well everything is executed. From the emotion to the stunts to the cinematography, John Wick avoids becoming just another "man against the mob" movie and manages to leave a lasting impression. When Frank Castle finally gets his own project -- whether it's on Netflix or the big screen -- the team behind John Wick has what it takes to create an awesome Punisher experience.
Don't continue if you don't want John Wick spoilers that are already revealed in its trailers!
There's a few strong parallels between John and Frank's stories. John Wick is about a former hitman who left his career because he fell in love. Unfortunately, the woman he fell in love with has a terminal illness and eventually, she passes away. All that John Wick has left in life is his car (I'm not a car guy, but it's pretty impressive) and he seems directionless. Then his doorbell rings and he has to sign for a delivery. What's the package, you ask? An adorable puppy. Knowing she would eventually die, John's wife arranged to have him sent a companion after her death; something that'll make sure he still has something to love and isn't alone in his grieving. Sadly, a Russian mobster's son and his goons break into John's home, kill his beyond cute dog, and then steal his car. Why'd they do that? Simply because John refused to sell his car when he bumped into them at a gas station. Now John has only one thing on his mind: revenge.
As for Frank, you all know his story, right? A skilled soldier whose family is slaughtered by the mob during a nice picnic. Frank them embarks on a mission to rid the wold of scum. Sure, there's a ton of differences between the two leads, but at the end of the day, both men are emotionally scarred by criminals and then seek revenge. Again, it's not the most original story around, but we'll soon explain why John Wick's team made it great and how they could use a similar approach to make Punisher great, too.
Yes, Keanu Reeves' fantastic performance plays a big role in what makes John Wick worth seeing. The script may seem silly to some and in the wrong hands it would have been, but Reeves fully embraces it and dominates the role. Reeves is a key element in making John Wick memorable, but it's worth noting Marvel Studios is known for their spot-on casting. Every hero has been brought to life phenomenally by their respective actor or actress. There's no reason to believe it would be any different when it comes to casting Frank Castle, one of their most well-known anti-heroes.
Even though the trailer reveals the tragedy John Wick endures, the handling of the scene is still emotional. Instead of busting out of the gate with big action, this is a movie that establishes an emotional connection and turns into a character-driven story. It's not just a forced tragedy so we can get a lot of really, really fun action sequences. The handling of it is heartfelt and we get glimpses of his thoughts to help us understand what he's going through. It's not heavy-handed and loaded with exposition -- it's subtle and effective. They spend just the right amount of time building up the character and tension before all of the shooting begins. Seeing as Frank Castle has such a well-known story, that's exactly the kind of approach the guy needs. It doesn't blow your mind with any twists and turns and it doesn't go over-the-top in an attempt to make you cry; it simply focuses on character and makes you understand the emotional weight he's carrying. Someone shouldn't watch a Punisher movie and only be impacted by the shooting. They should make us care about Frank and root for him as he faces seemingly impossible odds. Even though we all know what Frank goes through, it still needs to hit us like a ton of bricks. Well, that's exactly how they made me feel about John Wick. It didn't just thrive because of cool action scenes -- it also thrived because of character.
Before we talk about the handling of the action, there's another thing that makes John Wick special and it would benefit a Punisher story: Worldbuilding. Writer Derek Kolstad gave this directors a familiar world but packed it with new elements. Instead of hitting us with all of the tropes you've come to expect from a movie about a guy who has lost it all and is now taking on the mob, John Wick begins to establish a whole new setting -- one which is somewhat silly yet treated in a way that makes it all so much fun. Just like Guardians of the Galaxy, it doesn't stop to explain what it is and why it exists. It expects you to pay attention and knows you can put together the pieces on your own. There's a hotel where criminals stay and it's agreed that no one can conduct "business" on its premises. It's here that the world begins to unravel and we see there's so much more potential in this universe as we meet new characters and continue to see how "business" is conducted. If they could do this with a mob movie, imagine what they could accomplish with the Marvel Cinematic Universe? We've seen HYDRA and other villainous organizations, but what about the street level criminal element? What about the gangs in New York? What kind of scene is Jigsaw running and how has it managed to avoid drawing attention? We'll likely begin to see that in Netflix's Daredevil series, but this team has proven they can take a familiar world and turn it into something interesting and refreshing. They can see what went down in Daredevil's series and expand it. What if Jigsaw is one of Kingpin's competitors? Or what if he's just one of the many other organizations working for the big man? What if Daredevil is then thrown into the mix as Frank wages his war against criminals? There's so many ways they can tell a story about the Punisher while also adding a little more depth to Marvel's world.
If Frank Castle's going to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he needs action scenes that'll wow viewers. It shouldn't be overly violent -- that just wouldn't mesh well with the rest of the universe -- but it shouldn't feel watered down, either. Both of John Wick's directors are former stuntmen and it really shows. They're able to make us believe John Wick's the ultimate badass. From the intense and swift grappling to using pistols with uncanny precision, the action scenes are consistently thrilling. It's tempting to go on and on about the handling of the stunts, but why not watch a clip and judge for yourself? In the below clip, John tactically takes down 8 goons. It's never gruesome or over-the-top; it just shows how calculating and focused the lead is. Something like that is critical in a Punisher movie. If he's going to inhabit a world with Daredevil and Thor, we need to believe he's one of the most gifted and cunning human combatants on the planet. We need to think he could find a way out of an encounter with one of the famous heroes or villains. Also, considering the following clip isn't gory, action like that should be able to receive a PG-13 rating -- something Marvel Studios would obviously want. If you really enjoy the clip, click here for another one. Scenes like those feel perfect for Punisher, don't they?
Given the opportunity, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski could create a Punisher story that's character-driven, emotional and full of exciting action. We all know Frank's story by now, but they have what it takes to make it engaging and leave you wanting more. As if that wasn't enough, John Wick proves they'd be able to successfully add new layers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, too. If Frank Castle is going to become part of the evergrowing universe which includes great characters like Captain America and Iron Man, he needs a compelling and fun debut; not just a generic movie which happens to include a lot of action. John Wick's directors? Yeah, they can do that.
Do you think John Wick's directors would be a good choice for a Punisher movie (or Netflix series) or is there another director you have in mind?