Watch This – Dirty Laundry (2012)
One of the biggest surprises to come out of this year’s Comic-Con was the unannounced unveiling of a secretive short film that actor Thomas Jane put together. The screening didn’t take place in a huge hall nor was it viewed by a throng of fans. Directed by Phil Joanou (“State of Grace” and “Gridiron Gang”) “Dirty Laundry” sees Jane indirectly returning to the role of Frank Castle aka The Punisher, the Marvel Comics character he played in the 2004 film “The Punisher”, which he obviously has a strong affinity for. To be clear, this is considered a “fan film”, having no ties with Marvel Studios, but the pedigree and quality is quite obvious.
Written by Chad St. John and produced by Adi Shankar (“The Grey” and “Machine Gun Preacher”) for Jane’s RAW Studios, the 10 minute short begins with Jane’s character waking up in the back of a parked van in a seemingly desolate and seedy neighborhood. He gathers himself and a bushel of clothes and makes his way to a nearby laundromat, minding his own business while gang activity around him. Of course, the violence outside escalates in stereotypical fashion (with cliché lines such as, “You crossing my street?!?!”), resulting in both a woman and a child falling victim to the gang’s aggressive thuggery.
Despite trying to convey an aura of aloof disinterest, Jane’s character (can’t really call him Frank Castle or The Punisher – although he mentions “punishment” – due to film rights and so on, even though we know who he’s playing) must inevitably deal with the riff-raff. That smackdown comes after he finishes off a Yoohoo drink from a local mini-mart run by a disabled war vet (a typically great Ron Perlman), who inadvertently inspires Frank – er, Jane – to take action, armed only with a bottle of Jack Daniels.
(Bloody violence and colorful language ensues, NSFW, etc.)
The short was immediately posted on youtube in its entirety (posted above) with a quote from Jane himself, “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.”
As a fan of both the Marvel Comics character as well as Jane’s previous work (notably “Deep Blue Sea” and “The Mist”) – this was cool to watch. It has that same 70s Charles Bronson/Dirty Harry vibe that the much-maligned 2004 film had and, as a short, it has a lean, straightforward narrative that confidently relies on character and mood. While “The Punisher” film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, that Jane starred in suffered from a poor choice in setting (Tampa, Florida?) and an awful antagonist in John Travolta, Jane remained a solid and fully-commited presence.
So, that’s one reason why it’s cool to see something like this, especially considering how it truly feels like a passion project for Jane. He’s not only a comics fan, but also a creator, co-owning RAW Studios with other comics creators like Steve Niles and Timothy Bradstreet (known for his own Punisher work, who designed a new logo for this short).
The other cool factor is the possibilities this short presents. Marvel Studios already has a short that will be included in the upcoming Blu-ray release of “The Avengers”, one that is considered a spin-off. But “Dirty Laundry” shows that there is plenty of short film potential here for Marvel, especially the more gritty/urban characters. It can serve as a good testing ground for characters like Luke Cage, Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange, just to name a few.
At this time, there’s been no response from Marvel regarding “Dirt Laundry”, but they should give props to Jane for getting the character down once again – even though the short hit a pothole by using Hans Zimmer’s opening to “The Dark Knight” – d’oh!