(CNN) Marvel’s virtually all sadistic vigilante has been a continuing way to obtain screen fascination, yielding movies of the uneven-to-poor variety. Although a Netflix series might appear to be extra hospitable turf, “The Punisher” only marginally enhances on that legacy, yielding a grim, plodding storyline that tends to confuse body count with achievement.
Previously introduced in “Daredevil,” Jon Bernthal’s skeleton-adorned killing machine, Frank Castle, is back again, in a drama built in his status mainly because a former military man, a brief history that comes home to haunt him. He also continues to grieve for his wife, whose murder the viewer must preserve reliving — in gauzy Technicolor dreams — along with him.
As the series opens, everyone thinks our tortured antihero has died, aside from a former NSA analyst (“Girls'” Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a maestro of computers and surveillance who enlists Frank in a larger cause. The plot involves a mystery encircling what really happened during Castle’s service abroad, a situation which involves his past buddy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) and a Homeland Reliability agent (Amber Rose Revah) who fields the case.
The action, when it happens, proves especially grisly. The parties postponed a “Punisher” premiere at New York Comic-Con following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which feels like a limp acknowledgment of the show’s over-the-top violence while concurrently trying to determine distance from it.
On the way, Castle endures practically as much punishment as he dishes out (although “The Punishee” does not have quite the same band to it), and the gore factor rises to bordering-on-gratuitous heights during the closing flurry of episodes.