Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action violence
Running Time: 83 min.
Cast (voices): Jennifer Carpenter, Brian Bloom, John Eric Bentley, Grant George, Kyle Hebert, Kari Wahlgren, Eric Bauza, JB Blanc, Matt Mercer, Fred Tatasciore
Director: Kenichi Shimizu
Screenplay: Mitsutaka Hirota
Review published March 12, 2014
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is a direct-to-video release from Marvel, crafted by the Japanese anime studio, Madhouse, who were responsible for the four 12-part "Marvel Anime" TV series which aired in Japan and the US in 2010-11, as well as the 2013 direct-to-video release, Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, which also features Punisher and Black Widow.
The plot involves The Punisher (voiced by Brian Bloom, The A-Team), aka Frank Castle, being arrested by the Black Widow (Carpenter, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) for meddling in one of SHIELD's covert missions. He gets called to action again at the behest of SHIELD head Nick Fury (Bentley "Hart od Dixie"), who wants Widow and Punisher to go to take down the world's most dangerous super-terrorist network, Leviathan, from co-opting SHIELD secret tech to sell to bad guys around the world, and also to thwart a super-soldier operation spurred on by a former SHIELD operative.
As this is a film that features who of Marvel's non-superpowered heroes, you can expect plenty of gunfire and martial arts action. For those into traditional superheroes, several Avengers (Iron Man, Thor and Hulk) do make an appearance for an all-out melee late in the film. The voice work is fine, though, interestingly, Jennifer Carpenter does not give Black Widow a Russian accent,which keeps it in line with the Avengers live-action films.
The story is concocted Marjorie Liu, a novelist who has done work for Marvel in the past with work on some of their X-Men related titles, as well as the first five issues of Black Widow's own series in 2010. While she is a good writer, the problem is the screenplay as it stands from Mitsusaka Hirota, which just doesn't crackle from any sort of good dialogue or interesting developments for these enigmatic characters beyond just the main premise.
Unless you are a huge fan of the two titular characters, or you're someone who regularly consumes just about anything anime, Avengers Confidential is a fairly weak effort compared to other animated Marvel releases, containing a very basic plotline and few interesting character touches. If you aren't already fired up for some reason going into it, it's not likely to get you fired up by the end.
©2014 Vince Leo