The Punisher (1989) – 1 out of 5
You would think it would be easy to make a Punisher film. Frank Castle’s back story is filled with trauma and drama (hey, that rhymes!) and the rest of it is just him seeking revenge with his only rule being kill those fuckers in such a way that the very concept of “extreme prejudice” shits its pants and cuts its own throat so it doesn’t share the same fate. However, with the exception of War Zone (I admit, I enjoyed that one), The Punisher’s venture into the world of movies have been extremely disappointing and it often ends up in a manner that you wonder if the writers, producers and even the star took the time to read a single issue or even browse the Wikipedia on the subject.
|Say what you will about the film but he did Duck Face before it became a fad.|
After a mob boss kills police officer Frank Castle’s family, the man becomes The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren); a vigilante who deals out justice in a storm of bullets. However, the man he wants to see at the other end of his shotgun the most now has to become his alley as the Yakuza has come to town and grabbed the mob by the metaphoric balls when they kidnapped their children and hold them for ransom in order to take control of the city. Meanwhile, The Punisher is being hunted by his former partner and friend (played by Louis Gossett Jr.)—so the movie pretty much hits all its 80s Bingo requirements (and yes, there is some bad synthesizer music polluting the soundtrack).
|If your Bingo card had Gosset Jr. in a yellow raincoat in the sewer, I think you|
just won 80s Movie Bingo.
I covered in my review of the Captain America movie from the 70s that there was a time period when Marvel comics clearly didn’t give a fuck about the treatment their properties received when they got a movie adaptation. This time period went on for a long time and was still slightly in existence when X3 came out. Most people know The Punisher from the awful Tom Jane/John Travolta film that came out awhile back but, I assure you, this one is just slightly less worse than that one.
|Not entirely sure why showing Lundren-ass is essential to the story.|
The biggest problem with the one with Tom Jane in a bad dye job (not that Dolph's dye job is any better in this one) was the fact the writers clearly didn’t understand the spirit of Frank Castle—of course, that film had many, many problems including the presence of John Travolta, a scene that had a Johnny Cash wannabe for some reason, Kevin Nash as a gay sailor and that one of the bad guys was clearly filming the movie in between practices with his boy band. That film spent nearly its entire running length seeing Frank Castle pit his enemies against each other in such lame ways as candid photos and putting a fake fire hydrant in front of a car so they get a ticket. In the comics, Castle just puts as many bullets as he could into his enemy. War Zone redeemed the franchise slightly by casting a better actor (and more fitting one, too) as The Punisher and focused on how Castle really, REALLY likes pulling the trigger on many, many guns.
|Wait...I think he's checking out his own ass from the previous pic.|
This 1989 adaptation did get Castle’s love of embedding bullets into bodies right but it didn’t help the rest of the movie thanks to the fact it’s filled with bad acting, a weak story, poor editing and sets that make the film look like it’s a cheap syndicated television show—and I didn’t even mention how a majority of the kids The Punisher saves all have their audio re-dubbed and re-dubbed poorly. I’m 90% sure that the kids were dubbed over by adults pretending to be kids; it’s actually quite amusing to hear.
|I think that mobster's wife made that suit out of her tablecloth.|
And that’s the real heart of this movie; the fact it’s easy to laugh at. While a little more faithful to the comics than the one with Travolta, the very obvious low-budget and terrible action—except Lundgren, who is doing his best to try and give a Shakespearean performance (and in doing so, makes things even more amusing)—makes this film something that is best left forgotten by Marvel fans but you can’t help but find some joy in watching the travesty take place.
|In case you're wondering; yes, that is henchmen shooting guns as they go|
down a slide on their knees.
The movie gets points for having a pair of balls attached to it that the 2004 film refused to take (sure that one was rated R and you got to hear some tits and see some swears--wait, reverse that--but it still lacked any real guts) as some of the violence gets pretty hardcore but, for the most part, the action is “meh” in its presentation and offers nothing really memorable. According to the internet, a lot of the fight scenes involved the actors really connecting with their punches in order to achieve realism but when they edit in silly punch and kick sound effects, all realism is gone—realism is also obliterated when Castle’s bullets hit anything that isn’t soft, spongy and composed of flesh as they rip into a sea of sparks…like an 80s heavy metal video (they sure loved the sparks in those things…which is a little dangerous when you think about it and remember how much hair spray those guys used).
|"I would break you but...I'm just not feeling it."|
The Punisher is as about as good as any Marvel product of the time. While the movie had some guts and went with an R-rating in order to at least look like it is keeping with the spirit of comic but awful acting, a story that feels more like a low-budget, early 90s The Punisher television show on Fox, and action that is just paltry and lackluster, the only redeeming factor this film has is to serve as a bitter reminder that we have it really good with the Marvel movieverse now and it’s a pretty damn good movie to watch and laugh at.