Ror Revisits: The Punisher (1989)
In the last of my Punisher revisits I'll be looking at the one that started it all. The Mark Goldblatt 80's action flick starring Dolph Lundgren...
The first and only time I saw this movie was back in the early 90's. As a teenager and a comic fan(albeit not a Punisher fan), I thought I would love it but I just couldn't get past the lousy acting and crappy production values. Watching it again the other day, I have to admit that I found some kind of fondness for it. Maybe it was just nostalgia, I actually enjoyed it more than the latest effort, Punisher: Warzone.
In this movie Frank Castle is an ex cop who's wife and children are killed in a car bomb(Castle is beside the car when it happens, evidently invulnerable to large explosions). In typical Punisher fashion, he loses it and wages war on crime,etc. Look, if you have seen any of the Punisher movies, you know the story. The only difference in this one is that instead of Micro, or two Laurel and Hardy lookalikes he has an old drunk bum as his sidekick. Whom he lures around corners with a remote controlled car with a bottle of whiskey on top of it. Yep, simply calling the guy over ain't Frank's style. Anyway, there are Yakuza and mobsters to murder and a bunch of children to save before Castle can retire to his sewer to sit in the buff, staring at candles.
It's a violent, silly mess of a movie. Much like Warzone, but strangely the story here sucks you in a little more. Lundgren is a terrible actor, there is no denying that. Although there are a few eye rolling scenes(watching him get out performed by a group of children is hilarious), he also convinces at times as a killing machine with nothing to lose. It's certainly the best performance I have seen him give(not that that's saying much). It's a shame he doesn't wear the signature skull t-shirt though. It's hard to put my finger on, I just got more wrapped up in this than I expected. Maybe it was that nostalgia that I mentioned. There is a sort of grimy, old school feel to this. The music, the action, the sets...though technically terrible, just add to the enjoyment. Louis Gossett Jr. also pops up as Frank's old partner and adds some class to the proceedings. The script is also passable, sometimes even pretty good. Especially the scene between Lundgren and Gossett Jr. Castle's description of the murder of 125 criminals in 5 years as "a work in progress" working wonders as a chilling one liner.
Aside from the positives, this is still a load of bollocks! The fact that it knows it is and revels in it helps, but ultimately it's just not a very good movie. The thing is, it's also fairly enjoyable despite that, and actually succeeds where Warzone failed in being something approaching compelling. If like me you have bad memories of this, give it another watch. You might be surprised how much you don't hate it!
Ror Revisits: Punisher Warzone
Ror Revisits: Punisher (2004)
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