Movie Reviews 10 – Punisher

Been on a bit of a Punisher binge of late. Read a whole bunch of Punisher/Punisher War Journal comics and decided it was high time that I watched some of the Punisher movies that have come out over the years. While I’ve never seen any of them until now, the few comments I’ve heard over the years has led me to believe that there wasn’t much substance to these movies. For the uninitiated, the character of Frank Castle is a former special ops officer who witnessed the murder of his wife and kids as innocent bystanders at a picnic after finding themselves pinned between to rival gangs fighting it out. The event transformed Castle into the vigilante Punisher, making himself a fugitive from justice. Unlike some ‘heroes’, the Punisher does not dole out his brand of justice with a soft hand. He pumps’em full of lead without warning. There is no pity and no urge to capture and render the criminals over to authorities.

Punisher War Zone (2008)
In this latest Punisher movie, things get off to a quick start with Frank hitting a mob mansion amidst festivities. When the head of the family dies in the Punisher’s onslaught, his son, hardly heartbroken, sees the opportunity to seize control. Unfortunately he’s still got a Punisher who wants to finish the job he started. This was not a bad movie at all. I was hoping that the movie would feature at least a few more characters from the comics line, but in the end, it didn’t really matter as the portrayal of the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) himself was enough.

The Punisher (2004)
This version has actor Tom Jane in the title role and John Travolta as the mobster in his sights. In a slight departure from the comics storyline, a bungled raid has the unfortunate consequence of killing one of the mobsters sons. Frank Castle is an undercover cop in the raid and while his death is faked as part of the operation, the mobster later learns that he is still alive. In revenge, the mobster targets Franks entire family who all die at a family reunion. Barely escaping himself, Frank dons the role of the Punisher and takes refuge in a near abandoned apartment house. His co-tenants are of trio of social outcasts that have bonded and taken note of their solitary new neighbor. When they realize that he is the Punisher, they attempt to embrace him into their group. Also stars Rebecca Romijn Stamos and Roy Scheider. While there are plenty of bullets and fists flying, there is also an intricate scheme for Franks revenge. The best of the Punisher movies by far.

The Punisher (1989)
Easily the worst of the Punisher movies, this one could still have been a lot better were it not for the casting of Dolph Lundgren in the title role. To be honest, I was expecting a lot worse. It’s not so much that I hated Lundgren’s attempt to pull off the character of Frank Castle, it’s just that he fails miserably and destroys whatever interest has built up every time he opens his mouth. In this movie Frank Castle gets mixed up cleaning out a local mob that it itself being sieged by an Asian female mobster laying out her takeover ultimatum. The mob scenes infighting scenes are more interesting than the Punisher scenes. Now if only Lundgren wasn’t involved I could maybe even recommend watching this one.

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