The Punisher (1989): Breakdown by Rantbo
What if Paul Kersey was an insane 6’5”, muscle-bound Swede?
Aside from the overblown budgets and overuse of computer graphics, my biggest gripe with this past decade’s action of popular choice, the Super-Hero film, are the painful, over-long and unnecessary origin stories. I attribute this modern trend to 20 years of teachers unions destroying the American education system and leaving today’s average youth brain-dead, apathetic stains on society’s panties. And as such, need their pussified action films reduced to queer costumed CG spectacles with shiny, step-by-step, 40 minute cartoonish explanations of why the joke-spewing protagonists are willing to dress up like flamboyant gays and make asses of themselves to stop crime.
Listen, if you don’t know the heroes’ backstory and aren’t content with a brief, ten minute-or-less explanation—go fuck yourself. The overweight/underweight dorks that make up the majority of the ticket buyers already do, so the studios are just wasting money and worse, my time with a sure to be two and a half hour monster effects-laden eye-orgy who’s first act would be better spent telling an original story and kept to a duration more in keeping with the average purging span of the human bladder.
And that’s why I love 1989. Not only did the major motion picture adaptation of Batman hit theaters, but also THE PUNISHER*. Two great Super-Hero movies, both of which were fast paced, original takes that didn’t waste a third of their duration on boring ass origins. Especially PUNISHER.
See? Super-Heroes Can Be Gay And STILL Kick Ass, Hollywood
Clocking in at 89 minutes, and featuring 4 major action sequences, the filmmakers knew they couldn’t be fucking around with inconsequential bullshit like backstories. And thus—five minutes. That’s how long they spend on Frank’s origin. Five minutes. It takes more time to make a box of mac and cheese. And I can sum up all five of them up in one sentence: The mob wacks Officer Frank Castle’s family—Frank punishes the mob. And that’s all you need to know. Man, the 80s were fucking sophisticated.
Watching Dolph “He-Man” Lundgren machine-gunning mobsters, samurais and ninjas into red, misty clouds of blood and torn flesh is as close to a religious experience as I think I’m able to achieving. OK, so that’s taking it a little far, but to simply say this film is badass might not nearly be enough. From the opening sequence of Castle’s infiltration and destruction of a mafia head’s house, to the finale storming of a Yakuza training house of death , THE PUNISHER is un-clothed balls-to-the-sewer-walls macho entertainment.
But it isn’t without its hindrances. For instance, Castle gets his underground info by way of a drunken, ex-thespian homeless man, who rhymes all his insider information. And aside from seeing Castle’s obvious disgust toward him, is almost insufferable. Thankfully, his role is limited to about 5 scenes. The other thing I could complain about, but won’t, is the lack of plot. THE PUNISHER’s narrative seems like the powers that be just took four or five preconceived action sequences, tied them all together with a paper-thin mob war scenario and then happened across the man with the rights to the Marvel character. But again, I’m not complaining.
And while this film version of The Punisher wasn’t much like the character of the comics (at least at the time), lacking the crazy weaponry, white leather boots and black jumpsuit, Lundgren’s Frank Castle is more like the version of The Punisher that I’ve grown to love from the MAX series. I much prefer the leather-clad, dark and stoic Frank to the cartoony 70&80s comic version anyways, so I say good riddance. And while the trademark white skull is noticeably missing, I don’t mind so much, as I’m not a complete fucking dweeb. I figure, so long as he’s still killing dozens of scum in glorious R-rated splendor—what’s to bitch about!? Nothing. THE PUNISHER is a tight, fast, violent and funny piece of 80s super-hero action gold and is not to be missed. Especially if you, like me, are sick of seeing those pansy-ass models flying across green-screens in their underwear, to be digitally “enhanced” to the sums of untold millions. Beefy guys, big guns, buckets of blood, keep the camera steady and the film under two hours and I’m a happy guy.
*In Germany and Australia.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Dolph Lundgren is Frank Castle is The Punisher
For starters, he’s The Punisher—the greatest comic book character of the last 30 years. And in having Frank be played by a half-insane, sleep-deprived Ivan Drago/He-Man, the role couldn’t have been more macho, lest Castle roamed the streets naked, with a giant boner and the trademark white skull tattooed on his helmet. Yes sir, with Dolph’s impressive physique, martial arts training and ability to fire large cumbersome weapons with one banana fingered hand, I can’t imagine a better choice given the era.
– Lives in a sewer.
– Rides a motorcycle.
– Dresses in leather.
– Wields a shotgun as though it were a pistol.
– Fights ski-mask ninjas in an abandoned carnival.
– Gets tortured, yet never screams out, or buckles.
– Drives a bus, under heavy fire.
– Kills off an entire Yakuza crime syndicate.
– Kills off the final member of a mob syndicate—in front of his kid.
[THE BODY COUNT: 90+]
Frank proves he is king of the Castle with an impressive 60 kills, of varying degrees and shades of awesome. Which you can watch HERE. As for the rest, chalk them up to the organized crime war and flashback car bombing of Frank’s dearly beloved. Not to mention that in the backstory of Frank’s 5 years as The Punisher, he has taken down an outstanding 125 criminal scum-fuckers. Eat your heart out, Batman. And your testicles, while we’re at it.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Who Says Learning Can’t Be Fun?
[flashvideo filename=videos/PunisherLearn.avi.FLV /]
Overall, there are so many great novelty kills and epic death sequences within this flick, I would have been hard pressed to pick just one, so I went with the one that made me laugh the hardest.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
“You—you were his life. Before this ever happened. And you’ve been his life ever since. And you fucking well know that! How long do you think someone can live after you’ve cut out their heart! Is that what you want for Jake!?”
Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) and Frank were clearly fuck buddies. The story claims that they used to be “partners”, but insinuates they mean in a strictly platonic and professional way. But I can read through the lines. And you can too. All you need to do is watch the scene in the jail cell after Frank is arrested and Berkowitz pays him a teary-eyed visit. After a dramatic presentation of questions by Jake about the what and why of his partner’s betrayal to the written law, Berkowitz gets emotional and grabs onto Castle and starts to violently shake him, screaming “LET ME IN, LET ME IN!”. I feel I must reiterate, that this takes place within a jail cell.
The way I see it, five years back, Frank was struggling with his heterosexuality and with the sexual chocolate thunder that is Gossett Jr. waiting for him everyday at the precinct, who could blame him? But, he had his wife and daughters. The last strings holding Frank in place in the puppet show that was his “normal” American, suburban hetro life—and then, they were killed. Forced to cope with the death of his family and hetero ties to society, Frank went apeshit and transformed into the sado-masochistic leather-daddy known as The Punisher. Hell bent on killing the men responsible for turning him into a sexual deviant in the eyes of his Christian god, he will stop at nothing to remind the world not to fuck with a man on the edge of a gay lifestyle. They must be allowed to progress at their own speed, or look the fuck out.
Also, while they didn’t manage to procure the white skull logo for Castle’s shirt, they do manage to showcase the pale-white skin beneath it in several glorious sequences, including a fully nude one where Frank is praying to Jesus for directions on how to better slaughter criminals.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
The Women Of Punishment:
Castle’s Wife And Two Daughters: Eviscerated in a car bomb.
Berkowitz’s Partner: Threatened with violence by Frank, then pistol whipped unconscious by a ninja.
Lady Tanaka: Knifed in the skull, with a skull knife.
Lady Tanaka’s Mute Daughter/Bodyguard: (My favorite) Choked, has her neck snapped like a board of balsa wood, and then has her corpse thrown to the floor like a sack of wet laundry.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Frank and Franco Take On 18 Men In 10 Seconds
It’s an orgy of punishment! There isn’t much more to say than that. The whole event literally takes only 10 seconds. Frank and his mafia “buddy” walk into a room filled with meditating Yakuza ninjas and open fire, laying waste to the lot of them. Which is made all the more awesome by the fact that throughout the entire movie, they show these guys training intermittently, leading us to believe that an epic showdown is bound to go down in the third act. Nope. ~PIPPIPIPIPIPIPIPIPIP!!!~ All dead. Too funny.
Berkowitz: You’re sick—you know that?
Castle: No I’m not.
Berkowitz: What the fuck do you call a hundred and twenty-five murders in 5 years, huh!?
Castle: Work in progress.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Stay clear of abandoned carnivals. Ninjas live there. And possibly hobo-clowns.
Indeed. It scares me too, big guy.
[THE LIST OF LUNDGREN: 3 outta 5]
[ ] Ends The Movie Smiling
[X] Gets Captured
[ ] Screams While Shooting
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Teaches Values
[THE CHECKLIST: 19 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)*
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Remake [The Punisher (2004)]
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
*I’ll be counting Dolph’s spray-painted beard.
I can tell you with certainty, the carpet does not in fact, match the drapes.
The Punisher (1989) © New World Pictures and Artisan Entertainment