-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "What the fuck to you call a 125 murders in five years, huh?
"Work in progress."
Movies like The Punisher either grab you or they don't. I feel that the movie has faced unfair criticism for being only loosely based on the comic; the truth is that not only is The Punisher Dolph Lundgren's best movie, but it is also directed with style, humor and a good drab atmosphere which works in the film's favor. Although The Punisher is indeed flawed (mostly because the movie uses way too many scenes of Dolph riding his motorcycle), it furnishes its fun along the way.
Dolph Lundgren (The Last Warrior) stars as a vigilante known as The Punisher, who, after the death of his family, dedicates his life to punishing mobsters. However, when the Yakuza kidnap the mobsters’ kids, The Punisher must now fight for their families, and finds himself in an ironic position as he is helping the man (Jeroen Krabbe, The Fugitive) who planned the hit against his own family to save that man’s son. In Detail
Few movies have captured the sense of a comic book as this relentless action movie/comic book adaptation has. The villains are drawn out very well and the hero is far from a typical knight in shining armor. The hero of the film is indeed psychotic, and Dolph Lundgren captures this perfectly. His voice sounds hollow, and he looks as if he is about to go off the deep end. Louis Gosset, Jr (Iron Eagle) plays Jake Berkowitz (I don't know why Gosset has a Jewish name, but hey, Lenny Kravitz is Jewish, so why not good old Jake; after all Chanukah is the Festival of Lights), who is trying to prove that Frank Castle is The Punisher; and of course, we know Frank Castle is The Punisher because he's played by Dolph Lundgren, and every time we see Dolph on the cover of the movie we know somebody is in for an ass kicking. Hell, by the end of the movie Dolph is killing so many people that I counted 191 fatalities at the point of his rifle alone! (The highlight is when Dolph sneaks into a room with a bunch of samurai and slaughters them all with an M-16.)
So if a movie has great action scenes, lots of violence, decent acting, and a nice dark mood, too, it how can one (especially a Dolph Lundgren fan) not like it? Truth is, almost everyone I know that enjoys action flicks has thought this movie to be really good. Basically, it's a B movie, and if you know what you’re getting into, it will be a very fun action flick; but there are definite flaws to be found.
First of all is Dolph's naked white ass. Now I know he's psychotic and everything and he likes to sit naked in the sewer,s but do we really need a visual of Dolph Lundgren's soot covered ass (a term I borrow from Andrew from badmovies.org)? It just doesn't gel, and is the only unwatchable thing in the movie. Another weakness is that it has the habit of treading the same ground over and over again. Him riding through the sewer on his motorcycle, kids get kidnapped, Dolph riding his motorcycle to rescue kids, Dolph getting captured, Dolph dreaming of being on a motorcycle while reliving the day his family died… The motorcycle makes so many appearances in this movie it could have been a supporting character. And these kids in this flick are really deserving of a nice slap in the face; with the exception of Gianni Franco's kid, the others are snobs, idiots, wimps, or just dopes trying to be tough… and they all sport the worst clothes ever designed (oh, wait; I forgot about Dolph Lundgren's Samurai suit from Showdown In Little Tokyo… but these are a damn close second). But really, those minor weaknesses aside, the movie has more than its share of inventive touches of humor and violence to keep one's eyes glued and have any viewer walk out satisfied.
The Punisher is full of action; it moves at a swift pace and never lets one catch his or her breath. The action scenes themselves are very suspenseful, and inventive as far as modern B movies go, let alone by 1989 standards. And Dolph more then gets a workout here, as he kicks the living crap out of Yakuza minions as well as Mob flunkies - sometimes both at the same time - with the best action scene in the movie hands down being where The Punisher breaks up a drug deal. Even for those who hate the movie, all have admitted that it has good action scenes. And for the most part, I think that alone is a recommendation for this film among action fans who go for this kind of thing. (Like me.)
The Punisher also is a hundred times better than any of Dolph's later fiascos like The Minion, Storm Catcher, Sweepers, Pentathlon, and Agent Red (the latter of which is undoubtedly Dolph's worst movie ever), and if you look at the quality of the cast here, you will see stars like Louis Gosset, Jr. (Oscar winner), Jeroen Krabbe (Oscar Nominee), and work from Mark Goldblatt (Editor of such action flicks as First Blood, Terminator 2, and other classics), not to mention Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid 1, 2, and 3 and Kiss Of The Dragon, as the producer). These guys are more then competent, which can't be said for the ‘talent” on a flick like Agent Red, where the only actor you may have heard of is Dolph Lundgren, and maybe Randolph Mantooth. if you were a fan of the "Emergency" TV show. So it's not an understatement when I say that this is way better then all of his newer stuff. Louis Gosset Jr. seems a little out of place, but he contributes a decent performance; then again, he could play this type of role in his sleep. Jeroen Krabbe is really good as the Italian mobster, and while not Oscar worthy, he has some really good chemistry with Dolph. When you watch Dolph say a one liner, Krabbe's expression and reaction just makes the scene at play fun to watch, and it's a shame they don't have more screen time together. Kim Miyori also acquits herself well to the part; as far as villains go, she's over the top, convincing, and nasty, and it makes the movie more suspenseful during the climax… Though the best scene in the movie is when Louis Gosset Jr. and Dolph Lundgren share the screen for the one and only time, but it really shows not only how underrated an actor Dolph is, but how he alone is worth the price of admission.
Basically, you gotta take talent where you find it, and The Punisher has it in the cast, in the directing department, and with good stunts. It shows elaborate imagination in the action scenes, all of which are pretty suspenseful. What more can one want when looking for a decent action flick? Those looking for a more faithful adaptation will be disappointed, but one must admit that Dolph is nothing but true to the part. For those looking for a fun brainless action flick in the vein of Rambo, Commando, and Red Scorpion, you will not be disappointed.
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