Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
The Punisher (1989)
IVE Home Entertainment | Review by Dan Taylor

Dolph Lundgren is The PunisherThis live-action comic book saw new life via video after being shelved due to New World Pictures' financial difficulties.

Based on the popular Marvel Comics character, THE PUNISHER stars Dolph Lundgren (our favorite muscle-bound Euro-trash action star), Louis Gossett, Jr., Kim Mayori, a slummin' Jeroen Krabbe, and a host of stereotypically greasy Italian and unscrupulous Japanese bloodpacket-wearers.

Instead of structuring the flick like the typical "origin" story, THE PUNISHER starts out five years into the character's existence, as the crime boss responsible for police officer Frank Castle's transformation into the black-clad vigilante is being released from the big house. In a rousing first 15 minutes, Mr. P (as his snitch refers to him) lays waste to the crime lord and his henchmen with much gunfire, many explosives and several garrotings. Yay!

With the return from Italy of new crime boss Gianni Franco (Krabbe), the film begins to take some fun twists and turns that make it far more watchable than most of the other action-dreck being foisted upon us.

While attempting to bring the rival families together as one big syndicate, Franco raises the interest of the Yakuza, who come in with takeover on their minds. Hmmm, maybe THE PUNISHER is a simply a cautionary tale of American consumerism and its succeptability to the evil, drooling Jap empire. Whether it is or not, the Yakuza's powerplay turns out to be a bad career move, and the gang war brings the Punisher back into the fray...all to the rat-a-tat-tat of bullets galore!

Structured, shot and acted like a live-action comic book, THE PUNISHER succeeds in all the areas were BATMAN failed so miserably. Yes...we know that the character has been indelibly scarred by the loss of his family. Yes...we know that the violence he inflicts only perpetuates more violence. Yes...we know that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is dangerous. However, it is a fucking comic book, and I'd rather leave the philosophizing to Voltaire and Ghost Rider.

THE PUNISHER -- despite what you may have heard to the contrary -- is a fun flick with enough acts of ridiculous violence to keep you interested.


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