A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 389 – The Punisher (1989)

The Punisher (1989) – March 24th, 2011

Okay, so I’ll take half the blame for watching this tonight. I picked it out off the list, after all. Then again, Andy bought it in the first place. It was part of his comic book movie collection. What amuses me about that whole endeavor is that up until about a week ago it was lacking the 1990 Captain America, and yet we owned this already. I guess it was a matter of opportunity. Andy saw this one and snagged it and poor Cap never crossed his path. I’m still amused by it. Especially since I have to admit I have almost no knowledge whatsoever of this particular character or his canon.

For most superhero comic based movies, I’ve at least got a passing acquaintance with the basic story and characteristics. I know the X-Men. I know Batman. I know Superman and Swamp Thing and Daredevil (yes, we will get to this one) and through other Marvel storylines I know Iron Man and the Hulk. But Punisher? No, not really. What I know of the Punisher comes from two places: The 2004 movie with Thomas Jane and a joke from MST3K where they posit a not-so-strict Punisher who just sends people to their rooms. That’s about it, and I’ve only seen a couple of scenes of the other movie. I’ve seen the same ones about ten times, but that doesn’t really help. It just means I know when and how it’s going to make me squirm.

This movie? Did not make me squirm. It didn’t make me do much of anything aside from shake my head and wonder if I’d missed something or if something had been cut out. I’m assuming it was usually the latter. It comes off as a movie that was butchered in post, full of odd cuts and flying leaps from plot point to action scene to plot point. It’s a messy movie, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It just feels all around sloppy. Not that I was expecting anything better, but I feel it’s worth stating outright.

There is a plot. I’ll give the movie that. There’s a story about how Frank Castle’s family was apparently killed by the mob and everyone thinks he’s dead except his old partner from the police force who thinks he’s alive and responsible for over 100 mob member deaths in the past year or whatever. Castle lives in the sewers and rides his motorcycle around underground and surfaces to hunt down mafiosos because he’s on a vengeance kick. Sort of like Robocop, except less coherent and more fleshy. After he takes out the head of the biggest mob in town, a new guy shows up and Castle promptly switches his attention. But oh no! The Yakuza are in town too and they want to take over! And so our little vengeance plot gets complicated with a Yakuza boss threatening the mob and kidnapping their children and the mob kidnapping Castle to force him to help them rescue the kids and then there’s Castle’s old partner and his new partner whose only bit of development involves listing her credentials.

Man, is it messy. And I just made it a hell of a lot more linear and cohesive than the movie makes it. Things just sort of stumble along, with Castle showing up and kicking some ass before getting the crap beaten out of him for a while until he gets his second wind and kicks some ass again. Dolph Lundgren’s got a decent haunted and vacant look to him, which works for Castle as presented, what with losing his whole family and existing for vengeance. But while Lundgren can do his own stunts and lumber around like the big chunk of muscle that he is, he doesn’t precisely inspire me to want to know more about him. Not that there’s much for anyone else either. Louis Gossett Jr. as his former partner gets a bit more character development than anyone else and I still couldn’t bring myself to care much about him.

This movie is full of inexplicable bits and pieces and odds and ends. Castle’s living situation, his arsenal of weapons he casually discards after use, his apparent imperviousness to explosions, his good friend the drunken thespian who helps him out with inside info on the mob, whom he lures into alleys with remote controlled cars full of booze? Yeah, no clue about any of that. There’s no attempt to explain it all either. None whatsoever. The Yakuza? The mob kids? The partner and the rookie who joins him? Yeah, they get explanations if not much in the way of exposition. But there’s so much that doesn’t. It’s a bizarre movie full of hilarious ADR, ridiculous explosions and a big muscle-bound hero who almost never speaks. So, fun, but messy all the same.

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March 24, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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