A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Punisher (1989)

March 24, 2011

The Punisher (1989)

We own an awful lot of movies based on comic book properties. For years I made it my policy to collect anything based on a comic book – it was just a thing I enjoyed doing. It gave me a simple guideline for my purchasing decisions. My point here is that I’ve watched an awful lot of comic book movies, and I feel that I’m pretty familiar with the genre. So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that this movie doesn’t hold to most of the common trends that generally hold true for such films. I find this refreshing, really.

The primary difference between this and most other comic book movies is that it makes no attempt to be an origin story. As the movie begins Frank Castle is already the Punisher. In fact this movie starts where most other comic book movies would end: with the Punisher blowing up the palatial mansion of the crime boss who killed his family. Because this movie isn’t about how the Punisher came to be – it’s about Dolph Lundgren slaughtering hundreds of Mafia and Yakuza killers.

After he kills the mob boss Castle is tipped off by his drunken actor friend that the remaining Mafia families are banding together. He goes to a drug delivery they are accepting at a pier with the intention of killing a bunch of them, but is beaten to the punch by the Yakuza, who are taking advantage of the power void he has created and want to take over the city. Castle has no problem with the two groups going to war and killing eachother off, but when the new head of the Mafia, Gianni, refuses to allow the Yakuza boss, Lady Tanaka, to take control of his territory she has all the Mafia bosses children kidnapped to be sold abroad as slaves. Because Castle is all about punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent, and it is implied that even the children of mob bosses are innocent, he decides to start murdering Yakuza for a change and get the children back.

It’s an odd choice of plot in an odd sort of movie. What, exactly, does Castle plan to do with all these children he’s rescuing? Raise them as his own? Give them to orphanages? By the end of the movie practically none of these children have fathers any more because either the Yakuza or Frank has killed every one of them. I suppose the kids must still have mothers – in theory since the only women we see in this movie are strippers, a single female detective who used to work as a plain clothes detective in the guise of a hooker and the two chief Yakuza bosses.

There’s nothing aside from the character names here that really makes this a punisher movie, per se. It could be any taciturn vigilante in black with a whole mess of guns and knives that have skulls on the pommels. (Speaking of which, how does a disgraced ex-cop living in the sewers get his unlimited supply of knives, ammo and firearms? It’s best not to ask questions like this really.) He doesn’t even have the trademark skull shirt with shell casings for teeth.

It’s a silly movie with a silly plot that’s pretty much just an excuse for a loosely connected series of action scenes full of guns, swords, and lots of death. I enjoyed it from a sort of nostalgic viewpoint of looking at a plotless eighties action movie, but it could never be confused with any of the much better comic book movies in our collection like Iron Man or X-Men. It is, however, unique in being the only movie based on a Marvel property I can think of that wallows in its R-Rating. It’s a reminder of the day when any proper action movie had bare breasts and lots of cursing, comic book characters or no. And starred either Steven Segal, Dolph Lundgren or Arnold Schwarzenegger. I kind of miss those days of big muscled foreign action stars. What happened to those?

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

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