posted a BLOG item over 4 years ago
There will always be debates when it comes to Marvel's biggest bad ass vigilante Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. #1 on that list will be "Why can't they translate him to film?" But second will always be "Which of the bad versions is the best?"
The first attempt was brought from the sewers of New York way back in 1989 by director Mark Goldblatt. (Who's only other feature before or since has been Dead Heat with Treat Williams and Joe Piscippo.) Many fans are quick to dismiss this attempt mostly due to the fact of it's low budget and missed box office appearance. But the truth is that it is not only worthy of mention in regards to the later "reboots", but in my opinion is actually the best.
Now, first let me assure you that I am not saying that this film is great. Rather, I am only stating just how bad all three are and this stinks the least.
First, lets start with The Punisher himself. In regards to the demeanor of the character, I would have to say that Dolph Lundgren's portrayal fits somewhere between Stevenson in Warzone as best and Jane as worst. All three bring a nice touch of their own and one is not head and shoulders above the others. But, Lundgren broods the best of the three actors and the script for his film allows him just the right amount of dialogue with minimal cheese and a couple of bad ass lines to boot.
The supporting cast is not very good, but then again anyone who tells you that this isn't the case with the other installments is highly biased. The one shining piece is definitly Louis Gossett Jr. as Castle's ex partner. Gossett plays his part like he is totally unaware that this movie will be anything less than a box office smash.
The action although poorly shot is actually the best of all three movies. There are shoot outs, car chases and hand to hand battles throughout the entire feature and this is where I believe this one rises above the other two. The action never plays second wheel to the story at any point, like it does in Warzone. As for Thomas Jane's film, other than the first half hour which was great, the rest of the film felt more like an episode of The A-Team than The Punisher.
Goldblatt was never given another movie after this for a reason. The work in this film is not awful, it is just... well, nothing really. There is nothing to identify this movie with his signature. It's all shot very by the book and he certainly cannot direct an actor. Although I think that the dark and grainy look of the picture actually help the feel of The Punisher, something tells me that it wasn't done so much on purpose, but due to lack of experience and knowledge of the craft.
Another high point that helps raise this one above the other installments is Dennis Dreith's score. The 2004 score by Carlo Siliotto isn't bad, it just doesn't fit the intensity that a Punisher film should have and to be honest Warzone is just so bad in every way that I must have forgotten to listen for that soundtrack all together. I actually have the 89' score on my ipod and I assure you that if you listened to it, you would not even have a sense that this came from some "low budget comic book film". There is even a catchy theme that plays throughout the running of the movie. Something that seems all but forgotten by many composers these days.
The Punisher deserves a fair viewing by comic and action fans before it is so casually discarded. It is a fun hour and a half that I have ventured into on several occasions over the years. Give it an honest try with an open mind sometime.
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