DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE PUNISHER (director/writer: Mark Goldblatt; screenwriters: Boaz Yakin/based on the Marvel Comic-Book Created by Gerry Conway; cinematographer: Ian Baker; editor: Tim Wellburn; music: Dennis Dreith; cast: Dolph Lundgren (Frank Castle), Louis Gossett, Jr. (Jake Berkowitz), Jeroen Krabbe  (Gianni Franco), Kim Miyori (Lady Tanaka), Barry Otto (Shake), Bryan Marshall (Dino Moretti), Nancy Everhard (Sam Leary), Brian Rooney (Tommy Franco); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Kamen; New World Pictures; 1989-Australia)

"It maintained a tongue in cheek attitude toward all the violence and hokum, which made it comic book lite and easier to take."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former editor Mark Goldblatt ("Dead Heat") directs this shot in Sydney venture, that's based on the Marvel comic book created by Gerry Conway. The hero crime fighter is a dangerous psychotic, who is unshaven and dressed in black leather. All the villains are cartoonishly evil. Boaz Yakin turns in the over-plotted screenplay. The pic never received a theatrical release, but word spread through underground bootleg videos.

Frank Castle (Dolph Lundgren) is a former police officer. Frank's wife and daughter were killed in a car bomb planted by Mafia capo Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbe), who has been classified as officially dead for the last five years. Franco's former partner Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett, Jr.) wonders if the mob boss is still alive and being tortured by someone who calls himself  The Punisher. He's a tormented killing machine who has killed 125 wiseguys so far and is someone who talks to God and has the motto "The guilty will be punished." We learn Castle after his loss became unhinged and went to live in the sewers, where he morphed into the vigilante Punisher--a name given to him by the police. The story's twist has The Punisher go after the Japanese Yakuza, mobsters who are opportunistically taking advantage of the NYC mob's troubles by trying to take over their turf. But they disturb the crime fighter by kidnapping the NYC mobster's children and selling them. You see, The Punisher has a soft spot for the kiddies. The Yakuza head is the icy cold dragon lady, Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori). But the enjoyable revenge film at this point turns too idiotic for me. Nevertheless, to its credit, it maintained a tongue in cheek attitude toward all the violence and hokum, which made it comic book lite and easier to take.

The best quote of the film comes from a reflective Punisher, who decries: "I still talk to God sometimes; I ask him if what I'm doing is right or wrong. I'm still waiting for an answer and until I get one I'll be out here, waiting, watching. The guilty will be punished...".

REVIEWED ON 2/12/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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