The Punisher

Dir: Mark Goldblatt
Star: Dolph Lundgren, Jeroen Krabbe, Louis Gossett Jr, Kim Miyori

When this came out in 1989, it was largely hated, especially by fans of the comic who whined about stuff like the central character not wearing a skull shirt - to which the correct response is "Get a life". Yet this stands the test of time better than many of its era, thanks to a solid cast, led by Lundgren as ex-cop Frank Castle, who begins relentless revenge after his family is killed - to him, 125 dead mobsters is a "work in progress". Into this vacuum comes a lady Yakusa (Miyori), who proves that adage about "the devil you know", and Castle is forced to team up with gangster leader Gianni Franco (Krabbe) against the newcomer.

Castle is emotionally dead, and Lundgren puts this over well, a nice contrast to his former partner (Gossett). It isn't quite as shallow as one might expect, with vengeance a double-edged sword, rather than an easy solution. Still, the violence is what the comic is famous for, and the film doesn't soft-pedal in that area - to this day, an uncut version is not available in the UK, thanks to the BBFC's dislike of the weapons Castle uses. The body count is large, especially when we discover samurai swords are no match for automatic weapons, but I sincerely doubt a senior boss like Franco would go on a mission himself, even if his son was involved. No matter; as an adaptation of a comic that never left the 'dumb' end of the pool, this is solid and entertaining.

Apr 2004

I must *punish* you...
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