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The Punisher
(1989-2008 Films)

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About These Films

1. The Punisher (1989 Film)

2. The Punisher (2004 Film)
3. Punisher: War Zone (2008 Film)

About These Films:  The Punisher was one of Marvel Comics' top characters in the 1980s and 90s.  However, not one of the three live-action film attempts have been a hit.  The first film from 1989, starring Dolph Lundgren, was quite good and is still the best of the lot.  It has an amazing cult following although it was deemed unreleaseable in theaters and went straight-to-VHS in 1991.

    The second Punisher film, starring Thomas Jane, was excellent but barely made back its budget in theaters.  Not even superstar John Travolta's appearance as the villain made it pop to the masses.  This might be due to the fact that Travolta's presence in the film, and his character, overshadowed that of Jane's Punisher.  I like Jane as an actor, but he wasn't a good visual choice for the Punisher.  Frank Castle/Punisher was always big and grisly in the comics.  Jane doesn't come off as that imposing.  This film was also too depressing in parts.  I think the whole act of vengeance thing was overplayed by the villain.  Travolta and his cronies went too far, and it's not what people want to see.  I still like this movie, but it's definitely second place to the first film.

    The third Punisher film is just f***ed up.  The director and writers had absolutely no knowledge or love for The Punisher character in his comics or previous film appearances.  Ray Stevenson as The Punisher is awesome.  He looks the part and he played it right.  Wayne Knight as Microchip was a cool character.  It took three movies, but we finally see Punisher's sidekick...and they kill him off!  What the hell!  Besides that, the movie is too violent for a Punisher film.  The Punisher has always been an extremely violent character, but this was absurd.  For one thing, there was way too much knifeplay in this movie.  Idiots!  The Punisher uses guns!  Guns all the time!  Grenades and other bombs on occasion.  Rarely does he use knives except for throwing or unless he uses someone else's to kill them.  In this movie he uses mostly swords and knives.  And it's way gross.  More gross than it should be.  What killed this movie is the over-the-top graphic violence.  Even the most hard-core, violence-loving freaks have a hard time watching "Punisher: War Zone".  This movie was an incredible flop in theaters and deservedly so.  It's not a really terrible movie, but it should have been better.  I think people were also disappointed that this was a reboot and didn't follow the continuity of the previous movie released barely four years earlier.

    Another strike against "War Zone" was how they presented the villain of Jigsaw.  This was a character people have been waiting to see in a Punisher movie since the first one, and it should have been good.  In this movie, Jigsaw is like a goofy, even scarier version of Batman's Joker and he sets a bizarre tone to the movie.  Too weird.

    "Punisher: War Zone" seems to have killed all prospects for a new Punisher movie for some time to come.  I can't help but think that Marvel would have been better off making sequels to the original film with Dolph Lundgren.  I think Dolph's Punisher had a lot of stories left to tell.

1. The Punisher (1989):  This is the first live-action "Punisher" film starring Dolph Lundgren.  A later film starring Thomas Jane as the Punisher was released in 2004.  Based on the sensational vigilante character from the comics, the Punisher dazzles in his first movie appearance.  Granted, this movie operated on a lower-budget than most action movies and wasn't a mainstream movie, but you can't even tell that when you're watching it.  The intense action scenes and the physical work of Dolph Lundgren itself more than delivers!

Dolph Lundgren

    The Punisher is one of those halfway-superheroes.  He has a costume of sorts and an alias, but his identity is not all that secret nor does he have super powers.  He does, however, have an exceptional talent for killing, so maybe that counts for a super ability.  Still, he's one of those heroes that's not a really upstanding good guy, he's just better than the REALLY bad guys.  Basically, I include the character's movies on this website because he is primarily known for being a comic book character.  Plus he gets himself into far-out, exotic battles typical of superheroes.

    Dolph Lundgren is probably my top-favorite action movie actor (if I had to choose, although the decision is difficult).  He totally captures the whole "walking dead man" attitude of the comic book character.  The Punisher is a good guy who does a lot of bad things to get the REALLY bad guys.  He's a bit mental because he has nothing to live for besides vengeance.  We're already assuming that he's killed the ones responsible for the deaths of his wife and children.  As the story goes, the Punisher was already at this for five years.  However, he hasn't reached his "limit to revenge" and keeps on taking out organized crime until it's completely gone.  He gets into a bit of a tricky spot, though, when the Japanese mafia, known as the Yakuza, comes into New York to take over organized crime from the Italians.

    To top it all off, Frank Castle's aka the Punisher's ex-partner (played by Louis Gossett, Jr.) and his partner's new partner are hot on his trail and closing in on him.  They are the only two cops that believe Frank Castle is the Punisher and didn't die with his family.  Between the mafia, the Yakuza, and the cops, the Punisher has all he can handle.  Needless to say, it's an exceptionally brutal bloodbath.

    This movie still has a strong cult following and is noted for its incredible action sequences.  There were over 90 individual killings, not including those that died in explosions.  Very few movies have that high of kill rate, but its highly suitable for the Punisher because he's a violent character.  There are many differences between this movie and the 2004 film.  Here is a short list.

* The Punisher always has black hair.  In the 2004 film, it was blonde before Frank Castle dyed it black.

* A lot more killings and definitely a lot more hand-to-hand combat.  Dolph is quite physical, so that aspect of the movie's action was perfect for him.

* He rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  In the 2004 movie he has a car.

* The filming is mostly dark.

* You don't really know the reasons behind his family's deaths.  Through flashbacks we see they were in a car that exploded...a mob hit.  We are also to assume that the Punisher already killed those responsible.

* He's been at this for five years.  The later film shows him starting out.

* No one knows his true identity, although two cops suspect him.  In the 2004 film, he makes no secret that he is Frank Castle, coming back for revenge.

    I really enjoy this movie.  It's solid action and my favorite between the two Punisher films.  The whole attitude is a lot tougher, and it's great to see this big, musclebound guy beat the crap out of a bunch of mean-spirited shrimps.  For years I waited for a sequel to this film, and I think it would've been successful.  However, with the 2004 Punisher movie being made, it will never happen.