There have been three large screen adaptations, a rear door pilot (vovehals Season 2), and two entire Netflix seasons dedicated to, in my opinion, the greatest comic book watch ever created. Unfortunately, all but one of these live-action attempts are complete failures. The one who drew it closest is the one most normal fans talk about the most. That’s right, the 1989 version of The punisher, with Dolph Lundgren.
The film does so for a simple reason. The story is very much a 1980s Punishes comic book history. The writers of the ’89 movie understood the character better than anything that has come since. In this 1989 film, Frank Castle is not a drunken crying baby. He’s not a comedy character, and he’s not… yes, no matter what that guy on the Netflix show was.
The film starts 5 years after Frank’s family is killed in a car bomb intended for him. In the film, Frank is a former NYPD detective who is approaching a mafia boss. The mob boss ends up killing his wife and kids, and Frank hides. He comes out as the guard known as the Punisher in the press. At the start of the film, he has killed so many mafia muckers that this mob boss comes out of retirement to collect the pieces of his empire using the one that is still alive after Frank’s madness.
In true 1980s comics, this weakness leaves New York open to a takeover of the Japanese Yakuza. They quickly move in and start killing the New York mob. Those they can not convince to step away, they kidnap their children to force them to submit to Yakuza rule.
Of course, this causes Frank to fight both the Italian mob and the Japanese mob, while rescuing the children in the most violent and bloody ways he can.
A climatic attack on Yakuza headquarters involves the deaths of dozens of ninjas and various Japanese Yakuza, while Frank paints the city red. Right at the end, there is a twist that is completely true to Frank Castle’s character.
Now the film is not perfect. Frank never puts on the skull sweater, even though the script required it, and the cartoon adaptation of the script has this as a deleted scene.
Almost as bad is the fact that the background has changed. Frank is no longer a war veterinarian in Vietnam, just back from the war in time to see his family killed. I can live with these things now, but when the movie came out, I was a VERY triggered cartoon nerd.
The movie is a really good action movie from the 1980s. Hell, that’s a big one Punishes movie! The best and most true portrayal on screen in my opinion. Dolph looks at the part and acts as the part. This version of Castle is a dead-eyed machine that is in no doubt about itself and is ready to die.
I bought The punisher comics since the original 5-edition miniseries. It is very difficult to satisfy me when it comes to a faithful adjustment. You can trust me when I say that the film from 1989 is the best of them all if you want the closest to the comics from the 1980s and 1990s.
The 2004 Thomas Jane version is garbage. Punisher: WarZone is so bad that it makes me sick with rage. The Netflix series makes me nostalgic for the awful Thomas Jane version, even though I like Bernthal as an actor. When “The Punisher” does not kill a child pornographer in season 2 of the Netflix series, you know that something is very wrong with the adaptation from the streamer that brought you Cuties. The cartoon Frank Castle would not have let that man live, and neither would the 1989 film version.
It is a direct revenge film from the 1980s based on the greatest cartoon character that existed. Even though the comic’s roots mean nothing to you, it’s a hell of a vigilante revenge story.
There are two versions, the theatrical and a recently uncut Blu-ray release. Get it uncut if you can.
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