Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Film Review: The Punisher: Dirty Laundry (2012)

Release Date: July 15th, 2012
Directed by: Phil Joanou
Written by: Chad St. John
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight soundtrack)
Cast: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Shannon Collis, Jack Goldenberg, Sammi Rotibi, Brandee Steger, Karlin Walker

1984 Private Defense Contractors, RAW Studios, 10 Minutes

Review:

“Couple of years back, that was me standing right where you are now, looking out that door. The difference was, a little girl back there.” – Big Mike

For just a ten minute movie, this delivers the tension, suspense and incredibly badass payoff that is usually reserved for a regular feature length film. Dirty Laundry packs a solid f’n punch and it is hands down, one of the best fan films ever made.

No, it doesn’t feature great amateur special effects or costumes like some of the other impressive comic book fan movies out there, it just features a solid actor that loves his role, a second solid actor that turned it up to eleven and a filmmaking crew that understood the source material and authentically tries to both build off of it and compliment it.

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry didn’t just succeed in what it set out to do, it exceeded it.

Tom Jane, once again, proved that he was the perfect Frank Castle. And if this film does anything, it proves that point pretty definitively. In fact, this made me want a proper sequel more than I ever thought I did.

There has been talks about another one of these fan films in the future but it’s been quite some time since this one came out. Still, it’s something I’d love to see and I hope that the right people can get involved and just give us a full-length film with Jane, front and center, bringing justice to more scumbags.

This was competently shot, fantastically written, perfectly acted and even if the gunshot effects weren’t perfect, it didn’t wreck the satisfying feeling you get in your gut seeing The Punisher turn vigilante, once again.

I’ve linked to the entire short film below.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the 2004 Punisher movie with Thomas Jane, as well as other Punisher movies and the Netflix television show.

Film Review: The Punisher (2004)

Release Date: April 12th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh, Michael France
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Carlo Siliotto
Cast: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, Roy Scheider, Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, John Pinette, Samantha Mathis, Eddie Jemison, Kevin Nash

Valhalla Motion Pictures, Marvel Enterprises, Lions Gate Films, 124 Minutes, 140 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Vaya con Dios, Castle. Go with God.” – Candelaria, “God’s gonna sit this one out.” – Frank Castle

Holy shit! This film aged remarkably well!

It’s been well over a decade since I had last seen it but watching it now, reminded me as to why it is the best live-action version of The Punisher that we have ever gotten.

More than anything, the film’s greatness is due to just how good Thomas Jane was as Frank Castle. The dude was damn dedicated to the role and made this a better film than it really had any right to be. Especially, in an era where most comic book movies were still kind of shitty.

I might not have realized it in 2004 but this exceeds the well-received X-Men films of the time and it is also much better than the Daredevil movie that came out a year before it.

Back in the day, I thought that setting it in Tampa was a weird decision but now having a better understanding of budgets in regards to shooting locations, I get it. Re-experiencing it now, though, I really dig the location, as it gives it a completely different vibe from the other live-action Punisher things that came later, as well as other comic book films that generally take place in New York City or some other massive metropolis. Also, being that I have lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida my entire life, it somehow feels like my Marvel Comics movie.

This film, regardless of it being based on a comic book or not, is just a balls to the wall, badass action flick in the same vein as the Dirty Harry and Death Wish films. While it’s a wee bit toned down from those gritty ’70s crime flicks, it still doesn’t pull its punches and I was actually kind of shocked by some of the stuff they did in the film that I guess I had forgotten.

It gets really dark and it actually has some pretty gory and gruesome moments. But at the same time, it has more heart and charm that those ’70s classics I just mentioned in how there are good people that come into Castle’s life and try to give him back some of his humanity after the mass execution of his entire family.

It wasn’t just Jane that was great in this, it was the entire cast, top-to-bottom, including some of the people that had fairly small roles like a few of the gangsters and especially Mark Collie, who played Harry Heck, in one of the best sequences that has ever existed in a comic book movie.

Man, I forgot how great the Harry Heck character was and I kind of wish he would’ve been a much bigger part of the story. Maybe he could come back in a sequel but then again, I doubt one will ever get made, as The Punisher has already been rebooted multiple times. Also, Heck’s death seemed pretty much confirmed by how he got taken out.

Getting to the story, I really like how Castle played John Travolta’s Howard Saint and tricked him into murdering his best friend and his beloved wife by cleverly convincing him, over time and by planting seeds, that they were having an affair. This was brilliant and it couldn’t have happened to a worse trio of people, as all of them were directly responsible for the execution of Castle’s family.

This version of The Punisher was as close to perfect as a studio could get. I know that the film wasn’t a massive hit, initially, but it did build up a solid fanbase over the years. The fact that a sequel never actually materialized was rather baffling.

Although, a fan film, also starring Jane as Frank Castle, was released in 2012. After revisiting this, I now have to fire that one up too and review it.

2004’s The Punisher is spectacular from beginning to end. It’s aged so much better than the other comic book movies from the early ’00s and it deserves to be displayed on a pedestal for all to admire.

Dear Disney and Tom Jane,

Please give us this Frank Castle again.

That is all.

Sincerely,

-Talking Pulp

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s unofficial short film sequel, The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, as well as the other Punisher films and television series.

That superb Harry Heck sequence:

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 2

Published: March 5th, 2015
Written by: Frank Miller, Roger McKenzie
Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 314 Pages

Review:

This is the second of the three large collections of the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, this is also the volume where the heaviest shit goes down. Primarily, the return of Bullseye, the death of Elektra and the first time Daredevil meets the Punisher.

I can’t speak on the third volume until I revisit it but I always remembered these string of issues as being the high point of Miller’s run and re-reading it now, I’d say that’s probably true.

This builds off of what Miller established already and it takes things to the next level, cementing Daredevil as one of the most intriguing heroes in Marvel’s lore. It also helps cement The Kingpin and Bullseye as real sons of bitches.

What’s really great about this, is that Miller, despite not yet having a lot of mileage under his belt, was able to write a really emotional and heartbreaking story. Binge reading through this, the overall Elektra arc goes by pretty fast. Still, you get emotionally invested in her and Daredevil’s relationship just as deeply as you would Spider-Man’s with Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane. It’s a tremendous feat to write something this captivating and heart-wrenching but Miller truly achieves greatness here.

For fans of The Gladiator, this is also where he redeems himself and it’s also a sad tale but really satisfactory despite his overall arc not being too big.

Beyond the story, the art is still fantastic and the work of Miller and Klaus Janson gets better with nearly every issue, as both men find their stride and put just as much care into the visuals of these stories, as Miller put into the writing.

If you are a fan of Daredevil and you haven’t read the Miller run, you’ve done yourself as real disservice.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Comic Review: Civil War

Published: April 11th, 2007
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 196 Pages

Review:

I loved Civil War when I first read it over a dozen years ago. It reignited my interest in Marvel Comics and I stuck with a lot of the core stories that were born out of these events.

For those that don’t know, this pits two factions of superheroes against each other: one group led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. It would also go on to inspire the movie Captain America: Civil War, nine years later.

Cap’s group is against a new law that would force superheroes to give up their secret identities and become agents of the government. Iron Man agrees with the law, after a group of C-list heroes are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. Spider-Man, the third central character, starts the story on one side and then switches after certain events give him newfound clarity.

The story, the idea and its execution are near perfect. In fact, I’m not sure how this wasn’t a story idea before this, as it seems like a natural development for the superhero genre. Regardless, Mark Millar penned magic here and this is, hands down, one of the greatest mega events in comic book history.

Having just read two of DC’s massive Crisis events and seeing how they were massive clusterfucks, this is the complete antithesis of those and goes to show how much better Marvel is (or was) at bringing a massive group of characters together.

I also really enjoyed Steve McNiven’s art and it fit the tone well. McNiven was one of the top artists at the time and his talent was put to great use here.

My only negative takeaway is that this story should’ve been longer than seven issues. It felt like there was a lot more story to tell. But then again, there are literally dozens of Civil War tie-ins that you can read for more context and to see what other heroes were up to during this saga. From memory, a lot of them were also pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War crossover tie-in trade paperbacks, as well as The Death of Captain America.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 6 & 7: Final Execution – Books I & II

Published: April 10th, 2013, August 29th, 2013
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mike McKone, Phil Noto, Julian Totino Tedesco, Jerome Opena, David Williams

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

Well, I have finally reached the end of Rick Remender’s highly respected Uncanny X-Force run.

I’ve got to say that this end was fairly satisfying and that the series, as a whole, was good. However, I don’t quite feel the same about it as many of the others who hyped it up for me. I mean, I’ve only heard great things about it. But I wouldn’t call it great, I’d just call it good, sometimes solid but sometimes aimless. Or, at least, sometimes it felt aimless.

And I guess that some of what seemed aimless wasn’t but not all of those things were resolved and some of them didn’t really seem to have much of a point when looking at the whole picture.

The series, I thought, ended up putting so much emphasis on Psylocke that this didn’t feel like a team book. It felt like a Psylocke book with recurring side characters. That’s not to say that Wolverine, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Fantomex, Deadpool, etc. weren’t pretty involved in the proceedings but it’s to say that sometimes I forgot they were involved unless I was reminded by them showing up in a panel.

Ultimately, this is a neat series with an ending that tied up the important bits but I don’t feel like it adds much to the X-Men mythos and that it spent more time trying to be edgy and cool than actually trying to better the X-franchise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the earlier volumes in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

Comic Review: X-Men ’92

Published: 2016-2017
Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover)
Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.

It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.

Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.

But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.

Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.

Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.

Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.

It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.

Comic Review: The Punisher: War In Bagalia

Published: January 9th, 2019 – May 1st, 2019
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 119 Pages

Review:

This picks up right where World War Frank left off.

Overall, this wasn’t as strong as the first Matthew Rosenberg story arc but this builds off of it in an interesting way. However, by the end of it, you’re left empty handed because Baron Zemo evades the Punisher once again.

Still, Rosenberg is doing a stupendous job on The Punisher and I hope he sticks around for some time and keeps this momentum going.

Also, this just hits the right notes for me, as it is Frank Castle, being merciless, trying his damnedest to hunt down and kill Zemo, even if his biggest rival Jigsaw keeps getting in his way.

I’m a fan of the art style by Szymon Kudranski, it’s gritty and works for the tone. However, I have seen some criticism about how he doesn’t make characters with specific physical traits pop off of the panel in ways that you can instantly recognize.

For instance, his take on Jigsaw makes it hard to tell that you’re looking at Jigsaw unless he’s shown in close up. I agree with the criticism but it doesn’t break the book for me, as it is clear who the characters are through the story. But this should be improved upon.

While this was a pretty badass arc, it falls a bit short of the previous one because it seemed to slow the narrative down and with how this ends, it leaves Frank Castle’s hunt for Baron Zemo unfinished. While I love Zemo, he’s one of my favorite villains, period, the Punisher’s apprehension or murder of him is really being dragged out much longer than it needs to be.

But maybe Rosenberg has a solid plan for the next arc. I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

Comic Review: Marvel Knights 20th

Published: November 7th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Donny Cates, Tini Howard, Vita Ayala, Matt Rosenberg
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

When the Marvel Knights line of comics were going strong, I wasn’t paying much attention. I was aware of them but it was the late ’90s and I wasn’t reading comic books as regularly, as I was entering my twenties and didn’t do much other than party hard and sleep little.

I have since gone back and read some of the stories from that alternate Marvel universe and I’ve liked a lot of them. So when I saw that this was coming out to commemorate the 20th anniversary, I had to check it out. Plus, one of the writers is Donny Cates, whose recent work I’ve loved and it heavily features Daredevil.

The premise was kind of cool and I did enjoy this overall. Although, it was problematic in regards to its pacing. This is due to there being too many writers chiming in over the six issues. Cates looked to be credited as the top writer for each chapter but he had different collaborators with each new installment of this miniseries.

The narrative flow was a bit off, as it took too long to get the action going. Once we get to where this needed to wrap up, it felt rushed and the twist finale seemed strange, out of place and too convenient.

There’s a MacGuffin device and all they have to do in the end is hit a button and fix everything. I love Cates but that’s just lazy, outdated 1960s comic book writing. It’s like a random wizard showing up at the end and casting a “fix it” spell, making everything that happened pretty pointless.

I was still glad that I read through this miniseries, as it featured a lot of characters I love. I can’t call it underwhelming but I did have expectations that I don’t feel were met.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: old school Marvel Knights stuff and other recent works by Donny Cates.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 6: Life of Gwen Stacy

Published: September 19th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t too enthused going into this but I’ve gotten this far and this is the last chapter in the Spider-Gwen saga.

This series started out really good, I liked it, I was engaged by it and even if I didn’t like some of the alternate dimensional weirdness I really liked this Gwen Stacy and her story.

The fifth volume really took the wind out of the series’ sails though. This went for a Venom story because you can’t have a Spider-Person comic go on for too long and not have that obligatory Venom story. Well, that story didn’t end and it carries over into this final chapter.

But then there is even more alternate dimensional weirdness. And then things get so convoluted and reality skews so much that it’s hard to follow and a massive clusterfuck. This gave me a headache and it was really tough to get through even though it was fairly short at 111 pages.

I just finished reading this and I don’t even remember what happened other than timey wimey bullshit, multiple Gwens, Gwen going to prison, cameos out the ass and more confusion.

Also, I don’t know if Robbi Rodriguez stopped giving a shit but the art is worse than it was at the beginning of the series: significantly worse. I don’t know if he was rushed, trying to experiment or was just too busy sending pictures of his asshole out to people’s Twitter timelines.

I don’t know what this was. It ended this fun voyage like the iceberg that murdered the Titanic. And frankly, I don’t give a shit about this character anymore, even though I really dug her for the first three or four volumes.

Gwen has gone on to have a new series called Ghost Spider but I don’t even want to read it, even though its done by a new creative team.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.