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Punisher vs Punisher vs Punisher


"The Punisher" vs. "The Punisher" vs. "The Punisher"

This could be considered a triple-whammy review of each of "The Punisher" films based on the Marvel Comics character (aka Frank Castle). There have been three actors cast in the role, three separate directors and three separate writers. But did any of them know the source material enough to succeed? Let's focus on three main components and find out.

Punisher movies, Puniser, review, Bitter Balcony

The story:

In the 1989's "The Punisher," we get a taste of his origin via flashbacks and voice-overs which provide the reasoning for his self-imposed mission. We get a sense of the character, yet not much to really sink our teeth into as far as character development. The story line includes kidnapped children, which provides a little extra drama as Castle’s own family was murdered. This "Punisher" shines because of its cheese.

The 2004 version goes back to Castle's origin again, but this time we learn that only was his immediate family mowed down, but his entire family along with father figure Roy Schieder. In what must be an attempt at giving the character a human side, Castle is thrown into a crappy apartment with a ridiculously attractive Rebecca Romijin. The rest of the story revolves around him trying to get revenge by manipulating some mafia couple. * Remember the word "manipulate."

The 2008 model of "The Punisher" is somewhat of a sequel to the 2004 version, so it skips the origin except for a two-minute flashback. In this round, a widow and her daughter are thrown into the mix. As the Punisher screws up we see him realize that he might be becoming what he's fighting against. Good ideas, but execution is not all it’s cracked up to be because of the two most annoying antagonists since “The Mask.” Oh yeah, I said it.

Punisher, Punisher movie, review, bitter balcony

The character:

1989 version – A brooding Dolph Lundgren plays the Punisher with a shoot-first-ask-questions-probably-never kind of guy. Lundgren doesn’t exactly look like the comic illustrations, but he does represent the character well. But he doesn't have a skull on his chest. Would it have been that hard to get a stencil and spray-paint the skull on there?

2004 version – Thomas Jane as the Punisher? The minute we heard this casting choice we knew we were in trouble. He doesn’t fit the bill and he’s not as bulky as Frank Castle should be. He’s not as, for the lack of a better description, Italian-looking enough and he has those victim eyes/eyebrows. * The Punisher in this film plays the manipulation game, which is so far from how the comic book counterpart handles things, he might as well be another character altogether. On a good note, it was a cool idea to have a little more meaning to the skull than just some random choice.

2008 version – Ray Stevenson is by far the best Punisher, it’s just too bad the movie’s villains screw shit up so bad. This version is brooding, mean-looking, and quiet. Stevenson resembles some of the best Punisher illustrations – and best of all, he blows people’s heads off without flinching.

Punisher, Punisher movie, review, bitter balcony

The villain:

1989 version has an Asian woman (who is nowhere near as cool as O-Ren Ishi from “Kill Bill Vol. 1,") and she’s accompanied by a kung-fu mute. Sound cheesy? It is. But for all intents and purposes, it succeeds.

2004 version has John Travolta. Let me say that again: It has John Travolta as the villain. Yeah, no need to go further.

2008 version gets a big fat SIGH. The villains in this film go above and beyond when called upon to ruin the film. Dominic West and Doug Hutchinson are two eccentric psychopaths on the warpath. They are cheesy, annoying and the pits. Fortunately (and we’re reaching here), they are dispatched accordingly and Jigsaw is the only comic villain to make it into the movies.

Punisher, Punisher movie, review, bitter balcony

Final verdict:

1989 version – Campy, but fun for what it is. There are plenty of people that proudly, or not, call this their favorite Punisher.

2004 version – Skip it and flog anyone you know who actually owns it.

2008 version – Watch it, but realize that what could have been the perfect Punisher movie is ruined by random stupidity and annoying/piss- poor villains. Still, it's worth watching once.

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See! Not that hard and much cooler.

Source of the Bitter: JAS

Comments, rants and other stuffs below
JAS on Tue, 08/31/2010 - 11:51am

I agree. Thomas Jane can be cool sometimes, but Frank Castle he is not. The 1989 version for all its cheese is great. The last one was decent. I wish it was better, but at least it was watchable - aside from the ridiculously overacted villains.

Caity (not verified) on Sun, 08/29/2010 - 6:50am

I think that the 1989 version is better from the rest and the picture you have there does not fit at all, in fact if he had the skull there he would of looked crap and I think that is why they never put it on him and as for the 2004 and 2008 the 2004 one was okay but Thomas Jane will never be the Punisher and like you said he doesn't fit Frank Castle. I haven't seen the 2008 one because it just looks over the top really so The Punisher 1989 one is the best one x

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