The Punisher (1989) is Punisher in name only. I’ve always considered myself to be a huge Marvel comics fan, but the Punisher was always in a separate category for me. The Punisher was an unexpected success due to his violent war on crime, willingness to kill, and deadly skull logo. I didn’t see a single film adaptation until I was in my late teens, but I knew enough about the anti-hero to have my usual fan expectations. The Punisher (1989) is the second poorly made Marvel adaptation after the disaster that was Howard the Duck.
After Marvel foolishly sold their rights to New World Pictures, The Punisher (1989) was thrown together. Resembling a generic 80’s action movie more than a superhero flick. Dolph Lundgren is an intimidating action giant who works as Frank Castle/The Punisher, but they don’t even use his famous skull logo. The most badass symbol in comic book history. It’s not enough to dress in black, have an arsenal of guns, and be tormented by the death of his family. Of course there are other changes that make less sense. Like changing Frank from an ex-soldier to an ex-cop.
As well as having him live naked in the sewers, deliver brooding monologues, and get information from a drunk. You get what you expect from a Lundgren performance. Although a lot of attention is given to a police officer played by Louis Gossett Jr. tracking him down, mob bosses, bad child actors, and the Yakuza. The Punisher only shows up to deliver near constant shootouts and name drop Batman. The Punisher (1989) was so bland it wasn’t even released worldwide, but it comes close enough to capturing the anti-hero in terms of body count.
P.S. Since copies are scarce, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.