The Punisher

1989

The Punisher

Critics Consensus

Despite the seemingly indestructible Dolph Lundgren with a crossbow, The Punisher is a boring one-man battle with never-ending action scenes.

28%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 18

32%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 51,714
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Movie Info

This is an adaptation of a popular, violent Marvel Comics series about a character who's a frontier-style vigilante in modern-day urban America. Dolph Lundgren stars as Frank Castle, once a crusading police officer whose family was murdered by a car bomb planted by the Mob. Believed to be killed in the explosion, Castle has gone underground, building a subterranean lair in the sewer system and vengefully assassinating various criminals, wracking up an impressive body count of 125 slain in five years. Castle's former partner, Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett, Jr.) rightly suspects that he knows the true identity of the motorcycle-riding avenger dubbed "the Punisher." Meanwhile, Castle's bloody campaign has had the intended effect of weakening organized crime, creating an opportunity to consolidate power for the ambitious Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbe), the man responsible for the Castle family hit. Sensing an opportunity to muscle in on new lucrative turf, foreign competitors threaten Franco's empire. When the Japanese yakuza has the crime boss' innocent son kidnapped, Castle finds himself in the ironic position of helping a man he'd like to kill. Filmed in Australia, this low-budget action thriller did not get a theatrical release in the U.S., instead going directly to video.

Cast

Dolph Lundgren
as Frank Castle
Louis Gossett Jr.
as Jake Berkowitz
Jeroen Krabbé
as Gianni Franco
Kim Miyori
as Lady Tanaka
Bryan Marshall
as Dino Moretti
Nancy Everhard
as Sam Leary
Brian Rooney
as Tommy Franco
Zoshka Mizak
as Tanaka's Daughter
Todd Boyce
as Tarrone
Jade Gatt
as Young Tommy
Emma Soloman
as Ginny's Girlfriend
Cathy Stirk
as Caterina
James Klein
as Nicholas
Christian Manon
as French Leader
Colin Leong
as Cutter Captain
May Lloyd
as Julie Castle
Larry McCormick
as TV Newsreader
Holly Rogers
as Felice Castle
Brooke Anderson
as Annie Castle
Harry Weiss
as Maitre D'
John Samaha
as Elevator Repairman
David Bracks
as 1st Courier
Carlo Bianchino
as 2nd Courier
Tom Coltraine
as Peeing Man
Colin Handley
as Mafia Man
Ken Wayne
as Bartender
David Morris
as Man in Bar
Char Fontaine
as Laurie Silvers
Aku Kadogo
as Reporter
Steve Kuhn
as Reporter
Roslyn Gentle
as Reporter
Maurice Brimo
as Reporter
Chris Hession
as Bus Driver
View All

Critic Reviews for The Punisher

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (13)

  • With origins in a Marvel Comics character, The Punisher is, as might be expected, two-dimensional.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Destructive, reprehensible, and marvellous fun.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Suzi Feay

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It maintained a tongue in cheek attitude toward all the violence and hokum, which made it comic book lite and easier to take.

    Feb 15, 2015 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • Carefully tended facial stubble trimmed to give him a skull-like appearance, Lundgren is truly impressive as a character defined by emotional emptiness.

    Apr 24, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A terrible one-man-army action flick. The 2004 version is far more effective.

    Sep 29, 2005 | Rating: 1/5
  • Much better than the 2004 version. A surprisingly potent blast of '80s action moviemaking.

    Jul 31, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Punisher

  • Sep 18, 2017
    I was eager to see this movie and thought it might join Masters of the universe as a so bad it's good status, sadly this is just really bad. The action scenes are horrendous, I'm a little annoyed they dragged Dolph along for the ride, they could've done a lot better considering the source material. The story is non existent and the only real idea of a backstory is provided in the first five minutes of the film and that's pretty much the end of it. The Punisher is a mumbling borefest with a score that is flat and overbearing, from the opening credits fans would expect Bullseye to be showing up in a main role. This is an uninventive action film that won't even appeal to audiences who appreciate action films that are mind numbing. The final shot of the punisher naked in the sewer talking about punishing is one shot to forget, what the hell? Fans of the character should seek Warzone or the new Tv show for some faithful storylines. 18-09-2017.
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2014
    Dolph Lundgren deals out justice in The Punisher. Based on a Marvel comic, former New York City police detective Frank Castle turns vigilante in order to wipe out the mob families, but he's forced to help them when the Yakuza kidnaps their children. Lundgren's performance is alright, but the character of Castle is poorly written. Still, the fight sequences are especially well-done. The Punisher is entertaining and full of action, but it lacks a compelling protagonist to root for.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2013
    The first Punisher film ever made, in fact the third Marvel film ever, and the first that was even remotely watchable, stars Dolph Lundgren (The Universal Soldier Series, Missionary Man, The Expendables, Rocky IV) as the titular anti-hero. Well, Dolph's a rather dark Punisher, which is good, but the character really could have been anyone. There was nothing to define his character really, and the Mafia/Yakuza he was fighting against were all even worse. Complete with appalling acting, the film doesn't really hit the spot. Still though, it's not overwhelmingly bad. And it's worth watching for the comparison to the other two. 43% -Gimly
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 20, 2013
    I think everybody can agree on one thing here, this is a very loose adaptation of the Marvel comic book character. There is no skull logo to be seen, 'Castle' goes around everywhere on that loud bike, the origins are all wrong and they basically made him into some kind of revenge stricken Hell's Angel looking leather clad biker. Initial impression is bad as the film kicks off, just look at those opening credits! is this a film from 89 or 79??. The whole sequence looks like some kind of shitty US TV cop serial, half expect Starsky's Gran Torino to roll across the screen sheesh!. The film is a typical violent trashy 80's action flick no doubt. If you take a step back and look at this flick you could easily remove the Punisher character from the plot and nothing would change. You could then stick in any muscle bound character played by any muscle bound star and the film would still work, it would still deliver. Basically its just a run of the mill action vehicle that just happens to have the Punisher as the main character. Now don't get me wrong this isn't a bad thing, end of the day this film is a solid riot of action that will please any 80's buff. The violence is strong, brutal and not cut much, you see it all really. Sure its totally stupid and highly unrealistic but it still takes it self seriously making it more enjoyable. The film has a really nice balance between realism and heavy realism, its not Nolan realistic, its not an 'Expendables' parody/spoof and its not 'Batman n Robin' camp/silliness. You can have a lot of fun with the film if you don't think too much into it yet its still realistic enough to satisfy...if you don't think too much into it. Of course there are some things which simply don't make sense, the bike Castle uses is hardly much for stealth is it, plus he rides around all tooled up completely in black, errr....stealth/hidden identity much Mr Castle?. It also always amused me how they applied makeup on Dolph, he looks so pale and ill throughout this film haha. Trying to capture the appearance of a dark haired hairy man didn't really work. His stubble line keeps getting washed off, you can see it on his earlobes at times and when its pasted on in all its glory it looks like a dirty big smudge across his face hehe. But as far as the character I think Dolph does really well and gives us a nice muted sinister Punisher. A man of little words but big on action, the more I think about it the more I liked his performance (lack of acting skills in one of his first films aside). He does look good, his outfit is bland but effective (the skull logo does give you away somewhat), he looks like he can pull off the heists he sets out to do, he fights well and can handle the weapons. Its Rambo in a black outfit basically. The bad guys weren't quite as well thought up in my opinion, plenty of suit wearing thugs to gun down sure but no one stood out. I quite liked the Yakuza direction, the female boss and her sexy kick boxing female assistant, kinda corny but fun. The finale set in a traditional washitsu filled with Shoji doors was well done, the lighting getting knocked out gave it the atmosphere. I think the film overall is actually a perfect comic book adaptation that is pretty gritty, quite dark and highly exciting with real action, no over the top CGI. The obvious lack of budget, good locations and screen busting stunts actually gives the film a much better feel, much more seedy, much more grim, one of those things that just works and can't really be recreated, a happy accident. If you like masses of henchmen getting killed as an invincible one man army runs around with unlimited ammo 'Commando' style, whilst the bad guys empty clip after clip in his direction hitting everything but their intended target...then this film could well be for you.
    Phil H Super Reviewer

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