Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Punisher (1989) DVD

Rating: 2 out of 5 saved mob children

Plot Synopsis:  The Punisher kills dudes.  Then he get’s wrapped up in the Yakuza and a mob kidnapping plot where he helps the mob save their kids.

The Good:

-Hey Louis Gossett Jr., it’s nice to see you again.  Of course I’m pretty sure your contract meant you had to be involved, it being an 80’s action movie and all.  But you always do a good job so I’m happy to see you.

-Frank pins a dude to a van with an arrow attached to a zip line and then zip lines down shooting the whole time.

-The Punishers look is pretty bad ass in this.  Tall, imposing, black military style cloths with chrome highlights on his shit kicker boots.

-He seals a knife hole, in his skin, with a cherry red hot bowie knife.  He screams which makes it a little less badass but it’s still a pretty badass.

-With his pale skin and dark stubble in certain lighting Dolph’s face invokes the image of Punishers skull symbol.

-Ninjas going down slides while shooting.  What happens when they get to the bottom?  Who cares?

-“Who sent you?” “Batman.”, Dolph has some pretty good one liners.

-Louis Gossett Jr. slapping the shit out of Frank in a prison cell.  If you were to watch it on mute it would look like the foreplay in the world’s worst interracial gay prison porno.

-Ladies kick ass.  Yakuza ladies bodyguard whoops Frank’s ass on one occasion and beats him up pretty good on a second.

-When he gets a gun pulled on him Frank drops to his knees, pulls the gun to his own head and tells them to pull the trigger, like a total baller.

-The person who pulls the gun on him is the main bad guys kid and when he doesn’t pull the trigger Frank tells him “You’re a good kid, stay that way or I’m coming for you.”

-The relationship between Yakuza lady and her lesbian lover bodyguard.  We aren’t even sure she’s her lesbian lover but there is a ton of evidence to support that.  Yakuza lady watches her work out, she’s the most offended by someone calling Yakuza lady a bitch and Yakuza lady performs a geisha dance for no one but her female “bodyguard”.  Plus you just get a feeling by the way they look at each other.  If that was their intention it was handled beautifully by the subtle acting of those two actresses, there’s nothing overt about it.  It’s not mentioned or made fun of or displayed in a negative light, it’s just there.  If it wasn’t their intention then maybe I’m just a pervert who likes to read gay subtext in everything I see.

-Franks romantic relationship with Louis Gossett Jr.  It’s not overt but it’s there.

The Bad:

-Mr. Moretti, the peak of cheesy 80’s acting. “The PUN...isher.” “If he even gets WITHIN 100 YARDS of me he’ll know what punish-ment really is.”

-Frank Castle apparently hangs out in the sewer, naked, thinking about his dead family.  Also his home looks like an ancient dwarf’s blacksmith forge.

-Frank’s origin is changed to make him a cop who’s family was targeted by the mob in a retaliatory car bomb.  I have issues with this.  This lessens his origin.  The Punisher’s family should have been completely innocent and Frank should be an ex military man.  This way you understand why he won’t leave it up to the cops, they couldn’t stop the mob and he’s pissed at the mob because it was their war that killed his family.  It’s more powerful if they have no involvement in the mob and the mob kills them in a crossfire.  This indicts all criminals while proving the laws impotence and Frank’s military background gives him the ability to fight them.

-“I don’t work with a god damn partner! I’m old and grizzled and black!  I’m a cop cliché god dammit!”

-“But I’m a cute young female cop with something to prove.  Sure I’m a rookie but I was at the top of the class.  We have so much in common because, I too, am a cop cliché.”

-An RC booze car.

-the new mob boss Franco “There will be no more wars but we must do what we have to...go to war.”

-Not a fan of the drunken former theater bum.

-The Punisher basically acts in the interest of the mob and threatens the Yakuza to return the kids or “Every day the kids aren’t returned it’s going to cost you money.”  Why the fuck would Frank ever work in the interest of the mob?  I understand wanting to save innocent kids but The Punisher would give the kids to protective custody and eliminate both the Yakuza and the mob.  Just on principal alone he would not work for the mob.

-Lots and lots of silencers, was this like a new thing in ’89?  Was the technology so new and so amazing that they had to showcase it constantly?  Most of the time they’re being used it’s out in the open during an active gun fight.  You don’t need to be stealthy if your opponent is looking right at you.  He sees you have a gun, you don’t need to silence it.

-There are a lot of un-needed and underdeveloped sidekicks.  The Yakuza lady gets a lesbian lover, Louis Gossett gets a spunky female rookie and Frank draws the short straw by getting a drunken, rhyming theater hobo.  Of course no time is really paid to any of them and they’re character development is handled by a paragraph of exposition spoken by the character about themselves.  In some cases we don’t even get that.  Yakuza ladies lesbian lover gets nothing, she’s just there. 

-No skull shirt.

The Ugly:

-The opening credits look like they were stolen from the worst 80’s cop drama on television.  Black and white video of a sewer and stock footage of Dolph Lundgren shooting primary color images which shatter like glass.  This is followed by more primary color images scrolling out in a bullseye pattern.  Terrible.

-Ninja scuba divers.

-“The Yaku-what?”

-“I started a mob war so now they’ll kill each other and I’ll take a vacation.” This is why this origin doesn’t work.  In the comics his family was killed as a result of the mob families warring unchecked.  Frank would never let that go, as long as they are focused on him they aren’t fighting each other.  It’s a more focused battle that hopefully limits innocent bystander casualties.

-Drunken theater bum talks in rhyme.

-Punisher gets guilted into helping because his war against the mob weakened them to a point where they couldn’t protect their kids.  Why would that make him feel guilty?  He would argue that they shouldn’t have been mobsters to begin with and even that possibly those kids are guilty by association.

-The Yakuza have a live in dojo where people practice kendo at all hours of the day and night.  In their brilliance, and for your convenience, this dojo is situated right outside an elevator.

-Where do you even get aerosol knock out spray? And why do you only use it on Frank after punching the female cop out?  Couldn’t you use it on both and save the assault on a woman?

-“Oh, a gun?  Thank you Frank, it’s all I ever wanted!  Also the trigger for a bomb that will most likely kill us all?  You shouldn’t have! It feels like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one!”

-Oh no, I dropped the detonator.  The one I placed precariously over a sewer grate, in the sewer, and then carelessly read a paper near it and knocked it in.  If only I could have prevented it!

-Disappearing, reappearing earrings.  The Yakuza ladies head henchwoman/lady lover has throwing dagger earrings.  At one point, while being Chris Browned by Frank she stabs him in the arms.  After this moment in some scenes she has the earrings in and in some scenes they’re missing.  Continuity errors like this bug the shit out of me and once I see it I can’t unsee it and it becomes all I see.

-The main bad guy explains exactly why Punisher would never help the mob.  Because even the children of mobsters are guilty and will someday not be any better, and in some cases, worse than their fathers.  They represent the future of the thing Frank is trying to eliminate.

Final Thoughts:  This movie is incredibly 80’s, which is a good and a bad thing.  From the cop cliché’s to the colors to the yards and yards of denim and spandex it’s so very, very, very 80’s.  The opening is a very 80’s opening, the ending is a very 80’s ending, the people are very 80’s pretty, in that they are attractive in that unique, spandexy 80’s way, and the conventions are very 80’s.  Also there’s Louis Gossett Jr. and you can’t get much more 80’s than that.  The movie is very dated is what I’m trying to say.  There’s nothing timeless about it, it just feels like a strange violent time capsule that when opened punches you with a denim fist so hard that you think only in cliché.  That’s what this movie is: a beating from an era that leaves you brain damaged.  

  Beyond that we have major character problems.  When the old mob boss is killed and we are introduced to the new mob boss (Jeroen Krabbe as Gianni Franco) he opens with a sentiment of change.  He doesn’t want it to be the old mob that was violent and was constantly at war.  He wants a new era and he’s willing to do this by making offers to the mob world in general that are too good for them to pass up.  Then as soon as the Yakuza show up his first instinct is to go to war.  In fact he’s the first to suggest it.  The Yakuza haven’t even taken his kid at this point, they just showed up and said “Hey, we’re here, unite under us or face the consequences.”.  But he doesn’t want just a battle, he wants a mother fucking war.  Then he just becomes more and more of a dick.  I think they wanted to set him up as a sympathetic character so Frank would ally with him but then thought that words are meaningless and so are actions so let’s just make him evil to advance the plot.  Unless I missed the part where he explained that his plan to unite the families was a bloody culling of anyone who opposed him, cause THAT would explain a lot. 

This movie has a lot wrong with it and it has very little right to balance it.  It’s also has two scenes of Dolph Lundgren’s naked backside.  I don’t know which way that tips the scales for you but it might make this worth going out of your way to see.  He does have a sweet, sweet, tight ass but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

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