Marvel Month 4.0: The Punisher (1989)

Before Jane, Stevenson, and Bernthal, there was Lundgren.
Before Jane, Stevenson, and Bernthal, there was Lundgren.


Frank Castle is the city’s most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante, known as “The Punisher”. He has killed 125 criminals in the past five years. An ex-police officer, Castle’s family was murdered in a mob hit, in which Castle was also thought to have perished. This combined with Castle’s furtive methods of attack have made the Punisher’s identity a mystery to the general public.

Living in the sewers and waging a one-man war against organized crime, his only friend is an old alcoholic named Shake, a former stage actor who speaks in rhyme for reasons unexplained. Now legally declared dead, Castle strikes back from beyond the grave, killing mobsters wherever he can find them. Due to his war against them, the Mafia families have weakened, forcing one of the family leaders, Gianni Franco, to come out of retirement.

Franco has a plan to unify the families. This, however, has attracted the attention of the Yakuza, Asia’s most powerful crime syndicate. Led by Lady Tanaka, the Yakuza decide to take over the Mafia families and all of their interests. In order to sway the mobsters to their cause, they kidnap their children and hold them for ransom.

Shake pleads with the Punisher to save the children, who are likely to be sold into the Arab slave trade regardless of whether or not the Mafia give into the demands. The Punisher attacks Yakuza businesses, warning that for every day the children are held in captivity, he will inflict heavy costs on them in property damage. The Yakuza later capture the Punisher and Shake and attempt to torture them into submission, but Punisher breaks free and decides the only course of action is a direct rescue.

He is able to save most of the children with a .45 Thompson M1928 submachine gun against the Yakuza guards and commandeers a bus to get the kidnapped children to safety. However prior to this Tommy Franco, the son of Gianni Franco, had been taken away to Yakuza headquarters. When driving the busload of kids, the Punisher runs into a police roadblock and is arrested. While in custody Castle is reunited with one of his old partners, who warns his multiple killings will likely get him executed, however at a later point Castle is broken out of jail by Franco’s men. Franco admits he brought this on himself as the hit on Castle’s family was an error, and persuades the Punisher to help him save his son. Castle ironically agrees to work with his old enemy for the sake of stopping the Yakuza from taking root in America.

Franco and the Punisher raid the Yakuza headquarters, fight and kill all the Yakuza, including Lady Tanaka and her daughter. Upon being reunited with his son, Franco betrays the Punisher, overcome with delicia at being the sole Mafia boss, in order to prevent any usurpation of his position, but Castle defends himself and kills Franco. Franco’s son then threatens the Punisher for killing his father, but cannot bring himself to hurt him. Castle warns Franco’s son to “stay a good boy, and grow up to be a good man”, not following his father’s misdeeds. He also warns he will return should the boy commit any crimes, then disappears. The police arrive, only to find no trace of the Punisher. Meanwhile, at his lair, Castle lets the audience know that he will be waiting in the shadows, serving his own brand of justice.


The movie was actually pretty good. Like Howard the Duck, it’s nothing to run home to, but was very enjoyable. While it didn’t have a big budget, the action scenes were well filmed, the story was decent, Louis Gossett JR was great, and the score was good. Having said that, the movie relied too much on it’s action scenes, While well cast in the role, Dolph Lungren just couldn’t pull off this role. Overall, despite the fact that the lead couldn’t pull off the role, and the film was overshadowed by action, the film is pretty decent. But this won’t be the last we see of Frank Castle this month.

RANK: out of 5

Next up, we look at The First Avenger’s first adventure on the big screen (excluding the serials).


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