So Bad, It’s Good: Dolph Lundgren in THE PUNISHER

Punisher 1989

If there’s ever a worry in your mind about the quality of the film you are making, just add explosions. This little bit of sage advice has to be in one of those “How To Make Cheap Movies On The Cheap” handbooks that seem to be cropping up all over the place the last few years. Shit, there’s probably a whole chapter dedicated to making films better with pyro in one of those books. Oh wait, no, sorry. I’m confused. This already exists; Micheal Bay’s biography. Now that cheap shot is out of my system, let’s rap about an explosion-filled comic book movie starring everyone’s favorite black belt chemist, Dolph Lundgren. If you’re in the know and one of the cool kids, you already know the which fine piece of celluloid magic I’m talking about: 1989’s The Punisher.

punisher-dolph-lundgren-1989Motorcycles, explosions, hair grease for days – these are the things that make a memorable – or, at least, entertaining in the moment – action movie in my book and The Punisher fits the bill in every category. This movie was made back in the “dark ages” of comic book movies, before the Robert Downey Jr.s and Joss Whedons of the world came along and put a smarmy smirk and witty tongue on Marvel’s heroes. Also, you know, the boat loads of cash dumped into the new movies may have helped the cause. Not that I’m complaining in the least… the new movies are AWESOME!

I do however hold the early, generally poorly made, comic book movie adaptations close to my heart. These were, though few and far between, the ones I grew up with or wanting to see. Near the top of that list is The Punisher. Not because it was the one I watched the most or re-enacted with friends time and time again; this is the movie I NEVER got to see. Its poster taunted me for years from the wall of the local mom and pop video store begging me to watch it, to bask in it’s cheap 80’s effects, to absorb the bad dialogue into my sponge-like child brain.

When I did finally get my hands on this movie (on VHS, naturally) a few years ago, I was excited to the point that I had to semi-awkwardly relay the story of the “forbidden” childhood movie to my lady, who gave me one of those patented glazed-over stares I’m used to receiving when I start to wax poetic about analog cinema. Enough of my my self-loathing, what you all really want to know is if the movie was worth mine and – by proxy – your time. To that, I give a resounding HELL YEAH!

Most comic book fans know Frank Castle aka the Punisher’s story: his family is killed by mobsters, propelling him into a one man vengeance war on all organized crime. A simple, yet powerful, story and really hard to mess up. In this outing, Frank makes his home base in the sewers underneath the city which is actually a pretty smart move tactically. His only friend/partner in crime fighting is an old alcoholic named (appropriately) Shake. Oh, and Shake speaks only in rhyme because, you know, drinking. Guess you need to lighten the mood when you live in a grungy sewer somehow.

punisher-lundgren-1989In between exploding mansions (at the 6-minute mark of the film for those taking notes), machine gun fights, and shots of the Punisher looking badass the movie strings together a plot involving the Yakuza, kidnapped children being held for ransom and backstabbing mafiosos. Like any action film pretty much… ever, The Punisher is all about style over substance but, baby, when you got this much style you don’t need anything else. If you like explosions, gunfights, seeing Dolph Lundgren kick ass in his prime or comic book movies then do yourself a solid and check this movie out. You and your 12 year old self won’t be disappointed.

In conclusion:

  • Exploding Mansions? Check!
  • Endless gunfights? Check!
  • Rhyming sewer dwelling drunkards? Check!

Written by Scotty Floronic

Hailing from the Great White North, Scottys' passion for horror movies, toys and anything sci-fi was cemented early on in life. He spends most of his time writing for Drunk in a Graveyard and talking about all things horror and cult on twitter (@drunkinagraveyard). When he does get away from the clutches of the web, he can usually be found in thrift stores and flea markets, digging for Masters of the Universe toys and long forgotten VHS tapes.

19 posts
  • Ben Rollier

    Awkward nude meditation in front of a fire? Check!

  • Christopher Bacon

    The staff at our local rental store called me the Punisher Kid for a short while there. I loved it as a kid , because it was the only Punisher I had. Now days it’s very dated but the nostalgia of it keeps it fun for me.

  • Roachwell

    Man, I saw this when I was about 17, now I’m 33 and there’s clearly so much of this that I don’t remember in the slightest. Nude meditation, rhyming drunks….? Maybe there’s more here than I realised! The one thing that sticks in the mind is that a Yakuza woman kills someone with deadly-sharp throwing earrings.