The Punisher (1989 film)

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The Punisher
Video release poster
Directed by Mark Goldblatt
Produced by Robert Mark Kamen
Written by Boaz Yakin
Based on The Punisher 
by Gerry Conway
Ross Andru
John Romita, Sr.
Starring Dolph Lundgren
Louis Gossett, Jr.
Jeroen Krabbé
Kim Miyori
Music by Dennis Dreith
Cinematography Ian Baker
Edited by Stephanie Flack
Tim Wellburn
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release dates
  • October 5, 1989 (1989-10-05) (West Germany)
  • April 25, 1991 (1991-04-25) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
Country Australia
United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[2]

The Punisher is a 1989 Australian-American action film directed by Mark Goldblatt and starring Dolph Lundgren. It is based on the Marvel Comics' character of the same name. The film changes many details of the comic book origin and the main character does not wear the trademark "skull". The Punisher was filmed in Sydney, Australia and also co-starred Louis Gossett, Jr., Jeroen Krabbé, Kim Miyori, Nancy Everhard and Barry Otto.

Artisan Entertainment and Lionsgate have attempted to reboot the comic book character twice with 2004's The Punisher and then with 2008's Punisher: War Zone.


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, thus the identity of the Punisher remains 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 in and take control. Franco has a plan to bring the families together as one unit. 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 childhood slavery regardless of whether the Mafia give into the demands. The Punisher attacks Yakuza businesses, warning he will continue inflicting property damage unless the children are freed. 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, the Mafia leader's son is taken away to the Yakuza headquarters. Furthermore, the Punisher is taken into custody by the police, only to be freed by Franco's men. Franco persuades the Punisher to help him save his son, and stop the Japanese criminal underworld 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 in an effort to kill him, but the Punisher wins the duel, killing Franco. As the police arrive, Castle warns Franco's son not to follow the sins of his father, and vanishes from the scene.



Production took place in Sydney.[3] The film was given a worldwide theatrical release, except in the United States, Sweden, and South Africa.[2] The film was originally slated for a US release in August 1989; trailers were created by New World promoting the film and the film was shown at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Sci-fi Convention. However the film never received a theatrical release in the United States due to New World's financial difficulties and instead was released direct-to-video (VHS and Laserdisc) in 1991. It finally premiered at the 2008 Escapism Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina[2] where director Mark Goldblatt screened his own personal 35mm print (which he showed again in 2009 at the Dolph Lundgren Film Fest hosted by the New Beverly theater).


The film received mainly negative reviews. It currently holds a 28% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 reviews (13 negative, 5 positive).[4] Christopher Null gave the film 1 out of 5, stating the film was "marred by cheeseball sets and special effects, lame fight sequences, and some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen."[5] cited it as an example of a failed comic book film, complaining that the film omitted aspects of the character that made him compelling, and would have served better following closer to the plot of the source material.[6] Whilst criticizing the film's storyline and acting, Time Out magazine concluded the film was "destructive, reprehensible, and marvelous fun".[7] TV Guide '​s movie guide gave the film three out of four stars, praising Lundgren's portrayal of the character and compared the characterization of the Punisher to that of Frank Miller's re-imagining of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. They further praised the film's atmosphere, calling it "genuinely comic book-like, rather than cartoonish".[8]


The Punisher Original Motion Picture Score
Soundtrack album by Dennis Dreith
Released July 19, 2005
Recorded April 3—April 4, 1989
Genre Orchestral
Film score
Length 79:22
Label Perseverance Records
Tarantula Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Monsters and Critics 2/5 stars link

A full orchestral score was composed and conducted by Dennis Dreith at the Warner Bros. soundstage in Burbank, California. A CD of the soundtrack was not released until July 19, 2005 (Perseverance Records, PRD006). The CD includes the complete multi-track stereo recording, as well as a 22-minutes interview with the composer Dennis Dreith and the director Mark Goldblatt. Perseverance Records also released a new 5.1 mix as a SACD, in collaboration with Tarantula Records (TARAN001). The American DVD release only contains a monaural (single track) soundtrack, despite the film being mixed in Dolby Stereo. The 2013 German and UK Blu-ray/DVD editions were presented with 2.0 and 5.1 (Dolby Digital and DTS-HD MA) sound tracks.


  1. ^ "THE PUNISHER (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. April 4, 1990. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Punisher". Retrieved June 29, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p126
  4. ^ "The Punisher". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ Christopher Null (2004). "The Punisher (1989)". Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ Downey, Ryan J. (2002-04-25). "Will 'Spider-Man' Fly?". Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  7. ^ "The Punisher (1989)". Time Out. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  8. ^ Staff. "The Punisher Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 

External links[edit]