Saturday, August 29, 2015
Pro tip. Don't ever trash Frankie Avalon's music, or he will fucking kill you!...
Paulie, a mental institution inmate who witnessed his family get murdered when he was a child, has escaped, and is on the loose, killing all he comes across the moment they show disinterest or annoyance in his music. Elsewhere, Marion 'Mare' Hauser is a crippled teenager who's been having mysterious dreams and visions concerning Paulie. She soon ends up embroiled in his business, and he hunts her down to erase her as a witness...
Blood Song is an ok little slasher film. It's by no means great, but it's rarely anything bad for the most part. Rather than being a bodycount Friday the 13th style slasher film, the movie is more plot and suspense driven, which is a good thing, although it probably could've used a bit more horror. As it stands, Mare's story, her visions aside, doesn't really start interacting with Paulie's until about halfway into the movie.
Unfortunately the psychic aspect to the film is barely there. Sure, it is the reason that Mare and Paulie end up crossing paths in the first place, but even then, it plays practically no part in the proceedings, nor does Mare ever hone her skills and use them effectively.
Mare is a decent protagonist, and by God does she try to be a proactive lead, but no-one in the movie lets her! They all assume she's crazy and seeing things, even her otherwise loving boyfriend. Thankfully she manages to be badass in the climax.
The movie is pretty decent all-round, but there are a few negatives. First of all, Paulie only knows the one tune, but despite its importance to him, and the decades he's had to hone his fluting skills, he can't play the tune for shit! Also Paulie's escape is a pretty idiotic scene, as an institution orderly just goes into his pitch black room, alone, leaving the door wide open. He even says "Is that you, Paulie?"-Who do you think it is?! No wonder the dolt gets killed!
The ending is total bullshit! The movie climaxes with a fight at the saw mill between Mare and Paulie, and she eventually triumphs. She's picked up by the police, and tells them what happened. Then, instead of a happy or deserved ending, instead we see the police fishing up the forklift, but no body-Paulie is still alive. Cut back to the hospital, and Mare is going hysterical as some orderlies who think she's crazy strap her down, drugging her. Then after they leave, Paulie, still alive and disguised as a doctor, comes into her room, laughing evilly. The End! What a load! It's depressing that Mare is probably going to die. She's been a tough and proactive protagonist, and beat the villain fair and square, killing him, so it's really frustrating to see the hospital guys treat her like a maniac, then for the villain to suddenly come in, and probably win. At least I'll give props for the movie giving its slasher killer injuries he could actually conceivably live through, but I feel that Blood Song doesn't end soon enough, and that its lead deserved better.
The print of this movie is pretty bad (and the original prints are apparently lost, so no HD re-release in this film's future), and I don't know if that's too blame for the poor sound quality, or if that was always a problem
Blood Song's score is ok, and I like the fun synth theme, although it's nothing masterful. Unfortunately either Frankie Avalon can't play the flute at all, or it was just a crap hunk of wood of an instrument. Either way, whenever his character starts playing the thing, it's almost irritating.
The violence effects in this movie are mostly pretty good, and if the quality was better, they'd probably still look convincing enough. As for the 007 gun-barrel swirlyvision moments, they look fine for what they are. A bit goofy, but tolerable.
The characters in this movie are likable enough, but don't do much. Then there's Mare's dick of a father, who you won't be able to wait to see die, and it's immensely gratifying. Though that hardly makes up for the poor writing-The dad's just a dick because. No reason. The guy has such a hate-on for his daughter that you just want to reach into the screen and make him the cripple! There are a couple of instances though where the movie decides to do something with his character, and make him think about the way he's treating his daughter...but he gets viciously murdered with an axe by Frankie Avalon before he can do anything. *sigh*
The acting is good for the most part, but some not so much. How bad, you ask? Well in the opening scene, a couple is shot to death, offscreen, and couple that with the line delivery and the low quality of the movie, and at first I thought the house's occupants were just watching some melodramatic movie or TV show!
Frankie Avalon is decent as the film's antagonist. He plays the role low key at first, and becomes more over-the-top in the climax. While he isn't amazing or revolutionary, he still turns in a nicely menacing performance, and at no point do you think 'Pffft, Frankie Avalon murdering people successfully? Pass! Too unbelievable! Go back to beach movies.'.
Blood Song isn't all that great, and while Frankie Avalon's simple performance doesn't lend the film as much novelty as it would have had he been more memorable and audience-winking, this is still a decent horror film. If you want to kill some time, then sure, watch it...
In the 1970's and '80's, Italian horror was big overseas, but come the tail end of the 80's, things had taken a sharp downturn, and by the 90's, it was in a slump. People had just lost interest, and 'Godfather of Gore' Lucio Fulci had also waned, only making four movies over the decade, none of which are exactly his most popular works, to put it lightly. Even as early as the late 1980's, Fulci just didn't make 'em like he used to. His 1989 effort House of Clocks though is actually quite an underrated movie, in my opinion...
A sinister old couple live alone in their grand old villa, living happily, despite the fact that they're brutal killers, having murdered their nephew and niece, and keep their bodies nailed to slabs in a crypt. One day, things go wrong for them when a trio of thieves invade their house, causing the couple's death. The burglars are shocked, having wanted to resolve things without bloodshed. They're now stuck in the villa due to the vicious guard dogs outside, and so they decide to wait out the night, passing the time by stealing anything that isn't nailed down. Mysteriously, as soon as the couple died, all the clocks in the house suddenly stopped. Soon enough, they're winding backwards, and weird things begin happening to the thieves, who are suddenly in a world of danger. The old couple, however, haven't bargained on their own victims being resurrected too...
The House of Clocks is a decent little horror film. It's not one of Fulci's greats, but certainly not his worst, either. It's plot is both simple, and rather complex, culminating in a highly entertaining ending. The film is never boring (although a couple of scenes do go on a bit longer than they should've), and runs rather briskly at only 85 minutes.
None of the lead characters in this movie are likable, which is irritating at first, but works well come the end. The conclusion is really good! Each character gets their suitable punishment, while everyone good lives happily. It's because of this that I don't mind the lack of likable main characters. It kinda bugs you as you're watching for the first time, and you find yourself struggling to care for the violent, cat-murdering thieves in danger, but come the end, you'll probably have a grin on your face as you see their amusing deserved comeuppance.
What's best about the ending (which is at first ridiculously happy for the three thieves) is that it all makes sense! Fulci really seems to know his time-travel mechanics, which is good, as the slightest mistake could have left the film stupid and nonsensical. I only wish that the movie would've explained how all the time travel stuff is happening, but that's not a movie-breaking issue.
The direction here is ok. There's nothing particularly stylish, but it's all serviceable.
The acting in this movie is very mixed. I can't speak for the original actors, but the dub acting is sometimes laughably bad, with very odd and poor deliveries. Thankfully they're decent the rest of the time, and the old couple certainly make for some entertaining antagonists.
The gore effects are pretty lame. Some are better than others, and the mild disembowelment is ok (although has nothing on similar scenes in other Fulci movies), but most are just tomato goo squibs, and not very convincing, sometimes looking like the actors' clothes have just been dirtied up.
Another irksome thing about the movie is the lack of any distinctive clocks. There are a few neat ones here and there, but by and large, they're all pretty regular looking clocks. There are no really stylish, big, and awesomely ornate ones either, and while that may seem like a minor problem, it's actually an important aesthetic issue for a movie so much about time travel and magical clocks.
The score in House of Clocks is quite decent. Some tunes aren't as good, and others are pretty cliched, but I really love the main theme, which is a soft and ooky piece, setting the tone perfectly, in both the beginning, and end too, where it complements the events of the conclusion.
To finish, this is a really good film, and despite its flaws, I recommend it! And remember, don't ever screw with cats, because they will get their bloody revenge. On that note, my cat is right now meowing for food, so I'd better deal with that, or else something unspeakable may befall me!...
Just a heads up, this movie, Zombi 5: Killing Birds, has almost no zombies, no bird killing, and no killer birds. But it does have Robert Vaughn...
Also known as Raptors for some insane reason, Zombi 5: Killing Birds is the final film in the official line of unofficial sequels to Lucio Fulci classic horror Zombi 2. Nevermind that it was originally released a year before both Zombi 3 and 4, but this is totally a Zombi movie, obviously!...
In the 1960's, a returning Vietnam vet comes home to find his wife in bed with another man. In a rage, he murders both his wife, and her lover, as well as two visiting friends. However, he's then set upon by all of his birds, who peck out his eyes. Decades later, a group of college students is ready to go on an expedition to the backwater areas of Louisiana to find an incredibly rare, thought-to-be extinct species of bird. An expert bird-watcher (the now-blind soldier) gives them help, before they go off on their way, finding a dilapidated old house, where, unbeknownst to them, an evil force persists...
Zombi 5 starts off with a pretty neat intro, directed well, and all without dialogue, almost never showing the soldier's face, either. It makes you think that maybe you're in for a decent watch after all. But don't be fooled into thinking this prologue has anything to do with the rest of the movie. From then on, the next hour (I am not joking!) are spent on seeing the college team prepare for their project, leaving the college and entering the secluded swampland area, prepping their equipment, and just generally hanging about. They don't even have the decency to make small talk to keep us entertained!
There is no story to Zombi 5. The last half-hour is just of the characters stumbling about getting killed, while every now and then, the movie cuts away to superfluous shots of Robert Vaughn (and his scenes are bizarrely at daytime, despite the rest of the movie at that point still being at night) before finally reaching its conclusion. The surviving leads do nothing proactive to help themselves, and they have to wait until the morning sun vanquishes the horrible night before they try and leave the house of evil. Vaughn then shows up, revealing the movie's tenuous connection to the prologue (and it still doesn't make much sense), then lets himself get killed, presumably ending the threat, and the movie, which just abruptly stops!
With what little story there is in this movie, there are many points that make no sense. First of all, if these zombies are the angry spirits of those murdered by Robert Vaughn, why are they tormenting and killing innocent people? Especially when one of said people is their baby, which they know? And on that note, yeah, the surviving baby from the prologue turns out to be lead college guy Steve. This has literally no impact on the story, and doesn't serve even one single purpose.
Then there's the prologue again. How did Robert Vaughn's character not get immediately found out by the police? He murdered four people, then got his eyes pecked out! I suppose it might be possible that he disposed of the bodies before the bird attack, but even then, wouldn't the police have some 'rather awkward' questions to ask him about where his family suddenly vanished to, why the baby's been left behind, or why his eyes have been torn out?
The final problem in regard to the story is the near-total lack of zombies! Sure, they are actually in the movie, at least, but they only start showing up at the hour mark, still barely appear, and are only zombies in the respect that they're undead people.
The next-worst thing about Zombi 5 is its cast. The characters are bland, and all interchangeable, and when the guys died one by one, I was left scratching my head and wondering 'Who just died?'. And I'm normally a freak of nature with my memory, so when even I have trouble differentiating characters, you know the movie has problems! Beyond that, I could never remember how many characters were even alive at any given time, mainly because the characters are so bland, I didn't know how many of them there were to begin with!
The characters in this film are also terminally stupid. Take for example the guy whose pendant is caught in a generator's machinery, and he never bothers taking it off! And to boot, his friend just stands and watches the whole time, never helping him! Next up is when everyone is fleeing the evil house, heading for their close-by camper-van when one of them wants to run back into the house to get his computer. Dude, are you really willing to die for a computer that probably doesn't even have the processing power to play Solitaire in monochrome black and green?! On top of all of that are the constant 'Run, you idiots!' moments, which'll make you groan!
The acting in this movie is so bad! It's mediocre at best, and terrible the rest of the time, with neither the dub actors, or real actors able to provide anything remotely resembling a decent performance. As for Robert Vaughn, he's wooden as hell, and barely in the movie. This is just a paycheck for him.
Zombi 5's gore effects are lame. Some look good, but others are mediocre, and one is terrible-The make-up effect literally breaks off the actress in one death scene! The other problem is that, bar a couple, all the death scenes in this movie are by throat injuries! Did the maker have some kind of fetish? Either way, it's lazy, and irritating. the make-up for Robert Vaughn is pretty crummy too.
The score to Zombi 5 is boring. There are some ok pieces, and one at the end sounds right out of a Castlevania game (albeit nowhere near as good), but it's mostly dull, and very repetitive. The whole first 8 or so minutes after the prologue is ridiculously wholesome and upbeat, too.
Zombi 5: Killing Birds is a bad movie. It's uneventful as hell, dull, boring, and I don't recommend it at all. Zombi 3 and 4 were both dumb as hell, but at least they were fun!...
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Say, in a regular Aussie town, if you see someone rise from the dead out of a shallow grave, you'd probably just think they had a mild bender the night before, and think nothing more of it!...Apparently that reasoning is why it was necessary for us to get yet ANOTHER drama about the dead coming back to life! First, there was that book, then They Came Back, then Babylon Fields, then The Revenants, then Resurrection, a Canadian remake, then the new Babylon Fields, and now there's an Australian show with this plot too!
In the outback town of Yoorana, something mysterious is happening. Six people have somehow broken through their graves, returned to life. They're found by local policeman James Hayes and Dr. Elishia McKeller, who take them in and clean them up. The five they find are very disoriented, not sure of what's happened. Disturbingly, James sees that one of the people is his dead wife Kate. He manages to make her remember him, as well as who she is, and how she died, while the others take more time. Meanwhile, neighbouring cop Vic Eastley is in Yoorana to help with local police matters, and is curious about the disturbed gravesites in the cemetery. James brushes it off as just the work of local hoodlums, intending to keep the resurrected people a secret for the time being. Vic, however, can tell that something is up, and digs deeper. Elsewhere, the sixth resurrected person, Patty Fitzgerald, encounters Beau, an Aboriginal teen, and re-acclimates to the town he was once the first mayor of. Things soon take a turn for the worse when James realizes the hard way that these returned people can't leave the borders of Yoorana without suffering from instant decomposition...
The stories of the undead people, Maria de Massola, Charlie Thompson, Kirstie, the newly risen John Doe, and Patty, are slowly unraveled, as a newly determined Vic, now driven by sinister motivations, intends to hunt them down...
Glitch may be utilizing a pretty overused idea at this point, but it presents it in a new and refreshing way. The story isn't a copy of others. like, say. Resurrection, and plays out very differently to those shows. Most of all is the distinctive Australian feel to the show, with the setting and history playing a big part in the characters and their backstories, be it ties with Aboriginal, convict and bushranger, and ANZAC pasts.
The mystery behind the resurrection of these people is really interesting, and each successive episode leaves you wanting more and more to know what's going on!....And there's where we get into the bad. This show brings up so many questions and mysteries, and by the series' end, has answered none of them! If anything, it's just brought up even more! What the hell? This show pulled a damn Lost! Goddammit! To be fair, the series has much fewer episodes at just 6 than Lost's 24 episode seasons of nothing, but this is still a serious problem! Come the series finale, we're still just as much in the dark as when we started! Hell, I don't even know why the show is called Glitch! It's certainly not related to computers in any way! I hope there are some answers come Series 2, but I'm not even sure if there will be a second season!
Ok, moving on, the writing in Glitch is quite strong! Despite some slow pacing, it's never leaden or boring, and it sets up the concept really well, with characters getting realistic reactions all-round. Also, for the first several episodes, there are no villains, but rather people who simply have opposing views on the matter, and take action in the way they believe is right. No-one in the show is necessarily wrong.....Well, until Vic's 180 character shift, anyway, but more on that later.
The conflicts in the series are believable and presented nicely. First and foremost is the love triangle between James, his formerly dead wife Kate, and his current, very pregnant new wife Sarah. What's a guy to do? Make the horrible decision of having to pick and choose, or does he hope both parties are down for a threesome? Funny how the porno solution is the only easy solution. Every other one leads to heartbreak all-round. Thankfully, while there is one scene that kinda makes you want to slap James upside the head, this storyline is otherwise handled well, with all three parties getting an equal say in matters, and there's some good dialogue too.
Luckily for our zombie pals, there's no such thing as rednecks in Australia, so there'll be no religious fundamentalists viewing the newly resurrected as 'aberrations of the lord that must be purged!' like what happens so often in other shows of this nature. While we do have bogans in abundance, they'll be more likely to say something along the lines of "Ay, 'ow ya goin', mate? You're not havin' the fuckin' best of luck, are ya, ya cunt. How 'bouts I spot us a fuckin' round of fuckin' beer, and let's get hammered 'till we're fucked!".
Unfortunately Glitch has really bad character and scene pacing at times. Say, Charlie goes into the local bar to find out about his past, and meets the proprietor who knows everything there is to know about the ANZAC war hero Charlie Thompson. End scene, and it doesn't cut back to them for nearly a half-hour! This kind of thing happens so many times with various characters (particularly with Patty and Beau), and it's really annoying!
The characters in Glitch are all well-rounded, and developed. James is a good lead with an understandable and emotional conflict, and the same goes for Kate and Sarah. Dr. McKellar is decent, although doesn't get to do as much as she could have, given the mystery about her character the series starts to push near the end.
Maria can get a bit annoying at times, but she has a well-crafted and emotional story, even if it doesn't get the most climactic or happiest of resolutions.
Separated from the rest of the cast for most of the series, Patty and Beau have a good dynamic, even if it does fall into a big coincidence near the end, that borders onto the cliched and overly convenient. Patty starts off as a slovenly Irish drunkard stereotype, but he quickly becomes a likable and somewhat endearing character, and his friendship with Beau is handled really well. He gets enough humour, and drama, working really well.
Vic starts off as a likable character, and you're glad when James finally lets him in on the secret as early as he does, but soon after, when he has a car accident, Vic comes back weird. We don't know what's up with him at first, but after a couple of episodes, we realize that he's become a more villainous figure. At first, this feels extremely out-of-character, especially given what he does to a 'certain character', but it turns out that whoever this is, it's not Vic anymore. Andrew McFarlane does a really good job at portraying a compelling antagonist. You want to know more about him!...It's just a shame that we never even find out as much as a deeper motivation beyond the basics.
Charlie and Kirstie get pretty shafted for the first several episodes, and we know nothing about them, but in the tail end of the series, it starts to delve into their characters, providing some fantastic moments (and one very out-of-place one between Charlie and the bartender). The scene where Kirstie confronts her apparent murderer is acted superbly, and handled really well!
Then there's the mysterious 'John Doe'. Very little is revealed about him, and his whole story and personality is still somewhat of a mystery, but what we do get is quite interesting, and he too is a developed character, despite his lack of much dialogue.
Even more minor characters aren't all that dull. Kate's mother only gets one scene, but the exchange between her and other local cop Chris is a fine scene! Unfortunately the Fitzgerald's are a pretty one-dimensional set of dicks.
The acting in Glitch is good all-round, with Andrew McFarlane as the standout.
One thing I find amusing is that this is Australian prime time TV, where unlike in the States, you can swear as much as you want!...Well, not so much on the commercial channels (bar movies, then swear all the Tarantino you want) due to general corporate stuffiness and paranoia, but ABC and SBS anyway. You can say 'fuck' as many as a hundred times, and the rating will still be low! I guess us Aussies are just hardcore like that! Heh...
The show's score is very effective, and slightly reminiscent of pieces in the morbid black comedy Jam. Unfortunately the main theme is the only bit of music in the entire show!
Glitch's effects are definitely convincing. There's some decent CGI for an instant decomposition, while everything else is practical. A particularly great effect is the compound fracture one character gets, though less sense is how his bone snapped out of his body from tripping slightly against a bit of dirt! Dude, I've suffered worse than that and got out with a mild sprain, not a friggin' compound fracture!
Despite the maddening lack of answers to its mysteries, Glitch is a pretty good show, and a neat example of Australian Gothic. I recommend it, although probably only when Series 2 is out, so you won't be in for a frustrating wait. The only thing I have left to say is...Would it kill these higher powers to leave a darn manual when raising the dead en-masse for seemingly no reason? At least Ishtar had the express purpose of bloody world-consuming revenge! Geez!...
Friday, August 21, 2015
It really is surprising that cinema has given The Punisher three go's, and gone with the ultraviolence route for all three! You'd think they'd try and sanitize them, making them PG-13 levels, but instead, we've had Punisher-induced ninja bloodbaths, face-explosions, and other such gory spectacles each time!
Tonight, I'll be looking at all three adaptations of the famous Marvel comic character The Punisher, and see how they all shape up. Which are the best?...
The Punisher (1989)
Five years ago, police officer Frank Castle's wife and children were murdered by mobsters, and believed to be dead, the = Castle has become the burnt-out vigilante known as The Punisher. He swiftly and violently dispenses his idea of justice on all criminals that evade the legal system, and some he takes care of before they ever can. However, his wearing-down on the various mafia families has left them so weakened, that they couldn't stop their children from being kidnapped by the ruthless Yakuza-Japanese mafia. Now, The Punisher has to save the children, destroy the Yakuza presence, and wipe out the remaining mobsters if he can, to finally gain complete revenge for the loss of his family, while all the while, his old friend Detective Jake Berkowitz is on the hunt for him...
For the longest while, heaps of fans hated this movie (and still might) for one dumb reason-The Punisher doesn't have the trademark skull insignia on his jacket. 'GASP! HE DOESN'T?! THIS IS THE WORST COMIC BOOK ADAPTATION EVER!'. Newsflash! In the early comics, The Punisher wore thigh-high white boots and purple spandex! It really doesn't matter if the movie adaptation is missing the skull, so long as the movie's otherwise good and faithful to the source material. And besides, look into your hearts and tell me that the lack of skull is isn't worse than that time The Punisher became an angel. Or when he was dismembered, and became a Frankenstein monster aptly named FrankenCastle. Or when he turned black for several issues! Yeah, remember that? I'll take the lack of a skull, thank you.
Moving on from that point, this is a faithful adaptation of The Punisher. It's about Frank Castle killing criminals by the truckloads. Where could you go wrong with such a simple premise?...I mean besides setting it in space, anyway (I kid. I've never read Space Punisher, so it could very well be good). Probably the only major change I can think of is how Frank's family is killed, but that's honestly not that big a deal. It doesn't necessarily matter how they die, as long as it still happens.
Possibly the best thing about this movie is its look and direction. This isn't a by-the-numbers point-and-shoot affair, and you can tell there's genuine work put into the framing of many shots. Then there's the colour scheme, with many stylistic touches, such as the finale, where the all-in-black Frank Castle clashes effectively against the pure white of the Yakuza stronghold. Later on, there's also a large section of the climax set in emergency lights, and despite looking like The Punisher: The Virtual Boy Experience, it looks good and never strains the eyes.
While not the goriest, this iteration of The Punisher is by far the bleakest, thanks to its gritty realism (real gritty realism, that is, not the petty excuse that's so often overused, both in comics, and movies), and through its tragic connection between Frank and Jake. The latter was a great cop whose alcoholism slowly ruined his career and life, but young newbie cop Frank Castle, who idolized the man, was able to help Jake turn his life around and get a new start. Then, after the tragedy with Frank's family, Jake, the only person believing Frank to still be alive, looks for him tirelessly for five years. Knowing what it's like to be given up on, Jake never stops looking, but when he finally catches up with Frank, he can neither change, nor help him, and the movie ends with the Punisher leaving the scene, and Jake yelling out in vain for his lost friend to come back.
There's plenty of the red stuff in this movie, and the effects are all handled well! Nothing ever looks unconvincing, and while there are a couple of moments where you doubt Frank Castle would have survived (we're taking about A-Team levels of bad aim from the Yakuza), the action scenes are all handled really well, and there's certainly enough of them!
The Punisher's score is decent, with a great main sting. While the remainder of the score isn't particularly memorable, the placement of music is very strong, with the right chords going in just the right places for maximum effect!
I've read reviews of this film from back in the day, which complained about it having "some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen". Were we watching the same movie?! The acting here is really good! There are no real bad performances, the villains, played by Jeroen Krabbe and Km Miyori respectively, are both distinctive, and act very differently, helping their characters stand out greatly from one another. Krabbe gets to act with more vulnerable moments, and has his share of action in the climax, while Miyori is badass intimidating as the true main antagonist.
Louis Gosset Jr. adds heart to the movie as Jake Berkowitz, and while he only gets almost just the one scene with Frank, he makes it count. Nancy Everhard is also good, although she unfortunately vanishes near the end of the film. At least she survived it! And so does Barry Otto's character, who's a likable 'sidekick', and definitely makes up for the absence of long-standing Punisher comics character Microchip. Also, that character was barely two years old when this movie was released (to say nothing of when it was written and made), so one can hardly rag on the movie for being inaccurate for lacking the character.
Now, finally, onto the titular lead. Dolph Lundgren is a fantastic stoic and badass action hero as Frank Castle, and shows off the character's burnt-out persona so well. You look at his eyes, and you really believe that he's a man with nothing left but bloody revenge. Lundgren talks a little slowly sometimes, but that's for emphasis. Oh, and yeah, you see his bare naked ass, which really shouldn't freak some people out as much as it does.
The 1989 iteration of The Punisher is one of my favourite action movies, and in my opinion, a classic of the '80's! Is he missing a skull? Yeah, but who's complaining when the movie is still such a fantastic film?...Well, a lot of people, unfortunately...
The Punisher (2004)
Undercover cop Frank Castle is involved in a weapons deal gone wrong, and in the ensuing crossfire, the son of mob boss Howard Saint is killed. While Castle is on vacation in Puerto Rico with his family, Saint finds out his identity, and sends out a small army to take revenge. Frank's entire family is brutally slaughtered, and he himself shot repeatedly, but manages to survive. Nursed back to health by a local, Frank Castle 'dies', and The Punisher is born, filled with a desire for revenge against the man responsible for destroying his life...
This version of The Punisher is probably the least impressive in that it's just a stock-standard revenge movie, with nothing really all-that distinctive or memorable about it (besides a few weird scenes). It's not bad, but has nothing to make it stand out like the other Punisher films.
This is more of a revenge thriller than it is an action film. What action there is is small and brief, while the plot isn't very much like a Punisher story at all! It's just about a guy getting revenge for his family's murder. That doesn't instantly make your character The Punisher, but rather just the lead of every revenge movie ever made! This isn't The Punisher. He's just some guy. He's even shown himself to the police and the public, who all freely now know he's alive and well! Everyone is meant to think Frank Castle is dead!
I'm not sure how to feel about the film being about The Punisher's origin. While on one hand, it's not necessarily a bad choice, and I guess it's good that at least one of the multiple Punisher movies actually tell his origin story rather than start off in media res, but it is a bit irritating that we have to wait half the movie for Castle to become the titular vigilante. It's also kinda depressing watching his whole family tragically die!
When I said that it takes half the movie for Frank to become The Punisher, that's not actually true...It takes ALL the damn movie! Sure, he's plotting and scheming throughout, and engaging in some deadly combat (mostly only in self-defense, annoyingly enough), but it's only in the climax where he goes into rampage mode, and only at the very end of the movie where he truly becomes The Punisher.
As much as I don't feel that this Frank Castle would become The Punisher (I feel he would've gotten his revenge, then settled down to live a quiet, secluded life with his new friends), the ending is still really cool!
The villains in this movie are boring. They're just a bunch of suits, with a wimpy John Travolta leading them. He rarely does anything on his own, and never stands a chance against The Punisher, getting offed instantly. The supporting characters are odd at first, but are rather likable, and thankfully they don't die, at least.
This is largely a regular realistic movie, but it goes way overboard in certain aspects. Would you believe that Frank Castle in this film is just one day from retirement when mobsters kill his family? I swear I'm not joking! Also stupid is that it's not just his wife and children (or rather kid, singular, in this case) who get killed, but his whole extended family! Over 30 people! It's frankly ridiculous. There are also a few other dumb things about the movie, such as Frank's survival after the massacre, where despite getting fatally shot several times, tossed in the ocean to drown, and caught in an exploding pier, he still manages to get up and crawl out of the wreckage and onto land! Also idiotic is the whole scene with The Russian, for numerous reasons, from the antagonist's invincibility (yeah, I'm gonna go with the soldier over the bodybuilder, no matter how Arnie-ripped he is), to how absurdly weak the apartment is, among other things. Finally, there's the fire skull at the end, which is trying to be cool, but I find just dumb. Another bizarre scene is the singing hitman, but that's kinda amusing, so I'll cut it some slack. I'll give less slack to the popsicle-torture though, or when Travolta's gangster friend literally says "You're killing me! You're killing me!" when being killed. It's like Friday the 13th Part IV all over again...
The action here is decent, but aside from the finale, and the ridiculous fight with The Russian, the action scenes are all too short. The finale is fantastic, and is a perfect way to climax the movie, particularly the final confrontation with Saint ("Both of them.").
This is by far the least violent of the three Punisher movies, and the only one that doesn't fall under the 'ultraviolence' category. It's still bloody, but nothing too over the top, and nowhere near the levels of grue in the other two.
The score is ok, but nothing remarkable save for the main theme, which is cool, and has a nice western touch to it.
The acting is decent all-round. While Thomas Jane is sometimes held back by the script making him a bit too milquetoast and untraumatized after his family's death, he's a really good Punisher! He looks perfect for the role. John Travolta is ok as the villain, sometimes getting times to wildly overact, but is overall pretty dull, and doesn't get much to do at all.
Overall, this is an ok revenge film, if a bit overlong, but it's not all that great a Punisher flick. I still recommend it though, if you're curious. It's decent overall...
While the 2004 Punisher movie has never gotten a sequel, it did get something special back in 2010]-A short film on Youtube, starring Thomas Jane. Dirty Laundry is a decent little short, with a thematic conversation about the dangers of intervention to protect the innocent, culminating in a sudden burst of violent Punishment, and it shows to an absurd, but probably realistic, degree just how strong alcohol bottles are, as opposed to the sugar glass you always see in movies. Jane is good, as is Ron Perlman. The violence is over-the-top and silly, but amusing, and the effects are certainly quite decent for a presumably no-budget 10 minute Youtube short.
Punisher: War Zone
It's been years since police officer Frank Castle lost his wife and daughter in a mafia shooting, and he's continuing his streak of vengeance and punishment on criminals everywhere. However, his latest victin, Billy 'The Beaut' Russotti, has survived, albeit heavily scarred. Now dubbed Jigsaw, he plots bloody revenge on The Punisher. Castle, meanwhile is conflicted after having just unwittingly killed an undercover cop. He wants to quit being The Punisher, but Jigsaw forces his return by attempting to take the family of the undercover agent hostage...
Not a sequel, but another reboot, Punisher: War Zone follows the comics the closest (technically, as most of the material it's adapting didn't exist back in 1989), and the product is a gory action extravaganza unlike most comic book movies, particularly the more family-friendly MCU content of today.
There's a surprising lack of action after the opening setpieces. It makes sense, given we're not going to see Frank going around the city Punishing when he's tormented by the death of the undercover cop, and the movie is never boring with this lack, but it's still pretty noticeable. Thankfully things pick up eventually.
The villains here are absolutely off-the-wall loony. Unfortunately they get a bit too much screentime in the first half, while Frank gets too little. He manages to appear enough, but things aren't quite balanced perfectly.
Frank is well-characterised here, and Ray Stevenson portrays him with a lot of humanity, but also stoic badassery. It's a little annoying that he's is basically an unstoppable machine, but it's even stupider that he's able to decimate an entire building of thugs, yet can't handle the tiny Loony Bin Jim in hand-to-hand combat!
The rest of the film's characters are merely ok. They're decent, but nothing special, and don't really appear enough.
Punisher: War Zone is delightfully over the-top movie, full of extreme gore, absurd moments, and the darkly funny dialogue (courtesy of Jigsaw) is a blast, most of the time.
However, as much as I enjoy The Punisher reducing a man's head to gore with but a single bare-fisted punch, there are a few scenes that I just found plain stupid. There's the scene with the obese guy's head exploding, among others, and there's the shotgun facesplosion. That second one is an awesome scene on its own despite its silliness, however in context, Frank had no reason to kill Pittsy, as the guy was being arrested, nor do I think Frank would be the kind of guy to murder a man when he's holding a little girl in his arms! Not to say anything of the damage to her ears, or the risk of the shotgun's recoil giving her a concussion, I don't think he'd be that much of a psycho asshole to turn a man's face into tomato goo while a little girl is witness to the whole thing! Other things I don't like about this movie is its treatment of side characters. Nothing good happens to Frank's poor teammates, and that sucks. It's depressing! One last thing I dislike about the movie is the concluding line from Frank in the church scene, which I felt was out-of-place, and ruined an otherwise good reflective scene. It pales in comparison to the 'talking with God' scene from the '89 film.
Given the over-the-top gore in this movie, it's a shame that there's quite a bit of CGI blood. Thankfully there is still plenty of practical work, and the make-up for Jigsaw looks really good! As for the look of the film, it's quite stylistic, like a living comic book. Not to the levels of Sin City, but still quite unreal at times, and very colourfully lit.
The acting is all decent. Ray Stevenson is fantastic as playing Frank Castle, while Dominic West is amusing as the main villain.
Punisher: War Zone is a stupid movie, but a load of fun! It's likely to not be everyone's cup of tea, and I can understand why, but I find it to be an enjoyable flick, and I recommend it if you like super-violent actioners...
Well that concludes my look at all three Punisher movies. I recommend them all, despite the flaws some have. All round, some are more faithful than others, and some have better-handled aspects than others, and in the end, I find the 1989 version to be the best. If you're going to watch any, make sure it's that one!...