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Film: The Punisher (1989)

"Come on God, answer me. For years I'm asking why, why are the innocent dead and the guilty alive? Where is justice? Where is punishment? Or have you already answered, have you already said to the world: here is justice, here is punishment, here... in me."
Frank Castle

The first film adaptation of The Punisher, released in 1989.

After Frank Castle's (Dolph Lundgren) family was killed by organized crime, he started a war on them as the vigilante known as The Punisher. His work causes the New York crime families appear weak, and a Mob War between them and the Yakuza breaks out, who try to muscle in on their turf. Caught between the crossfire, Frank has to shoot a whole lot of bad guys to make things right.


This film has the examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Where Frank's hideout resides.
  • The Alcoholic: Jake is used to be one before he met Frank, who brought him back from the brink.
  • Armed Legs: Tanaka's daughter slices a man's throat with blades on her boot in her introductonary scene.
  • Ate His Gun: Holding a dagger to Tommy's throat, Lady Tanaka promises to spare him if Gianni puts his gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. Frank intervenes before he can go through with it.
  • Badass Biker: How Frank is depicted, even having a Cool Bike.
  • Calling Card: Frank leaves knives with skulls on them in his victims to let everyone know who killed them.
  • Chain Pain: One mook tries to attack Frank with a chain, but is stopped on his tracks with a shotgun shell to his gut.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Franco's son attacks his captors with a chair, and in an archetypical fashion, it breaks apart on impact.
  • Comicbook Adaptation: It notably features the scenes of Frank being a cop and a family man before becoming the Punisher that were left out of the film.
  • Cultural Posturing:
    Lady Tanaka: We are Yakuza. When your ancestors were shepherds still screwing sheep on the Mediterranean coast, ours were the crime lords of Asia.
  • Deadpan Snarker. Frank has a few of these moments when he is captured by the Yakuza and put on a torture rack.
    Lady Tanaka: Do you know how much pain $10,000 can buy?
    Frank: Is this question true or false, or multiple choice?
  • The Dragon: Tanaka's adoptive daughter is her protector and top enforcer.
  • Dragon Lady: Lady Tanaka, the Yakuza leader attacking the local crime bosses and the Big Bad of the film.
  • Enemy Mine: Mob boss Franco teams up with Castle to rescue his son Tommy from the Yakuza.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: One truck completely vaporizes on impact with another vehicle.
  • Everyone Is Armed: The meeting between the Mafia leaders and Lady Tanaka in a restaurant turns out to be a trap when every other patron pulls out a gun on the former.
  • Evil Laugh: Thinking that she has won, Lady Tanaka laughs evilly before Punisher busts through a wall and kills her.
  • External Combustion: Frank Castle's family died when their rigged van exploded.
  • Genre Savvy: When Moretti arrives at his home after his acquittal, his first order of business is to tell his men the check the house for intruders.
  • Gun Struggle: Gianni Franco dies after he struggles with Frank for his gun, and it goes off.
  • I Work Alone: When Sam offers to work with Jake, he initially insists on working alone.
  • The Informant!: Shakes, an alcoholic former actor who relays information on criminal activities to Frank for booze.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: One patron in the illegal gambling hole is shown walking around with two women in this fashion.
  • Mythology Gag: Frank's children are shown wearing Spider-Man pajamas in a flashback. This is a reference to the fact that The Punisher first appeared in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man.
  • Neck Snap: Frank kills Tanaka's daughter by twisting her neck.
  • No Name Given: No name is given to Tanaka's adoptive daughter.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Two Yakuza mooks pretend to be armor racks to surprise Frank.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Frank never wears the iconic skull on his chest. This wound up being one of the main points of criticism from fans.note 
  • Pinned to the Wall: Tanaka's daughter uses her earrings to pin mob boss DeLeo to the wall.
  • Railing Kill: Happens to one mook in the amusement park shootout.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Yakuza, who even resort to kidnapping children to gain upper hand.
  • Self-Surgery: After his first run-in with the Yakuza, Frank is shown cauterizing his wounds with a red-hot blade.
  • Spiteful Spit: DeLeo spits on Lady Tanaka's face when she offers him a poisoned drink.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Gianni aims his gun at Frank's direction, but only to shoot a mook who is behind him.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Lady Tanaka poisons the drinks of the mob bosses who agreed to have a meeting with her.
  • That Man Is Dead: In true Punisher fashion, he tells Jake that "Frank is dead" when they finally meet face to face.
  • The Voiceless: Tanaka's daughter is a mute.
  • Weirdness Censor: Nobody believed that Punisher actually existed before he exploded a building on front of the press.
  • Wrote the Book: Frank referred to Jake as "the man who wrote the book on busting bad guys" when they met the first time.
  • You! Exclamation: Dino Moretti's last words when he finds his bodyguards dead and comes face to face with Punisher.


Psycho CopFilms of the 1980sPuppet Master
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & PunisherComicbook/The PunisherThe Punisher (2004)

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