Grade C-

Dolph Lundgren plays the title role in “The Punisher,” a movie about an ex-police officer who becomes a vigilante after his family is killed by the mafia.  Donning the oh so fashionable, all black outfit that vigilantes prefer, Lundgren kills everyone who was responsible for killing his wife and two girls.  Of course, he doesn’t limit his punishment to those who directly turned his life upside down…all criminals are targets.

For those not in the know, “The Punisher” is based on a Marvel Comics character that I am very much familiar with.  I have to say I am very disappointed in this first movie adaptation of The Punisher character.  I must disclose that when I first saw this movie as a teenager, I thought it was cool…then again, I thought mullets were cool, too.  Gone is the fanboy who was just happy to see a movie about one of his favorite, comic book characters.  Now I can look at this 1989 film with a more critical eye.

The first thing I noticed was the music, and how it reminds me of something that I would hear from an action movie of the week on NBC back in the 80s.  That’s an insult, by the way.  Next thing I noticed were the action sequences that were not choreographed and executed well.  What is caught on film looks like something you would see in rehearsals.  Dolph Lundgren was a karate champion prior to becoming a movie star, but in “The Punisher” he moves like lumbering giant who always looks off balance.  Another big, negative aspect I noticed in this movie is Lundgren’s acting skills, or lack thereof.  This leads me to…

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Punisher” is the scene when Louis Gossett Jr. (playing Lundgren’s ex-partner in the police force) confronts Lundgren in his holding cell.  Lundgren’s sub-par acting ability is more pronounced when it goes up against the fine acting of Gossett Jr.  It’s like a stock, Honda Civic drag racing a Challenger Hellcat.  The difference is so shocking, viewers are forced to tell the weak party, “You have no business being here, dude.”

“The Punisher” also suffers from so many plot holes that if the movie was a ship, it would sink in two inches of water.  In the movie, people think that Lundgren the cop is dead, killed with his family.  Here’s the plot hole regarding that: Lundgren is a big brute, walking around in an outfit that looks like he bought it from an Army/Navy surplus store; he rides an extremely loud motorcycle; and he doesn’t bother to disguise his looks (doesn’t wear shades, a hat, fake moustache, etc.).  He walks and rides around in the daytime…and no one notices!  Get the hell out!

Want more?  Okay, lets talk about the dialogue.  As an example, look at the torture scene of Lundgren at the hands of the Yakuza.  Lundgren’s lines — and his delivery of them — are so atrocious that I thought it was written by a lobotomized, 14-year-old screenwriter who was high on cocaine.  This scene is so laughably bad it is one of my memorable moments of this movie.

“The Punisher” failed to live up to its potential because too many people didn’t have what it took to make this movie better.  I do find this movie entertaining, but mostly for reasons not intended by the filmmakers.

— M