Movie Kumite: The Punisher (1989) vs. The Punisher (2004)
Over the past week, there’s been a lot of buzz about The Punisher on social media all thanks to Netflix.
The Punisher/Frank Castle character (played by Jon Bernthal) will be a big part of the second season of the Netflix series, Daredevil, which premieres on March 18th, 2016. And if that wasn’t enough, news broke this past weekend that Netflix is about to green light a Punisher spinoff series.
Now this is not the first time that somebody has tried to bring the popular Marvel Comics character to life. There have been three motion pictures based on The Punisher. The first came in 1989 and starred Dolph Lundgren. The second came 15 years later when Thomas Jane tried his hand at being The Punisher. Then in 2008 Punisher: War Zone was released with Ray Stevenson as the titular character.
There have been debates going on for years about who the best movie Punisher was. I knew there was one way to solve this long standing debate and that is with the cinematic slugfest known as the Movie Kumite… but the Movie Kumite has traditionally been a one on one battle, so one of the three movie Punishers needed to go. That’s when I posted a Twitter poll over on the official Twitter account of Bulletproof Action and allowed our fans to decide.
The two Punishers that received the most votes were Thomas Jane’s Punisher with 46% of the vote and Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher with 31% of the vote. (Sorry Ray!)
In past Movie Kumite match ups we have seen similar characters collide, but this will mark the first time a character has battled the exact same character…
I enjoyed Thomas Jane’s performance as Frank Castle. He was believable in the role and he had one advantage over Dolph in that his Punisher had the shirt with the famous Punisher skull logo, where Dolph did not. Of course the Thomas Jane version of Frank Castle, also had a nice dinner date with his neighbors, which pretty much negates the whole logo thing in my book.
I may not be in the majority, but I actually prefer the Dolph Lundgren version of Frank Castle. Maybe it is because I have a soft spot for Dolph (despite the fact that he made the awful Retroactive) or maybe because this was my first real exposure to The Punisher character and story, so I wasn’t caught up on how true to the comics it was or wasn’t. Dolph’s Frank Castle is one of his more memorable characters and I would rank The Punisher (1989) as one of Dolph’s best movies.
The Punisher (1989) – 1 The Punisher (2004) – 0
The Punisher (1989) features two of the most prolific villainous groups in movie history. You’ve got the Mafia led by Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbe) and the Yakuza led by Lady Tanaka (played by a scene stealing Kim Miyori). On paper, this should be a slam dunk for The Punisher (1989).
But I am not sure I’ve ever seen a family as vicious as The Saint Family in The Punisher (2004). After their son is killed, it isn’t the crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta) that orders Frank Castle’s family to be killed, it is Mrs. Saint. And Livia Saint (Laura Harring) doesn’t just order for Castle’s wife and kid to be killed, but his ENTIRE family. A group of assassins crash the Castle Family Reunion and wipe them all out… mom, dad, great aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins… nobody was spared! It was a bloodbath and as evil as it gets.
Plus, you’ve got Howard’s best friend Quentin, who pulls out a guys piercings with a pair of pliers as a method of interrogation. And there are two memorable hired guns, the musically inclined Harry Heck and the monstrous Russian!
The Punisher (2004) villains are the baddest of the bad!
The Punisher (1989) – 1 The Punisher (2004) – 1
QUALITY OF LIFE
In The Punisher (1989) Frank Castle lives in a stinky, smelly sewer. In The Punisher (2004) Frank Castle lives in a modest apartment and his neighbor is Rebecca Romijn. Nuff said.
The Punisher (1989) – 1 The Punisher (2004) – 2
CHAPPY SINCLAIR BONUS ROUND
Even a vigilante can use some help from time to time and Dolph Lundgren’s Frank Castle had the best wing man an action hero could ask for in the form of Louis Gossett Jr. LGJ plays Frank Castle’s former partner on the police force, Jake Berkowitz in The Punisher (1989).
The Punisher with Chappy Sinclair > The Punisher without Chappy Sinclair!
The Punisher (1989) – 2 The Punisher (2004) – 2
When you are a vigilante, you take the law into your own hands. That means, you are the judge, the jury AND the executioner. So who was the more effective executioner?
Thomas Jane’s Frank Castle had an impressive 22 kills to his credit in The Punisher (2004). But Dolph Lundgren’s Frank Castle more than tripled Jane’s numbers with an astronomical 76 kills to his credit in The Punisher (1989). That’s a lot of punishing!!
The Punisher (1989) – 3 The Punisher (2004) – 2
As always, I like to bring in some outside opinions before crowning a winner in a Movie Kumite. And this time around will be no different as we compare and contrast the scores from two of the Internet’s most respected movie related sites, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.
The Punisher (2004) had an IMDb score of 6.5. The Punisher (1989) had an IMDb score of 5.6.
The Punisher (1989) had a 32% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Punisher (2004) doubled that with a 64% approval rating.
And while I don’t personally agree with them, the critics have spoken and The Punisher (2004) reigns supreme in our Battle of the Punishers!
FINAL SCORE: The Punisher (1989) – 3 The Punisher (2004) – 4