Wolf Creek 2 (2014) Review

Posted in Wolf Creek 2 with tags , , on August 20, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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WOLF CREEK 2

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Mick’s Back with a Few Days to Kill

Release Date- February 20th, 2014

Running Time- 106-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Greg McLean & Aaron Sterns

Director- Greg McLean

Starring- John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Phillipe Klaus

After nearly a decade after Wolf Creek comes the sequel, which has drawn some mixed reaction. The original film for the most part got a passing grade and in my opinion was a terrific feature film debut for Greg McLean. Most of the complaints were it took too long to get started and there wasn’t enough action. McLean could have taken the easy way out and made a film with constant violence and gore with faceless victims. When filmmakers do just that people complain and when they avoid that people still complain. Wolf Creek 2 is more of the film it seemed some people wanted with the original and they get it and yet still complain. Wolf Creek 2 has a bit more action and a lot more gore and characters are in danger pretty much from the start until the end, but its still missing that little something that made the original work so well. However for the good part of its running time Wolf Creek 2 is quite fun and tense at times, but for me the film begins to unravel a bit in the final act, which made me lower my rating as it seems never ending. Outside of the final act Wolf Creek 2 was solid, but far inferior to the original.

The plot is more or less the same as the original with Mick Taylor (Jarratt) killing off tourists in the Australian outback. The screenplay was written by Greg McLean & Aaron Sterns and overall its fairly well written in at least as far as sequels go. The script pretty much relies on the original in plot, but it isn’t a carbon copy either. The characters aren’t quite as strong as the original, but in someways they’re equal as well. I for one liked the German tourists and while not very well developed I also liked Paul (Corr) since he accidentally gets caught in the middle. This time around Mick Taylor plays a much larger part and some complained he’s sort of become Freddy Krueger from the later Elm Street films and I’d agree with that. In the original Mick was kind of funny, but in a really creepy way, but here while still a bit creepy he isn’t as chilling and he also gets to be a bit too likable due to the one liners. McLean & Sterns write a fairly strong script that isn’t as light on character development as some have claimed, but in my opinion the script does suffer from many of the flaws often found in sequels.

As director Greg McLean crafts a fun and well paced film for the good portion of the running time. Even though there isn’t any action within the first 40 or so minutes in the original there’s something sinister lurking under the surface and that’s something Wolf Creek 2 is lacking despite having a lot more action. The original was very much a throwback to 70s exploitation films whereas Wolf Creek 2 is more in the style of an 80s splatter film. There’s some excellent gore scenes and the first one will no doubt even get a reaction from even the most jaded gore hound. Some of the comedy is out of place (the Kangaroo scene while fairly amusing breaks up the tension) and the tone at times a little silly, but the film is also quite tense in spots and suspenseful. Greg McLean delivers a solid film, but as mentioned I felt the final act was way overly long and Wolf Creek 2 runs out of steam.

The cast is quite strong and John Jarratt is again terrific as Mick. While again in my opinion he isn’t quite as chilling here he’s still fairly creepy and Jarratt deserves all the credit he gets for both Wolf Creek films.

Overall I liked Wolf Creek 2 and while it isn’t perfect the film is still effective for the most part. As stated it was the final act that started to lose me, but outside of that while I prefer the original film, Wolf Creek 2 is a worthy follow up.

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Robocop 3 (1993) Review

Posted in RoboCop 3 with tags , , on August 19, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ROBOCOP 3

*** Out of 5

Release Date- November 5th, 1993

Tagline- He’s Back to Lay Down the Law.

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Frank Miller & Fred Dekker

Director- Fred Dekker

Starring- Robert Burke, John Castle, CCH Pounder, Robert DoQui, Jill Hennessy, Mako, Remy Ryan with Nancy Allen and Rip Torn

The original RoboCop, which was released in 1987 became a huge success and on the surface it should be a bad, but fun film, instead however, RoboCop was actually a very good film and the title character became a pop culture icon. Despite its R-rating and being quite graphic the original RoboCop was marketed at kids and I remember as a child having a RoboCop action figure. It was a different era and an odd era. There was no public outcry over an R-rated film being aimed at kids, but yet films such as Maniac (1980) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) sparked not just outrage, but protests and due to the backlash Silent Night, Deadly Night was pulled from cinemas after just two weeks and would later find its audience on home video and than of course there were the video nasties in the UK. But yet a violent action film that has various merchandise marketed towards kids and nobody bats an eye. Of course though while some films may not be suitable for children they aren’t to blame for real life violence, but that’s getting a bit off topic. I suppose since the series while violent R-rated films brought in a young audience why not lower the rating and reach an even wider audience? RoboCop 3, which was filmed in 1991, but wasn’t released until 1993 due to financial issues with Orion took the series in a new direction; the tone of the film was a lot lighter, the cynical comedy and satirical nature of the past films were gone and the violence was also toned down since part of the new direction was going for a PG-13 rating rather than an R. While no doubt the PG-13 rating doesn’t do the film any favors I think the film has more issues than just that. A film doesn’t need graphic violence to be enjoyable and sure it can at least help a subpar film to some degree and I suppose it depends on the film genre. Certain films are simply better served with an R-rating, but depending on how you go about things PG-13 can be pulled off for just about any film. Had the first RoboCop been rated PG-13 none of this would be an issue, but the first two were graphic R-rated films and the sudden change very much had a negative impact on the film. Even if RoboCop 3 managed to be better than the original it would still have its detractors for the lowered rating. If RoboCop 3 followed the style of the first two in terms of violence it would have helped, but it wouldn’t have made it that much better since again the film had more issues than the rating and if anything while I would have preferred this to also be R-rated I really didn’t have a problem with the PG-13 rating actually, it was just the film as a whole that was lacking and as stated sure making it graphic like the past two would have helped, but it would still be heavily flawed and the weakest of the trilogy. And if all of this wasn’t enough Peter Weller doesn’t return in the title role and is instead replaced by Robert Burke and really the odds were stacked against RoboCop 3 before it was even released.

Upon its release RoboCop 3 got terrible reviews and fans of the series cite this part as the worst and it carries only a 3.8 rating on the IMDb. As for the trilogy goes there’s no doubt RoboCop 3 is the worst one and while I can’t defend the film from its quite poor reputation and sure it’s a bad film, but with that said its also at least for me, fairly enjoyable in how absurd the film is. To some degree even the original is quite absurd and that isn’t meant as an insult at all, but everything in the film works and the same can be said about part 2, whereas RoboCop 3 is absurd in a silly way. To some degree RoboCop 3 is one of those so bad it’s good films, but its more than understandable on why so many see it as simply a bad film, but if you can just ignore the first two and just take the film for what it was you might get some enjoyment, but RoboCop 3 will never make a best of list.

When OCP wants to turn crime ridden Detroit into Delta City they attempt to run the people out of town anyway possible, but when several residents form a resistance and fight back RoboCop (Burke) joins forces with them to take down OCP.

The screenplay was written by Frank Miller & Fred Dekker and Miller had a writing credit on the 2nd film and apparently a large chunk of his script was rewritten and despite that he returned for the 3rd part, but not much would change as his script would again go through rewrites. Fred Dekker shares a writing credit with Frank Miller and Miller wasn’t very pleased with his time working on the RoboCop sequels and would later write a RoboCop comic series. Keeping the focus on the 3rd film I have no idea what Miller’s screenplay was like so I cannot comment how much better it was if it was even better. Writing for comics and film are two different mediums, but there had to be a reason Orion brought back Frank Miller. Miller & Dekker deliver an ok script with characters that very much lack depth with bland villains. The idea behind the film was quite strong, but everything here is kind of dumbed down. Even though the basic idea for the series is a bit out there, but yet it worked, but RoboCop 3 at times really is quite absurd and not in the fun way as the past two, which is saying something seeing as the trilogy isn’t exactly meant to be realistic. Fred Dekker has stated how much he liked the original, but I don’t think he was the right guy to co-write or direct as he sort of misses the point of the films, but he was just making the film the studio wanted and has admitted he made some mistakes with this. Despite the issues the screenplay suffers from it does have some good ideas, but they just weren’t fully realized. The script in many ways doesn’t even feel like a RoboCop film since it very much moves in another direction.

Director Fred Dekker gets a lot of hate for how he went about making RoboCop 3, which is quite unfortunate since Dekker was an excellent filmmaker who just made one poor choice. In 1986 Dekker’s debut film Night of the Creeps was released and the following year the Monster Squad would be released and these are two great films with Night of the Creeps being one of my all time favorites films. However Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad didn’t fair very well in the box office and based on the first two RoboCop films this seemed like a sure fire hit, but like his first two films RoboCop 3 was also a dud. On a roughly 22-million dollar budget RoboCop 3 only pulled in 10-million whereas the first two films had a 13-million dollar budget with the original pulling in 53-million and the 2nd 45-million. That’s quite a large drop and I guess the 3 strikes your out rule apply and when you direct a film that’s part of a highly successful franchise and fail I think that really hurts you career and it seems like RoboCop 3 ended Dekker’s career. As stated I get the dislike of the film, but with his first two films, Fred Dekker was 2-2 and despite the failures from a financial side both Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad have become huge cult favorites. The studio wanted to take the series in a new direction and Fred Dekker was willing. Dekker wanted to make a film more in the style of a Hong Kong action film, but was unable due to budget restraints. The film as noted is quite silly in spots and the overall tone of the film sort of feels like the Joel Schumacher Batman films at least to me. The pace of the film starts of well enough, but at 104-minutes it does feel overly long (more like 96-minutes taking out closing credits). Dekker has some interesting ideas, but quite honestly none of them work very well and they just come out as silly. With that said unlike most I really don’t hate the film and to some degree even find it a bit fun and while RoboCop 3 is nowhere near the level of Night of the Creeps or Monster Squad it is however a fairly fun film. Like I said RoboCop 3 doesn’t feature the cynical comedy or satire of the first two and it doesn’t have the graphic violence and I’m not sure why Dekker thought this would be a good idea and while his film isn’t as good as the first two I will stand up and admit I enjoy the film even if its hands down the weakest of the trilogy.

Robert Burke makes for a fairly good RoboCop and sure he isn’t Peter Weller, but Burke does well with the material given and its only natural to prefer the originator of the role, but Peter Weller, regardless was the better of the two, but I have no issues with Robert Burke and all things considered he handles the role well.

Overall from a business side of things it wasn’t a bad idea on the part of Orion to take the series in a new direction even if I and other fans weren’t exactly happy I think its easy to see why Orion thought it was the right move. RoboCop 3 is pretty much panned by everyone as it seems like based on reviews nobody likes the film. But as I’ve stated already I enjoy the film and once again its nowhere nearly as good as the first two films as it lacks everything that made those films what they were, but while I can’t defend RoboCop 3 as its deserving of its poor reputation, but I really don’t think it’s among the worst films made. There isn’t anything we can do to change the film so just accept it for what it is and maybe you can get a little something out of it.

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Robocop 2 (1990) Review

Posted in RoboCop 2 with tags , , on August 18, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ROBOCOP 2

**** Out of 5

Release Date- June 22nd, 1990

Tagline- He’s Back to Protect the Innocents.

Running Time- 117-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Frank Miller & Walon Green

Director- Irvin Kershner

Starring- Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan, Felton Perry, Robert Do’Qui and Dan O’Herlihy

In most cases people see sequels as not being as good as the original with a few exceptions of course and while RoboCop 2, which was released in 1990 may not really change that notion, but for the good part of its running time its in my opinion just as fun and entertaining and I’d rate the films about even, but towards the final act RoboCop 2 does in my opinion begin to run out of steam and even if in the end the original is the better of the two I don’t think RoboCop 2 is that much below the first film and its one of the better sequels even if when all is said and done this film exists simply because of the success of the original as it really doesn’t offer anything different. When the original was released I wonder what expectations were, but regardless the first RoboCop became a blockbuster hit so it isn’t a surprise there was a sequel. While the reviews for RoboCop 2 are generally strong I actually think the film is a little underrated. I understand why some would have high expectations as the original is one of the best sci-fi films of the 80s, but when breaking down the sequel I think its just as good and as stated its just towards the final act when it runs out of steam and outside of that I personally find RoboCop 2 to be a terrific film.

RoboCop (Weller) searches for a gang dealing a deadly drug called Nuke all the while OCP is developing a new cyborg, which is dubbed RoboCop 2.

The screenplay was written by Frank Miller & Walon Green and apparently a lot of what Miller wrote was largely rewritten as was the case with RoboCop 3. Seeing as I’ve never read Miller’s final draft I really can’t comment on it. In some cases it’s quite obvious when a script is rewritten, but in the case of RoboCop 2 it generally flows well, but there are some nice ideas that don’t really go anywhere and I don’t know if that’s due to rewrites or just the way the script was written. There’s a scene of Murphy/RoboCop parking right near where his wife lives and he watches her for a moment, which was a nice idea, but its all wrapped up rather quickly sort of rendering it pointless. The characters aren’t very well developed for the most part, but with that said they are entertaining and really in the end that’s all that matters. There’s also some really funny moments such as RoboCop being re-programmed and these scenes are light and fun and highly amusing. The script doesn’t exactly rehash the original, but it also doesn’t really do anything different with the concept either, but with that said the script works well and for the most part doesn’t really suffer like a good portion of sequels.

RoboCop 2 was directed by Irvin Kershner who also directed Eyes of Laura Mars, which was written by John Carpenter who was very early into his career and the film was released a couple of months before Carpenter would become one of the hottest young filmmakers with Halloween. Kershner would also direct Star Wars: Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back and the Bond film Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery reprising his role as James Bond. RoboCop 2 would actually be Kershner’s final film as after this his only other directing credit would be for an episode of the TV series SeqQuest 2032. After that Kershner would retire from directing and he would pass away from lung cancer on November 27th, 2010 at the age of 87. The pace of the film throughout is often fun and exciting and like the original there’s plenty of cynical humor and social commentary. The action scenes are well staged and violent and its quite cartoonish (that isn’t meant as a knock by any means). Whenever a film is filled with graphic violence it’s often absurd (again not a knock). Unless its a dark and gritty film, films with the violence of RoboCop 2 is absurd, but yet works so well. Modern action films often have over the top action and they’re absurd as well, but not in a good way. Irvin Kershner balances the over the top action scenes well and he brings excitement to them. The overall tone of the film very much feels like a comic book and if I knew absolutely nothing about RoboCop 2 I would assume it was an adaption of one, which might have something to do with Frank Miller or perhaps not. Throughout the good portion of the film, Kershner delivers a well paced film with excitement and comedy, but once the main villain is turned into a cyborg, RoboCop 2 can drag in spots, but to his credit, Kershner still keeps the film fairly enjoyable, but the film would have benefited from a little editing. The final act though gets back on track and RoboCop 2 is once again a fun action packed film.

Overall RoboCop 2 is a terrific sequel that may not be as good as the original, but in my opinion its very much on par with it. It’s fun and entertaining with some really funny moments in particular the little league team and coach pulling off a robbery. While on the surface the concept for the first two films are a bit out there, but are smarter than some people might realize. The only thing for me that keeps it just a notch below the original is as stated just before the final act the pace can get a little sluggish, but outside of that RoboCop 2 very much lives up to the original.

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Marked for Death (1988) Review

Posted in Marked for Death with tags , , , on August 15, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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MARKED FOR DEATH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- They’ve Attacked His Family. They’ve Killed His Partner. They’ve Made the Wrong Guy Very, Very Angry.

Release Date- October 5th, 1990

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Michael Grais & Mark Victor

Director- Dwight H. Little

Starring- Steven Seagal, Keith David, Basil Wallace, Tom Wright

Released in 1990 Marked for Death was the 3rd film starring Steven Seagal who broke onto the scene in 1988 with Above the Law and followed that up with Hard to Kill, which like this film was also released in 1990. With Marked for Death, Seagal had another hit film and was one of the most bankable action stars. When it comes to Seagal I personally find him a bit underrated as an actor. While he isn’t an Oscar caliber actor he did play the no nonsense tough guy role very well and the most criticism he gets is that he more or less plays the same character each time out, which to some degree is true, but Clint Eastwood who is a great actor and one of my film idols made a whole career playing the tough guy role regardless of genre. Steven Seagal was paid to be the tough guy and he plays the role well. When it comes to Marked for Death I don’t remember when I first saw it, if not in cinemas than when it was first released on video and while the film is still enjoyable it isn’t quite as awesome as it was back in 1990.

After his partner is killed during an undercover mission John Hatcher (Seagal) who works for the DEA leaves and returns to his hometown only to find it overrun with a Jamaican posse dealing drugs. After crossing paths with them the posse attacks Hatcher’s family, which ends up being a big mistake.

The screenplay was written by Michael Grais & Mark Victor and the two also the Charles Bronson film Death Hunt as well as the first two Poltergeist films. The script is your standard action film of the time and is even a bit cliched. Films such as Death Wish 4 had a similar theme with the drugs aspect. The characters lack depth and the plot is a bit lacking, but in the action genre you can get away with that, which to some degree the film does. The final act gets a bit silly with the main villain and does add a bit of camp value even if that wasn’t the intention. Overall the script while not poor wasn’t all that strong either, but is fair enough for an action film.

Director Dwight H. Little got his big break directing Halloween 4 in 1988, which starred Danielle Harris who has a bit part here. By many Halloween 4 is seen as the best sequel of the series and while I disagree it was a fairly decent film. After that Little made such films as Rapid Fire and Murder at 1600, but since his film Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid hrs mainly been a TV director with such credits as 24, Bones and Prison Break. From a technical side, Dwight Little crafts a decently made film, but there are some pacing issues in spots and at times the film can be a little over dramatic. Action sequences are staged fairly well, but I’m not sure Dwight Little was the ideal choice for a film like this, but he would fair much better with Rapid Fire. Overall Dwight Little does deliver a fun film, but it just quite hasn’t held up over the years even if still enjoyable.

Marked for Death does make for an entertaining film even if not as awesome as it used to be. By many Marked for Death is seen as Seagal’s best film and at one point I would agree, but as mentioned it hasn’t held up as well for me and while I wouldn’t rate it as Seagal’s best it would be in my top 5.

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Punisher: War Zone (2008) Review

Posted in Punisher: War Zone with tags , , , on August 13, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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PUNISHER: WAR ZONE

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Vengeance Has a Name.

Release Date- December 5th, 2008

Running Time- 103-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Nick Santora, Art Marcum & Matt Holloway

Director- Lexi Alexander

Starring- Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon with Wayne Knight and Julie Benz

When it comes to modern films I have a dislike for action films as I find them too overly stylized in terms of shot selection and editing and for every action film I like I have 5 I dislike. It’s gotten to the point to where now I skip out on most and while I’m sure I missed out on some good ones I also know I missed out on some that’ll make me wanna rip my hair out. But every so often an action film comes along and gets it right and Punisher: War Zone is one of those films. Lets make no mistake about it, War Zone is far from a great film and when ranking my favorites of the genre this film wouldn’t be anywhere in sight, which isn’t a knock on this at all. I think the best way to describe this film is a modern day film that if made in the 80s would be something we’d see from the Cannon Group. Punisher: War Zone is a no holds barred balls to the wall action film, filled with insanely over the top graphic violence. War Zone is very much a comic book film and while it can be a little campy I wouldn’t label it camp. It’s just over the top in the style of again the Cannon Group like say Death Wish 3 or Death Wish 4.

The Punisher series for some reason just hasn’t been able to find success as the 1989 version had a couple of theatrical releases in certain countries, but went DTV in the States as well as other countries. The 2004 version did well enough for a sequel to get the green-light, but even that film was far below what other comic book films pulled in before and after. However with some production troubles from script re-writes and than Thomas Jane who played Frank Castle in the 04 version dropping out, it was than decided for another reboot of the series. I was a little disappointed in a reboot and more so by Tom Jane dropping out, but that disappointment was quickly put a side in the opening scene and even though I very much liked Tom Jane in the title role (Dolph Lundgren as well) Ray Stevenson was every bit as good and perhaps make for the best Frank Castle yet. But to be honest all 3 actors each have a quality that a case could be made for any. As I mentioned the 89 version failed to do much business though has become a cult favorite and while the 04 version was profitable enough for another version it wasn’t a massive hit. War Zone however was a complete bust in the box office and while I understand why certain franchises like Batman or Spider-Man make more money and all also they’re huge Hollywood films, but I don’t understand why the Punisher series weren’t more profitable.

After the murder of his family, Frank Castle (Stevenson) becomes a vigilante and begins killing off various mob families. But he accidentally kills an undercover agent and feeling remorse he considers stopping his vigilante ways. But when the ruthless mobster Jigsaw (West) targets the agents wife and daughter, Castle sets out to keep them safe.

The screenplay by Nick Santora, Art Marcum & Matt Holloway is a lot of fun and while it isn’t exactly the Dark Knight in terms of writing its simply a fun mindless action film. While characters might lack depth they are entertaining in particular Jigsaw who is very much written as a comic book villain. Like the 89 version we don’t get a lot of the origin on Frank, but the little we get works a bit better than the 89 version, but I would have liked a little more detail if only to fully grasp Frank’s pain, but seeing as his wife and children were murdered I suppose it plays out fine as it is. But I do feel a little more could have been done, but regardless of the fact the script is a fun action packed ride and it really isn’t meant to be anything more than that.

Director Lexi Alexander delivers a fun and well paced action packed film. Most of the big action sequences are in the opening and closing act, but there’s more than enough happening to keep the middle of the film going strong. As mentioned the action is insanely over the top in how graphic they were, but they’re quite effective only brought down by usage of CGI. The visual look was quite interesting and does feel like something out of a comic book. The thing about the Punisher series is you can make it a straight forward revenge/action film like the 89 version and any camp value I don’t think was intentional. The 04 version while played straight also had some campy moments that hurt the flow a little bit in an otherwise terrific film. With War Zone, Lexi Alexander does a very good at making War Zone a straight up action film mixed in with a little bit of camp and since the film never tries to be a serious thriller all of the aspects work well.

The cast for War Zone is excellent and Dominic West as Jigsaw and Doug Hutchison as his brother Looney Bin Jim are both a lot of fun to watch and it seems clear they were enjoying themselves in their roles. As mentioned Ray Stevenson is great as Frank Castle and while the Punisher series may not have as successful as other comic book films each one though hit a home run in the casting of Frank Castle.

Unfortunately Punisher: War Zone was a complete box office failure and like I said even though the 04 version was a success it didn’t make nearly as much as other comic book films. For some reason despite the popularity of the comics, the film series just can’t seem to find an audience. Punisher: War Zone isn’t an action classic in the likes of Die Hard, but its still an excellent violent action film that again feels like something the Cannon Group would have made.

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The Punisher (2004) Review

Posted in Punisher (2004) with tags , , , , on August 12, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE PUNISHER

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Punishment Has Begun

Release Date- April 16th, 2004

Running Time- 125-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France

Director- Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring- Tom Jane, John Travolta, Roy Scheider, Ben Foster, Laura Harring and Rebecca Romijn

Released in 2004 this wasn’t the first time an attempt was made at launching a series a series based on the Punisher. The first Punisher film came out in 1989 and starred Dolph Lundgren and while it did receive a theatrical release in certain countries, but went DTV in the States and while the film has a cult following it is semi forgotten. 15-years later another attempt was made and the 2004 version had better results in terms of quality and finances. The Punisher while a very good film is also one of the most frustrating films I’ve seen since there was potential for it to be great, but it’s sort of held back by a few flaws that keep the Punisher from reaching the next level though with that said it is an enjoyable film.

An undercover mission led by Frank Castle (Jane) leads to the death of the son of crime boss Howard Saint (Travolta). Howard puts a hit out on Frank, but his wife Livia (Harring) wants the entire family killed. During a family reunion, Saint’s men show up and murder Frank’s entire family including his parents and wife and son. Frank is severely wounded, but survives and than turns vigilante and seeks revenge on Howard Saint.

The screenplay was written by Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France and character wise, the Punisher was terrific as its filled with interesting characters with depth. The plotting is fairly strong and this version unlike the 89 & 2008 version gets deeper into the origins of Frank Castle and really Frank doesn’t become the Punisher until the very end. The script sets things up for a sequel, which never came to be as the next film was another reboot. While the origin of Frank Castle is changed a bit I think however it works well. The problems though with the script is Hensleigh & France wanna write a dark and gritty film, which they do, but there are also a number of scenes that are written for more camp value and this does hinder the film as it seems out of place. The script works best when it’s played off a straight up revenge/thriller, which is it for the most part, but the more campy aspects of the script do slightly hinder things.

As director Jonathan Hensleigh crafts a well made and fun film, but at 125-minutes the Punisher is a little overly long in spots. As I mentioned how the script tries to play it straight in spots and campy in others and the direction is very much the same. Certain scenes like with the Russian (Kevin Nash) while a lot of fun does in my opinion hinder the film as in my opinion the Punisher works best when played straight. For the most part Hensleigh does play the film in a more serious tone and the campier moments sort of break the flow of the film. The action scenes are played well and the film quite exciting, but my issues are again the pace can be a little sluggish in spots and the campy moments just don’t really fit.

The cast is quite strong with Tom Jane making an excellent Frank Castle. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews for this series is the casting of Frank has been great with each actor bringing something different to the role. John Travolta is a terrific actor who doesn’t always get his credit. Films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Blow Out and Pulp Fiction very much showcase his talents as an actor, but I don’t think he was the right choice for Howard Saint. While not a bad performance by any means he just doesn’t really fit the role.

Overall the Punisher is a solid film and had the potential to be great, but instead turns out to just be a good film. I like how the film handled Castle’s origin even if it slightly strays to some degree. I’d rate this film above the 89 version, but isn’t quite as enjoyable as War Zone. My only other complaint is the score, which doesn’t quite fit at times and more often than not has a campy feel even in the more serious scenes. The Punisher flaws and all is still a solid watch, but again could have been so much more.

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The Punisher (1989) Review

Posted in Punisher (1989) with tags , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE PUNISHER

*** Out of 5

Tagline- Judge. Jury. Executioner. All in a Day’s Work.

Release Date- October 5th, 1989

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Boaz Yakin

Director- Mark Goldblatt

Starring- Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori, Nancy Everhard

The Punisher was released theatrically in 1989 in certain countries, but didn’t get a US release until April 25th, 1991 where it went DTV, which was the same fate as the Captain America movie, which like the Punisher had a theatrical release outside the States, but when released in the US went DTV. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that comic themed productions have always been around. The 30s and 40s had Batman and Superman serials, the 60s had the Batman TV show the 70s had the Hulk and short lived Spider-Man. Most productions through the 80s and even the 90s were animated shows. Superman: The Movie, which was released in 1978 was a big success and became a film franchise, but yet film wise there wasn’t much there until Batman in 1989. Though even than it really wasn’t until the 2000s that films based on comic characters became a big time business. The Punisher however has never really been able to find success. This film didn’t do much and while the 2004 version did well it also wasn’t nearly as successful as other comic themed films, but did enough business for a sequel, which never happened and instead another reboot, which failed theatrically. When it comes to these style of films the big 3 characters are Spider-Man, Batman and Superman. However the Punisher comic is long running and that can only happen due to popularity, but yet none of the films made have been a big success and I just can’t see the Fantastic Four being that much more popular as box office wise it was a far bigger hit than any of the Punisher films. I was never an avid comic reader, but from time to time I will pick some up and I’ve always been intrigued by the Punisher also known as Frank Castle. He has no superpowers and is just a regular guy out on a crusade for justice and while most superhero films the characters are actually vigilante’s, the Punisher films are more what I look for in that style of film I guess the Death Wish style though not to compare the two since they are also quite different. But the Punisher films (at least this one) is closer to that style than say Batman.

After the death of his family former cop Frank Castle (Lundgren) also believed to have been killed becomes the Punisher a vigilante hellbent on taking down all crime syndicates.

The screenplay by Boaz Yakin is simply average at best and while there was potential its never fully realized. The plot is fair enough, but Yakin never really elevates it. While we do get into Frank Castle’s backstory in my opinion it does sort of lack the emotional impact needed. It was brief and showed in flashbacks as it was also in Punisher: War Zone and while the origin didn’t work great in that film it flowed a bit better. I don’t think Castle really needed an origin tale, but I just felt as if a little more could have been done. The rest of the characters while decent never really make a huge impact. The script wasn’t bad and had the right ideas, but something just wasn’t fully working.

Director Mark Goldblatt got his start as an editor on the Roger Corman production of Piranha and followed that up with such films as Humanoids from the Deep (also Corman) as well as Halloween II, Terminator, Enter the Ninja and Rambo: First Blood Part II. After the Punisher he would still continue to edit, again working with Cameron on such films as Terminator 2 and True Lies. Goldblatt made his directorial debut with the film Dead Heat in 1988 and the Punisher was his 2nd and last film. Goldblatt never really establishes much of a tone and the production values do look a bit cheap. The pace of the film can be a little sluggish in spots as the film does lack energy and excitement often found in action films also Goldblatt plays it straight with little to no camp value. However the action sequences are solid and fun and Goldblatt’s experience in the action genre does show. While the action scenes aren’t the best I’ve seen they’re effective, but it’s just everything else that sort of leaks. While not poorly made it just suffers from weak production values and when the film is focused more on the story, the Punisher lacks excitement.

Dolph Lundgren while had success in the 80s and early part of the 90s never made it as big as he should have. Films such as I Come in Peace and Showdown in Little Tokyo were terrific and Lundgren has such a great screen presence. With limited dialogue in Rocky IV he was quite imposing and that’s why he made such a great action star. In my opinion this version of the Punisher is the weakest, but Lundgren is terrific if only he had better material. Of all 3 actors to portray Frank Castle from simply an acting side of things I’d have to go with Tom Jane who was excellent, but Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson are more of the traditional action stars. I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite though if I had to pick I might slightly favor Ray Stevenson, but Lundgren, Jane and Stevenson are very evenly matched and each has their strong points and a case can be made for any of them. The rest of the cast with the exception of Louis Gossett Jr who like Lundgren is terrific, but the actors while not bad are a little on the boring side with their performances.

Overall the Punisher is an average film that suffers when there isn’t any action scenes as the writing and directing aren’t strong enough. When there is action it is quite exciting, which does salvage the film and Dolph Lundgren does almost all of his own stunts, which helps make the film more authentic. I did enjoy this film, but throughout I couldn’t help but think how much more this could have been. Lundgren’s great presence also helps the film and while its far from the worst comic adaption I’d place it more middle of the road.

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