Movies are like alcohol. There are times to savor the sophistication of a fine wine, while other times, equal pleasure can be attained through the uncomplicated simplicity of a frosty, cold American beer. Commando is a goofy, action movie. Not the best or worst of its genre, but certainly a fun time, especially when sitting around a room with a bunch of friends drinking, although I can’t recommend the volume suggested by CommadoFans.com.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as retired Colonel John Matrix, who now spends his days, secluded in the mountains while looking after his young daughter Jenny, played by a pre-teen Alyssa Milano. Of course, like most movies of this genre, Matrix gets pulled back into service against his will. The man responsible is El Presidente Arius, the deposed dictator of Val Verde, a fictional country south of the border, who wants Matrix to assassinate the new president, which will allow Arius to return and take over the country. He has Jenny kidnapped to force Matrix to work for him.
To make sure he gets there, Matrix is escorted on his plane ride to Val Verde by a thug wearing a hat that surely made it difficult for the costume designer to find work again. Before taking off, Matrix breaks the man’s neck and covers him with a blanket and in that inimitable Schwarzenegger style tells the stewardess, “Don't disturb my friend. He's dead tired.” Matrix sneaks off the plane during takeoff, which means he has 11 hours until the plane lands and Arius finds out he’s not on it.
Before leaving the airport, Matrix enlists/shanghais Cindy, a stewardess with a car. Together, they work their way up, my euphemism for “kill,” the chain of bad guys to find where Jenny is being held, which leads to a guns-a-blazing shoot out before the final “mano a mano” fight. The best part of the movie is the “Garden Shack” sequence where Matrix uses all the tools at his disposal to fend off the Val Verde rebels/Caucasian extras who wear terrible-looking, fake black moustaches. The film’s body count is 81.
What’s interesting about Commando is the change in Schwarzenegger as an actor. Previously the Conan films and The Terminator didn’t require much from him other than being a bad ass. Here, he gets to stretch as a family man, and reveals his sense of humor, which became his trademark, a deadpan and monotone delivery of groan-inducing one-liners.
Still, it’s funny to hear Matrix remind Sully, played by David Patrick Kelly with his usual maniacal brashness, as he holds him over a cliff by a leg, “Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?” Sully affirms that point, only to have Matrix respond, “I lied,” and then we cut to a dummy falling down the mountain. The comedy doesn’t stop there. When Matrix returns to the car, Cindy asks, “What happened to Sully?” Matrix responds, “I let him go.”
Commando comes to DVD and presents the theatrical cut and a director’s cut, which adds a whopping 92 seconds, so I don’t see the need for both no matter how fanatical the fans are. Director Mark L. Lester provides a commentary track on the theatrical version. He is very enthusiastic and modestly claims Commando is the “Grand Daddy” of all action films and the favorite of all of the films he has made. While I disagree with his first point, it’s hard to argue the second when you review his resume.
The screenplay was co-written by Jeph Loeb, who went onto to become a star comic book writer for DC Comics as well as a producer/writer for hit shows such as Smallville, Lost and currently Heroes. I would love to know who wrote the following exchange:
Arius: Your father appears to be cooperating. You will be back with him soon. Won't that be nice?
Jenny: Not as nearly as nice as watching him smash your face in.
I am guessing Arnold was responsible for his line from The Terminator, “I'll be back.”
The special features are at a minimum but do provide some fun. There are two featurettes with the cast and crew. Schwarzenegger is also included via interviews on location while the movie was being made. There are three deleted scenes, two of which are just alternate versions of scenes in the movie. For super fans, you can sit through a stills gallery.
Commando rises above your typical ‘80s action film. It’s certainly worth watching, and if you can find a good price, worth owning as well.