Commando (1985)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 8, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
20th Century Fox (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English, English (FHI) subtitles. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mark L Lester
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Vernon Wells, Dan Hedaya, Bill Duke, Alyssa Milano, James Olson, David Patrick Kelly
Screenplay: Steven E de Souza
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Lately, I've been of an Arnie frame of mind. No, not in some kind of homo-erotic unrequited love kind of way, just in terms of how action films starring the Governator just aren't made this way any more, or not as well, anyway.

Colonel John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) is an ex-special ops soldier who has acquired a few enemies over the course of his career. One of them appears to have started off killing Matrix's men and seems quite determined to do the same to him. As the film pans out, that's a bit of a front, so Matrix can be used to supplant a democratically elected leader of a Central American country. So, the bad guys kidnap Matrix's daughter Jenny from their idyllic mountain retreat and he has just around eleven hours to get her back, or they'll start mailing her back to him piece-by-piece. Not somebody to sit around and let himself get bossed around, Matrix (where do they get his character's names?) takes matters into his own hands

So in the pre-credits sequence we get some lovely violence happening to Matrix's old crew; during the credits we get images of Matrix and his daughter in loving family mode; it's honestly enough to make you gag. If the cutesy silliness with the ice-cream wasn't bad enough, when they're feeding the deer?! Look out – here comes lunch again!

There's a very homo-erotic reading you could make of this film (and you'd be validated given its over-exaggerated masculinity – the film practically drips with testosterone; I'm aware of how distasteful that last comment was) almost from the get-go; when Matrix's old general makes an ill-advised impromptu house call, Matrix sneaks up on him from behind and disarms him. The general's comment: "Silent and smooth…just like always." Am I the only one who thinks that sounds a bit camp in that context?

So the henchmen of a deposed El Presidente turn up and rain on everyone's parade by kidnapping Jenny and press-ganging Matrix into killing the current leader of the fictitious Central American country who Matrix helped install, using Jenny as ransom. One of these evil bastards is Bennett, an ex-member of Matrix's unit with an axe to grind, and, I think, a bit of an unrequited homosexual crush on Matrix, not to mention a moustache you could lose a land-rover in and inexplicably enough, a chainmail vest. "John? I'll be ready, John." Are you free, Mr Humphreys?

Matrix forcibly gets off the plane he's been herded on to, and starts killing his way to the top to find out how to get to Jenny, aided and abetted by Cindy, an airline hostess he's accosted (Rae Dawn Chong), albeit somewhat unwillingly at first. This, of course, allows Arnie to flex, among other things, his muscular wit when killing people, a trademark of heroic murderers since Sean Connery's turn as James Bond. First up, annoying pip-squeak Sully, who the audience have been salivating to see die from his first appearance on-screen. Cue: mayhem in the mall! Or, if you prefer, Arnie versus a veritable army of security guards. Just one of the many superhuman feats Matrix accomplishes during the course of the film.

And so now we encounter Cook, the next salty pain in the arse Matrix has to endure in order to get his daughter back. Let's have some sample dialogue at this point, shall we?

Cook: "Scared motherfucker? You should be, 'cos this Green Beret's gonna kick your big ass."

Matrix: "I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I'm very hungry!"

Cindy: "I can't believe this macho bullshit!"

I think there's something in that for all of us.

We then get a tantalising glimpse into Matrix's idea of shopping (aka ram-raiding), and Cindy's equally unique method of helping Matrix evade the nefarious hands of the law. Watch out for an early appearance by Bill Paxton not long after this point, as an anxious radar operator.

This leads us to our climactic showdown, complete with extensive "tooling-up" scene (where would you be in an action film without one?). Watch the carnage as it unfolds. It is a thing of beauty. Which is more than I can say for the not-so-veiled homo-eroticism between Bennett and Matrix. I mean, you do start to wonder when these two fun-boys were going to wander off hand-in-hand towards the nearest warm soapy bath to play "find the submarine" together…

A great leave-your-brain-at-the-door flick? You bet. It's like a comic book came to life, only more fun. One of the best action films the 80s had to offer? Hell yeah! This is virtually a blueprint for all the Arnie action films to come – an unlikely-named hero is put into a situation he has to deal with using whatever skills he possesses, or the skills of those usually unlikely heroes he gets to trust his initially untrustworthy bad self, is only given a short time-frame in which to do so, performing outrageously over-the-top stunts, inflicting grievous bodily harm, usually with an ironic twist on how he's just gruesomely murdered someone, leading, crescendo-like, to a final showdown with the big bad guy, often with either poetic justice, or just flat out nastiness. Roll credits, and next time make the explosions bigger, the special effects flashier, the dialogue cheesier, the situation more improbable. You doubt me? Well just stroll on down to your local video store and rent Predator, Total Recall, Terminator 2, The Running Man, True Lies, Eraser, or End of Days, and tell me if I have or have not just summed up the plots for all these films of Arnie's, if not more of them. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing; do you hear me complaining? Watch Commando and watch your life improve.
It's totally fucking sweet dude, presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, this is how to watch Commando.
The 5.1 remix is action-cinema at its best and cheesiest; you'll thrill to the sounds of people dying in horrible ways for your pleasure. Gun-fire and explosions sounding very good indeed.
Extra Features
Jesus, where do I start? Audio commentary by director Mark L. Lester, deleted scenes, two featurettes, still galleries – this is definitely one for the fans; get on board kids!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A personal favourite, Commando is highly recommended top notch entertainment. Sure it's silly, and sure it isn't great art, but it's as engaging as all fuck and will give value to your otherwise shallow meaningless life, like it does mine. A great boozing movie, turn it on, turn the volume up and have a whale of a time.

The first Australian DVD release of Commando was heavily censored, however this "Definitive Edition" contains a newly restored "Director's Cut" of the film which features approximately one and a half minutes of previously unseen footage, inculding extra carnage during the garden shed sequence!

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