Commando, first released 22 years ago, has the simplest of premises: Arnold Schwarzenegger kills bad guys in every way imaginable for about 90 minutes. That's it. There isn't a subplot about reforming veterans' benefits or an extensive introduction into Latin America's political climate. Commando is one of the best arguments available for the action movie as pure entertainment.
Schwarzenegger plays John Matrix, a retired Army special forces Colonel living in mountainous seclusion with his young daughter (Alyssa Milano), a life that is ruined when angry enemies from Matrix's past kidnap her. The conditions for her release: Kill the dictator of a Latin American country, allowing for the reinstatement of the exiled Arius (Dan Hedaya). Don't follow the rules, and she's dead. Matrix boards the plane for his assignment but escapes (in mid-air, of course), setting in motion a vengeful, race-against-the-clock search for his daughter.
Commando is meant to be watched with your disbelief suspended and your levels for deep, artistic satisfaction turned off. Essentially, you're watching a cartoon for carnage-minded grown-ups, and Lester and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard and The Running Man) execute the concept beautifully. The action scenes are outlandish yet oddly captivating. You chuckle and cheer. Matrix breaks one of his captive's necks in an airplane full of people then tells the stewardess not to disturb the deceased because he's "dead tired." The muscle-bound commando also kills one enemy with a pipe, pushes another into an upended chair leg, and uses a table saw blade as a lethal discuss. There's an inventiveness and cheekiness to the brutality that carries the movie, making it more than a collection of gunned-down extras and macho posing.
And who better to play the lead then Schwarzenegger, who became a superstar by being a physical presence without possessing a shred of charisma? The difference between The Terminator and Commando's Matrix is that the latter exhibits some human tendencies, like bleeding. Lester and de Souza let Schwarzenegger wreak havoc and spout some terrific one-liners, which are even funnier because the now-governor of California is such a stern and inflexible actor.
Despite the movie's humor and its ability to both hail and parody action hero conventions, Commando is not usually hailed as one of Schwarzenegger's best movies. However, it should be, especially now. When action movies aren't clunky dramas with muscles, their directors are covering the holes with CGI finery. Commando is a reminder of a simpler era of American movies, one that very skilled directors now have a hard time replicating.
Give him a drink from the water cooler, then torture him.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Friday 4th October 1985
Box Office Worldwide: $34.9M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: SLM Production Group, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Silver Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Mark L. Lester
Producer: Joel Silver
Screenwriter: Steven E. de Souza
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix, Rae Dawn Chong as Cindy, Dan Hedaya as Arius, Vernon Wells as Bennett, David Patrick Kelly as Sully, Bill Duke as Cooke, Alyssa Milano as Jenny Matrix, Ava Cadell as Girl in Bed at Motel, Drew Snyder as Lawson, Sharon Wyatt as Leslie, Michael Delano as Forrestal, Bob Minor as Jackson, Julie Hayek as Western Flight Attendant, Michael Adams as Harris, Gary Carlos Cervantes as Diaz, Walter Scott as Cates, Branscombe Richmond as Vega
Also starring: Joel Silver
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