Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COMMANDO (1985) - Arnold at his glorious best

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the top of his game. His accent was nearly undecipherable, he killed at least 50 guys per movie, had the best one liners, and he probably ate steroids with every meal. Commando is probably the best movie ever made about a retired soldier who destroys a small Latin American country and kills a gay Australian villain in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In fact, I'm amazed that Out of Africa won Best Picture in 1985, since there's no way that borefest could have ever legitimately beat Arnold's magnum opus. Even the movie poster was badass. Just Arnold giving you a stone cold death stare. And the title is just one word: Commando - it assures you that the body count will be ridiculous.

Arnold showing his daughter how to feed dynamite to a deer.
Retired Special Forces soldier John Matrix (Arnold, obviously) lives in the mountains, far away from civilization. His daily routine consists of a healthy breakfast, followed by a few hours of deforestation, carrying tree trunks and a chainsaw back home, and later eating delicious sandwiches made by his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). His idyllic life is interrupted when an Army helicopter carrying his former boss and two soldiers shows up. John is told that his old war buddies are being killed off, and no one knows who's doing it or why. The soldiers are stationed at the Matrix house to protect John and his girl, and the general flies off. In true guy movie fashion, there is no time wasted - as soon as the helicopter disappears over the hills, John smells the bad guys about to appear. They do, and they quickly shoot both soldiers dead and kidnap poor Jenny and make good their escape.

My daughter was kidnapped? BRB, shopping.
In one of the movie's most hilarious and over the top scenes, John pushes his sabotaged Chevy truck down mountain and chases after the villains, smashing through the forest with no brakes. Eventually, he crashes and is captured by the kidnappers, the leader of which is revealed to be a former protege of John's, a chain-mail vest wearing guy named Bennett (Vernon Wells). It turns out that Bennett and friends want John Matrix to overthrow some Latin American president in Val Verde (gotta love those fictional countries), and they make it abundantly clear he will never see his daughter again if he refuses. He'll have to escape from his captors and find a way to get her back before his time limit runs out.

Bennett wears a chain-mail vest. Hey, it's the 80s...
In the traditional sense, Commando is an average action movie. The dialogue is mostly stupid, the plot was thought up by 4th graders, and Arnold's acting is comparable to a tree rehearsing Hamlet. But it's so good as a celebration of the lost art of mindless action movies. The point of the movie is to see how much stuff Arnold can destroy and how many guys he can shoot in the film's 90 minute running time. I've compiled a short list of some of the crazy stuff Matrix does throughout the film:
  • jumps off an airliner in mid take off and falls hundreds of feet through the air into a pond... and walks away
  • throws a guy off a cliff
  • rips out a car seat with his bare hands
  • picks up a phone booth and throws it at some cops
  • impales a bad guy on a steam pipe, and suggests he "let off some steam."
  • throws saw blades at a dude's face
  • shoots about 200 bullets from a single rifle without reloading
Many manly tears of joy were shed during this scene.
The bad dialogue is hilarious, and there's a gold mine of quotable scenes. The score is typical 80s action music, but I swear, you hear the Commando theme once, and you'll recognize it years later. Most of the humor in the movie is very tongue in cheek and no one seems to be taking themselves too serious. It's mindless, it's crude, and it's great. I love this movie.

TL;DR - Arnold destroys a small country and fights a gay Australian to get his kidnapped daughter back - 9/10


    1. i loveee your blog,,visit mine..

    2. awesome review!
      reminds me a lot of the old Ruthless Reviews site. Ever visit that? Check out their take on Commando and other "80's Action" flicks:


    3. "remember when i said i was going to kill you last sulley..

      .. I lied.."

    4. @ Mranthrope: damn... I hope I can write reviews as awesome as that one! And I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice that Bennett was ultra gay.

      @ zon: LOL my favorite line in the whole movie. I miss the old Arnie ;_;

    5. This is a must-see movie for any Arnold fan.

    6. I agree, this is Arnold in his prime.

    7. Such a classic. I love the part where he covers behind the roses and for some reason the AK47 bullets don't make it through.

    8. I didn't go all the way back through the archives, have you seen The Expendables? Comes to DVD on Tuesday, I was underwhelmed by the critic's take, any opinion?