Thursday, June 7, 2007

Review of "Commando (1985)"

Commando (1985)

Commando. Kirby. Code Red. Coordinates. Got it.

I used to have a VHS copy of this movie that I watched so much, that I wore out the tracking. This is only the second movie (the first being the Terminator), I had ever seen, in which the Austrian sensation did not yield a sword, wear a furry loin cloth or ride a horse. This has the quintessential formula for a Schwarzenegger action movie. Key elements of this formula would include non-stop action, gun play, one-liners delivered with accented stoicism, the muscles and a body count numbering in the hundreds.

In Last Action Hero (an often misunderstood and underrated Schwarzenegger parody action movie with comic elements), Jack Slater (Arnold) and Danny (his pint-size partner from the real world) are in a video store. We are shown an alternate universe where Sylvester Stallone is the star of Terminator 2 : Judgment Day. In that same universe, this movie could well be looked upon as Schwarzenegger interpreting John Rambo.

John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) is a single dad and retired ultra-elite commando living incognito with his daughter, Alyssa Milano. A prepubescent Alyssa Milano, on top of that. I can't make this stuff up. Other members of his elite unit are being systematically eliminated in a convoluted ploy to reveal Matrix's location and kidnap his daughter. Her kidnapping would be used as leverage to force Matrix to perform a presidential assassination. Instead, Matrix uses his commando skills in detecting her location and executing a rescue. His skill set would include : commando driving, commando killing, commando shooting, commando hand-to-hand combat, commando jumping, commando sneaking, commando super senses, commando acting and commando shopping.

The plot isn't very convoluted and reveals itself to be quite straightforward. The non-stop, over-the-top action, sheer personality and pronunciation of Schwarzenegger is what keeps this movie entertaining. That and the sheer body count. I counted 89, but that is a conservative estimate. 85 of those occurred in the last 20 minutes of the movie. The supporting cast is atrociously bad and does nothing to help him. This is a one-man-show. Dam Hedaya's presidentially Latin accented English, Alyssa Milano's best Tammy Faye Baker impersonation and the pathetically whinny (and psychotic) nemesis of Bennett (Vernon Wells) do little except show off the smoked Gouda inherent in the movie. Wells is much better as the crazy, silent type (see the Road Warrior and Innerspace) than the talkative psychotic. Even pre-Boca Rae Dawn Chong barely manages to steal any of the spotlight from the Governator.

I have enjoyed this movie from my youth and it has not lost any of its 80's charm (steel drum soundtrack included). It is impossible to take this movie seriously, so don't. In the real world, the movie would have ended when Matrix jumped out of a jet airline into a 3 foot deep marsh or during the Mall mêlée or while single handedly taking out a small and well armed militia (and dishing the catchy one-liners). So kick back, have a drink (or several) and let off some steam. This is one is sure to not let go.

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