Movies We Like
First off, it is important to note that even horrible films can be hugely entertaining and Commando may be the most defining example of this. Structurally the film has no arc whatsoever. It is simply a few minutes of set up and then the rest is simply conclusion. But what a wonderfully cheesy journey it is as Arnold mows down hundreds of hired thugs single-handedly and seeks justice against the men who dare take his daughter.
Although Schwarzenegger hit his peak as an action star later in James Cameron’s True Lies, this and Predator are the most fun of his eighties films, following the huge success of The Terminator. As “John Matrix” (how’s that for a name?), Arnold is one beefy, mean fighting machine. Introduced to us in typical montage, we know him to be a hard worker (as he carries a log bigger than a man) and that he is a great dad (feeding fawns in the forest with his daughter). After that, through the blatant exposition by the cardboard “General Franklin Kirby,” we learn that he is no mere man. Matrix is as bad as they’ve ever had to come out of Special Forces.
Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior) provides the film with one of the worst styled and ridiculous of all action movie villains as “Bennett.” He looks like a beer-bellied version of Freddy Mercury from Queen, donned in chain mail and leather pants far too tight. As he conspires to destroy his former officer, you’re not quite sure if he hates Matrix or is deeply in love with him. As we wait to see them face off with knives in the finale, all Bennett can talk about is how an incredible the man he loathes is.
Daughter of world-famous stoner Tommy Chong, Rae Dawn Chong (The Color Purple) plays the “love interest” to Schwarzenegger’s silent killing machine. Her character’s motivations throughout the movie don’t really make any sense. But in 80’s action movies, you always need the woman the hero ends up walking away with after blowing everything up.
Dan Hedaya (Mulholland Dr.) plays “Arius,” a militaristic drug lord of some sort. The actor seemed to enjoy hamming it up with character of only one dimension.
While already a young star from her work on Who’s the Boss?, Alyssa Milano plays Matrix’s kidnapped child, “Jenny.”
Whether or not director Mark L. Lester (Firestarter) realized he was making a hilarious comedy dressed as an action flick, he did it wonderfully. The delivery on almost every line is unnatural from completely superficial dialogue. The action has absolutely no realism to it, but is a blast to watch.
It may seem this is a negative review, but Commando is a film that comes full circle—so bad that it is brilliantly good. It’s a good laugh every time you re-watch it.