Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

COMMANDO is a rare commodity – a Schwarzenegger picture on a low enough budget to feel like the early Seagal and Van Damme pictures. The good ones, though. Schwarzenegger plays John Matrix, the perfect name for an ex-special forces muscleman who lives in a cabin out in the woods with his daughter Alyssa Milano. (Who is the boss, anyway? I never did figure that out.) She doesn’t want him going on dangerous missions anymore so he stays home and spends his days chopping wood and feeding deer with her. Luckily, before he gets too bored with this Snow White lifestyle some other soldiers he used to be knee dip in the shit with kidnap his daughter as a way to force him to assassinate some South American leader or other. So he gets to go to war. And to be honest he looks more comfortable running around with camoflauge paint on then he does feeding a deer. We all have our little things we’re good at, you know.

If the deer feeding scene or Joel Silver’s name on the credits didn’t tip you off that this is gonna be a good one then the plane scene will. Matrix and one of the bad guys get on a commercial flight headed for the assassination. John Matrix – pretending to be way more high-maintenance than you would expect from a guy named John Matrix – asks a flight attendant for a pillow and blanket (no sleep mask though) and inquires how long the flight will be (about 11 hours). When no one is looking he snaps his captor’s neck, poses him with the pillow and blanket like he’s asleep, sneaks into the cargo hold and climbs out onto the landing gear just as the jet is taking flight. He jumps off as soon as he’s over swampland, lands safely and sets the timer on his watch for 11 hours. Ladies and gentlemen, COMMANDO.

CommandoSo of course Matrix has to kill a bunch of guys to get to his daughter – the sweet simplicity of classical action movie structure. Nobody ever mentions Matrix’s giant muscles, which as usual he must’ve been born with since we never see him pumping iron. But because of his He-Man build he does alot of things a normal sized commando couldn’t do believably such as tear a seat out of a car, carry a huge log on his shoulder supported by one hand, carry a guy around by his ankle, pick up a phone booth with a guy in it and throw it, and push over a car that’s on its side. (Well, I guess that last one anybody could do, but they would be scared to do it.) Also he swings on some kind of streamer and jumps on top of an elevator. And later when he gets arrested Rae Dawn Chong rescues him by firing a rocket at the truck he’s in, so it blows up and he doesn’t. Because he’s John Matrix.

There are several notable bad guys here. There’s Dan Hedaya with a bad South American accent. There’s Bill Duke, always menacing even when he’s a good guy. Here he’s trying to kill Matrix (later they’ll be teammates in PREDATOR). But the main guy is Vernon Wells, best known as Wez from ROAD WARRIOR/MAD MAX 2. He’s kind of a mid-level villain, but he does wear a chain mail vest, which you don’t see every day. And he has the line, “John, I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes. I’m going to shoot you between the balls.”

The fights are real good super powered type fights where they punch each other through the air and throw each other through walls. There is one of those traditional smash-through-hotel-wall-and-scare-people-having-sex type fights. At the end Matrix impales Vernon Wells with a big pipe and somehow steam comes out of the pipe so he says (SPOILER) “Let off some steam.” The very next shot is little Alyssa Milano smiling as if she enjoyed it. At first I thought this was just bad editing, but then I remembered that despite her not wanting her dad to go on missions she did tell a bad guy that being returned to her father would be “not as nice as watching him smash your face in.” So she is kind of a messed up little girl – she’s worried about her dad being put in danger but she loves to watch him horribly mutilate people, it is one of her primary interests along with deer-feeding.

I don’t remember if I saw this one in the ’80s or not, but now I understand why it’s one of the more famous Schwarzenegger pictures. The director is just some dude who did CLASS OF 1984 and FIRESTARTER, so it’s no great directorial work like PREDATOR or something. But it doesn’t fuck around. The kidnapping happens early on, then he immediately pulls that great plane escape and there is never too long in between those types of crazy action sequences. There’s also alot of funny dialogue both of the clever and the corny varieties. I’m gonna have to give some credit to screenwriter Steven De Souza and producer Joel Silver, since they also did DIE HARD. Back then those guys knew how to make an entertaining action picture.

By the way, my friend Mr. Armageddon (the guy mentioned in the TRANSFORMERS review) tells me that the fictional South American country Val Verde is also where the dictator is from in DIE HARD 2. IMDb trivia says it’s also mentioned in PREDATOR. And that John Matrix kills 81 people in the movie. Jeez, I must’ve missed some of those, I better watch this again.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2007 at 8:52 pm and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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Jibber-jabber (47 Responses)

  1. this movie rocks, I am a proud owner of the blu ray

  2. How about that news of David Ayer remaking COMMANDO?

  3. That’s pretty funny that they’re trying to make it more realistic. Who is the dumb motherfucker watching COMMANDO and thinking “If only this was more realistic, it would be so much better”? Hopefully “more realistic” means he’ll have to use both arms to carry the log, and it will take longer for the deer to eat out of his hand. And whoever plays John Matrix will have a more naturalistic reading of “Let off some steam, Bennett.”

    It’s just stupid because if there was a new movie coming out where a special ops guy’s daughter gets kidnapped and he uses his skills to rescue her I would think “Awesome! Like COMMANDO!” and want to see it. Do the same thing and steal the title COMMANDO, I’ll think “What!? This isn’t COMMANDO!”

  4. Vern, you’re forgetting the most important question of all: how will they make the girl holding the rocket launcher backwards plausible and believable? Not so long ago, if you happened to want to blow open the back doors of a police van (as opposed to, say, blowing up the van and everyone in it, along with yourself and half the neighbourhood, which as far as I can tell the girl had no reason to think wouldn’t happen, unless she had specialised ordinance training, in which case she probably should’ve helped out a little more than she did… but let’s not split hairs here.) And if you happened to have a rocket launcher, holding it the wrong way around would be an easy mistake to make back in the eighties. But nowadays, thanks to Hollywood, everybody already knows the correct way to assemble and operate a standard rocket launcher – hell, I saw a three-year-old doing that very thing just yesterday!

    Plus, what do you replace the phone box that got blown up with? Nowadays 1) the phone box used in the original is probably dead, given that it was blown up and all, and 2) even if you could get a duplicate stand-in phone box (which would be bound to be an inferior good-looking but plastic clone that nobody cares about anyway because it’s so damn annoying and has none of the character of the original phone box) well then nobody uses them anyway nowadays, they all have mobile phones. Do you have an asshole screaming “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!!!” into his handset until a rocket comes out of nowhere, hits him in the stomach (T2 style) and obliterates him? Because that would be satisfying on SO many levels.


    Commando:The Musical

    This is very well done so I put it here for others to enjoy/get a laugh out of.

  6. Sleep masks can also help you LET OFF SOME STEAM

  7. They also help you sleep when you are dead tired.

  8. Sleep masks also help you lie about killing somebody last.

  9. “They also help you sleep when you are dead tired.”

    fucking lol

  10. those people in the motel room that wells and arnold burst into aren’t just having sex vern. there’s a video camera on a tripod in there with them, which means they’re making a porno. i don’t have a great feel for that particular genre, but i think if you made a real porno where 5 minutes in a couple of big dudes break through a wall mid scene beating the shit out of each other until one is killed, and then the couple get back to doing each other for the rest of the film– that would probably sell about 70 billion copies, give or take.

  11. Boy am I glad that whole Sam Worthington Commando remake seems to have disappeared (and I actually like Worthington!) A “more realistic” version would probably just be more like the first half of this movie (before he gets to the island), and even though it’s not bad or anything, who the hell would want to see that movie?

    Plus it’d most likely be PG-13, General Kirby would be behind it all as a way to get Matrix back into action, and Rae Dawn Chong’s character would have to kick ass at the end. Speaking of which, Chong is actually a pretty amazing character for an action movie when you think about it – a) she’s beautiful but not the love interest, b) she’s scared shitless and vulnerable but never a damsel in distress, and c) helps Matrix but doesn’t get involved in the finale at all. A character like that would never happen today.

    Oh and one thing I noticed when watching it for the 100th time yesterday- I always thought it was weird that Bennett gets punched into the electric thing and appears to be electrocuted but then acts like nothing happens two seconds later. Is it possible the oft-maligned chainmail vest was the thing that kept him alive? (even though it seems like it could also have made the electrocution worse) I may have to submit a question to Mythbusters to have them check it out.

  12. Did a bit of shopping today, and I noticed that Alyssa Milano is on the cover of the current Maxim magazine.

    Sure, this anecdote ain’t original, but I’ll type it anyway: I’ve had a crush on Alyssa since COMMANDO & Who’s the Boss (I’m significantly younger than her (or so the calendar deceptively tells us — her perky perfection suggests otherwise.), so it’s not weird.), and I think it’s worth noting the longevity of her beauty while recalling her marvelous contribution to BADASS CINEMA.

    She stays on the brain. When I do an extra set of weighted sit-ups, when I tilt up my face toward the sun during the cool-down period at the end of a long run in order to get some nice tanning going on, when I clean the skuff marks from the edges of my Cole Haans, it’s because, deep down, I’m trying to impress Alyssa. I’ve always tried to impress Alyssa.

    I haven’t progressed much from my 5-7 year old self watching her glow with affection & innocent hotness in the company of Ahnuld the pitchforking bullet-thrower in edited Sunday matinees and/or Tony Danza the housekeeper in syndication, and apparently she hasn’t progressed (or regressed) much in the physical hubbahubba department much the last couple decades either.

    I salute Alyssa. A worthy hostage to risk everything to rescue. A girl from my formative years who has held up & flourished as a woman in my (& her) post-formative decades.

  13. “Why don’t they just call him Girl George? It would cut down on the confusion.”

  14. Got my hands on the region 2 bluray Directors Cut of this awesome classic, and am happy to report that it restores all the glorious cartoonish violence that was trimmed over the years – mostly from the legendary Toolshed Massacre scene, where Arnie amputates, pitchforks, scalp/throat-chops with sawblades, and guns down Val Verdians slow-mo-Peckinpah style.

    Apart from that there’s only an extended scene, right after Matrix let’s Sully “go”, he tells Cindy how he was an absent father because he was always on assignment. Which actually takes away some of the creepiness of the earlier scenes of father and daughter living like husband and wife. I’m guessing it was left out because, well…who needs an explanation anyway? It’s a crazy movie.

    Pretty sure this was the first Arnold film where he started the self-referencing one-liners. This came out a year after THE TERMINATOR, and he uses two lines from that in COMMANDO – Fuck you asshole..and…I’ll be back. Plus plenty of new ones. The one that made me laugh, not groan, was when the flight attendant asks Matrix if he has any carry-on luggage and he retorts “Just him”, pointing to his scumbag escort.

  15. Poeface – “when the flight attendant asks Matrix if he has any carry-on luggage and he retorts “Just him”, pointing to his scumbag escort.”

    You have great taste. Everybody always quotes “don’t disturb my friend….” ad naseum but that bit you’re talking about is hands down my personal favorite quote from that scene.

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