Monday 30 May 2016

Movie Review: Commando (1985)

An action film with no pretensions and some wit, Commando is exactly what is says on the can: Arnold Schwarzenegger killing a lot of bad guys as only he can.

Colonel John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) used to lead an elite army commando unit. Now retired, he is trying to forge a quiet life for himself with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). But the peace is disrupted when assailants first kill former members of Matrix's unit and then storm his mountaintop house and abduct Jenny. The attackers are working for Arius (Dan Hedaya), the former brutal dictator of the fictitious South American country Val Verde. Arius' main henchman is Bennett (Vernon Wells) a former commando in Matrix' team.

Arius holds Jenny as leverage and demands that Matrix travel to Val Verde and assassinate the current President, opening the door for Arius to return to power. Matrix pretends to play along and boards the plane for the eleven hour flight, but he reverses course and tangles with Henrique, Sully and Cook, the goons tasked with keeping him under control. Matrix then sets out to uncover Arius' hideout on a small island off the California coast and storms the compound to rescue his daughter. He will get help along the way from feisty flight attendant Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong).

Matrix. Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
Sully: That's right Matrix, you did!
Matrix: I lied.

Directed by Mark L. Lester, Commando is noisy and lethal action at its most basic. And what it does, it does really well. The film goes about the business of creating a straightforward revenge and rescue plot, and releases Schwarzenegger in to clean up the bad guys with the biggest weapons one very strong man can conceivably carry.

Cindy: What did you do with Sully?
Matrix: I let him go...

The film never pauses to ponder its own ludicrous elements, and hurtles full speed ahead from one well-executed set piece to another. It all ends with the final 30 minute sequence, one man assaulting an entire army in what proves to be a military mismatch of epic proportions: no army stands a chance against one angry Arnold wielding weapons liberated from a military surplus superstore. Only in America.

Cook: Scared, motherfucker? Well you should be, 'cos this Green Beret's going to kick your big ass!
Matrix: I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now I am very hungry!
Cindy: I can't believe this macho bullshit!

To its credit the film does not take itself seriously, and despite the high body count and hissing villains plotting nefarious bad deeds, a stream of humour runs close to the surface. Many of the best laughs come to life in the exchanges between Matrix and Cindy, Rae Dawn Chong's flight attendant and wannabe pilot proving more than handy weather flying a plane or firing a rocket launcher.

Matrix: Excuse me, how long is the flight?
Stewardess: We land in Val Verde in exactly eleven hours.
Matrix: Thanks. And please do me a favor: don't disturb my friend, he is dead tired.

The supporting cast is not bad for this type of action film, and in addition to Hedaya, Wells and Milano also includes James Olson in the Richard Crenna role as Matrix' former superior, David Patrick Kelly as the slimy Sully, Bill Duke, and a small role for Bill Paxton.

But this is a film all about Arnold Schwarzenegger, an oversized star in the making. Commando celebrates all of its hero's attribute, the script conspiring to strip Schwarzenegger down to his swimming trunks to display his fearsome physique. John Matrix may be retired, but he clearly has not lost the motivation to work out, nor the desire to kill first and not bother with asking any questions.

Diaz (one of the men who abducted Jenny), trying to reason with Matrix: Mellow out man. We can't talk business with you waving guns in people's faces... Your daughter is safe, Colonel. Now whether she stays that way is up to you. My people got some business with you. And if you want your kid back, then you gotta co-operate, right?
Matrix: WRONG! [shoots him between the eyes].

All Ace Black Movie Reviews are here.

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