My favorite film of all time. Every single scene kicks ass. Every damn second is exciting! Schwarzenegger masterfully plays John Matrix, a guy you don’t wanna fuck with. He’s the ultimate action hero. He makes Rambo looks like a wimp! You don’t make them any tougher than Colonel John Matrix. Intelligent, cool under pressure, physically imposing, an expert in martial arts and the use of firearms and combat weaponry, Matrix’s a commando without peer.
He has huge tanned muscles and a sharp haircut. He also has a great, tough face. When Matrix stares at you, you’re scared! His voice is also real cool. I love his Austrian accent. He likes to joke when he kills people, and he doesn’t waste his time thinking: he just kills everyone! When some evil dudes kidnap his daughter, he goes after them, and nothing’s gonna stop him! It’s the ultimate American action film. I usually love all those macho action films from the eighties, and this one is the best. You’ve got all the clichés, but they’re executed with so much energy, humor and style that they look all new. Usually, the hero is a badass cop: it’s his job to kick some butts. What’s cool in “Commando” is that they achieved to take out the cop element. The hero doesn’t have a wife, a boss, a job; all he does in the film is beating up and killing people in order to save his girl. It’s the ultimate actionner, pure macho thrills but also impressive filmmaking.
NOTE : Don’t read the following if you haven’t seen Commando!
If you’re in that situation, leave everything right there and run to your favorite video store and rent or buy “Commando”. Then, go immediately back home, lock the door, close the lights, unplug your phone, put the tape in your vcr, pump up the volume, press play and prepare for the greatest experience of your whole life. Then, you can read this review. You’re lucky, you know. I’d give everything to watch “Commando” for the first time again. I’ve seen it over 20 times and it’s still a great pleasure.
The film opens with an establishing shot of a street in the suburbs. We hear birds singing. It’s the morning. Then we hear and see a garbage truck coming down the street. Some guy in bed with his wife wakes up and goes out with his trash. He tells the guys on the truck that he was afraid that they would miss him. We know something’s up because one of the garbage men, Cooke, is played by Bill Duke, a bald black stud (he also played with Schwarzenegger in “Predator”). The poor dude is shot dead by the guys. We then cut to another scene, set in a car store. The dealer is trying to sell a Cadillac to… You guessed it, Bill Duke! The dealer talks about the car’s advantages and the cons of leather. Then Bill Duke starts the car and drives it into the dealer, through the window and drives away. Next! A guy named Bennett is getting on his boat. He sails away as we see, who else, Bill Duke with a detonator. The boat blows up. This sequence is very cool. It’s only the first minutes and there’s already three dead guys!
The shot of the explosion then fades into a shot of gorgeous forest landscape as the first notes of the intense score are heard. The music pounds harder as we see Matrix’s feet walking in rhythm. The camera pans on a chainsaw. Extreme close-ups of one of Matrix’s brawny arms, a shot of his hard chest, the feet again, then Matrix’s other arm, muscular and sweaty. Finally, we see Matrix’s tough face, and we notice that he’s carrying a log. Wider shot of Matrix, walking with the log… But hey! He’s not carrying a regular log, it’s a fucking tree he has on his shoulder. Then there’s a scene in which Matrix is axing wood and here comes his daughter, Jenny, played by then 11 year old Alyssa Milano. The opening credits are hilarious: it’s a series of short scenes of relations father -daughter, as the hard-boiled score gets emotional. They eat ice cream, practice karate, feed a fawn, go fishing, take a swim… It’s really funny to see this big macho killing machine in such wimpy situations! Matrix and his daughter live alone in a cabin where John was hidden after he retired from army. He was the leader of a team assigned to Middle East, the Soviet Union, Central America — whatever hot spot was the hottest. Like any covert operations unit, Matrix’s had outlived their usefulness and were retired. Too many people knew their faces. Too many people wanted them dead. And Matrix was the number one target.
The film begins like a punch in the face: one second Matrix and his daughter are eating sandwiches and talking about Boy George (or is it Girl George?), rock’n’roll and Germany, and then, only a minute 8 seconds later, BANG! Matrix’s chewing his sandwich and suddenly, he stops and stares outside as he hears an army chopper. General Franklin Kirby’s on board. He’s here to warn Matrix that the other members of the special operations strike force he used to lead were killed, and that he might be next, so two Marines, Harris and Jackson, will stay with him and Jenny to protect them. Kirby and Matrix’s reunion is funny. Kirby walks toward the cabin, calling John, who happens to be behind him. John takes Kirby’s gun and points it at him.
“Silent and smooth, just like always” goes Kirby.
Kirby’s cool because in all of his few scenes, he talks about how good Matrix is. Anyway, as soon as the army leaves, the bad guys arrive. Matrix literally smells them before seeing them, so he ducks down with Jenny, but Harris gets killed and Jackson is hit. Matrix hides his daughter and runs to his secret firearms shack. Big mistake. While he’s gone, the bad guys kidnap poor little Jenny. They wanna make sure he’ll do what they want him to. Years ago, Matrix’s unit ousted the vicious dictator of the South American country of Val Verde and replaced him with a democratically elected president. Now the deposed dictator, General Arius has tracked down Matrix and kidnapped his daughter. To get her back, Matrix must return to Val Verde, where he is a hero of the revolution, for one last mission: kill President Velsaquez so that the way will be open for Arius to return to power. We understand that they killed Matrix’s former partners to force Kirby to contact him so they would know where he was hidden when he was erased. When John realizes his daughter’s gone, he doesn’t do what the bad guys tell him to. He ain’t a pussy. The dictator’s messenger, confident, tells Matrix:
“If you want your daughter back, you gotta cooperate. Right?”
“Wrong!” answers Matrix as he shoots the guy in the head!
Then, he jumps in his pick-up, only to find out that it has been sabotaged. Nevermind, John pushes it down a hill and jumps on board. That scene is real cool. The pick-up is avoiding trees, jumping over rocks… The scene is edited perfectly, it really feels like we’re in the daredevil vehicle. But luck ain’t on Matrix’s side, and the pick-up crashes down the slope and explodes. Matrix’s a little dizzy, so the bad guys knock him out, even though he beats the hell out of 5 of them. Bennett walks in. He’s not dead. In fact, Matrix’s former partner, is now working for the bad guys. The two of them always hated each other’s guts. Matrix fired Bennett from his team, and Bennett swore to take revenge. I love the hatred between those two. They’re really archenemies Both of them are really cool and kinda similar. They’re tough, arrogant and macho. But Matrix is a good guy, while Bennett’s a son of a bitch. Bennett would love more than anything else to beat the crap out of Matrix, to prove that he’s the best. Bennett has a great look. He’s like a buffed up Freddie Mercury. Short hair, big mustache, a chain vest and leather pants! I love that! Vernon Wells is awesome in the role, with his tough as nails attitude and his cool Australian accent.
So Bennett arrives in front of Matrix, beaten by the bunch of guerrillas, and he shoots him with tranquilizers. Matrix wakes up later in one of the gang’s hideouts, a big warehouse. Arius (Dan Hedaya) briefs him for his mission, then they send him to the airport with two guys: Sully’s gonna make sure that Matrix gets on the plane, and Henriques’s gonna stay in the plane with him during the 11 hour trip. Bennett and Cooke (Bill Duke) drive Matrix to the airport.
“I’ll be back, Bennett.”
“I’ll be ready, John.”
Matrix also threatens Sully:
“You’re a funny guy…. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.”
But is Matrix gonna do what they want? Noooo! He kills his flight companion, warns the stewardess:
“Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired.”
Then he jumps out of the departing plane, runs to the airport and finds Sully. Matrix has 11 hours left before the bad guys find out that he didn’t get on the plane. So, he follows Sully in the car of Cindy, a stewardess he just kidnapped. She’s played with humor by Rae Dawn Chong. She can’t believe how macho and hostile Matrix can be. Well, at first it was a kidnapping, but Cindy finally gets a kick out of helping Matrix to find his daughter. Anyway, they arrive at a shopping mall. Sully enters a restaurant where he buys fake ID from a suspicious fellow. Matrix tells Cindy to go flirt with Sully and to take him outside the restaurant, so he’s able to take care of him in private. But instead, Cindy alerts the cops, because at the moment, she’s still scared of good ole Matrix. Some black cop makes a funny description of Matrix to his partners:
“6’2″, brown hair… And he’s one gigantic motherfucker!”
The cops surround John. While he’s kicking their asses, the bad guy escapes. There’s a cool shot in which ten cops are on Matrix, and he knocks them all out at the same time. I also love when he sees Sully in a phone booth, about to call his boss. Matrix doesn’t pull him out: he lifts the booth over his head and smashes it open!
Later, Matrix runs after him with Cindy, in her car. He achieves to make his Sully’s Porshe crash after a riveting car chase. Then, he holds him over a cliff with one hand and asks him to blow some information. The guy tells him about a meeting the same night with one of his partners, but Matrix throws him over the cliff anyway, yet not before talking some sense into boy Sully:
“Remember when I promised to kill you last?”
“Yes, you promised!”
Close-up on Matrix, cold-blooded:
He then drops Sully to a certain death and goes back to Cindy. She asks him:
“What did you do with Sully?”
“I let him go.”
They then go to the meeting, in a motel room. Sully’s supposed to meet Cooke. Matrix gets into a very brutal and exciting fight with him. There’s a lot of macho dialogue.
COOKE – “You’re scared, motherfucker? Well you should be cause this Green Beret is gonna kick your big ass…”
MATRIX – “I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now, I’m very hungry.”
CINDY – “I can’t believe this macho bullshit!”
The room gets trashed real good. The two fighters even crash into the next room in which, of course, some dude is fucking a girl with big boobs (Ava Cadell). Cooke then gets hold of a gun:
“Fuck you, asshole!”
He pulls the trigger. Empty! Matrix retorts:
“Fuck YOU, asshole!”
Is it the film’s best fight? Almost. We’ll have to wait till the end to get the coolest one. Matrix finally achieves to kill Cooke by impaling him. Then, he searches the man’s car and finds out about a fuel depot that happens to be the place where he was sequestered previously. He goes there, breaks a chain with bare hands, get in and discovers documents about a secret island. I like the way they save us long, boring story development. Matrix enter a room, and on a table, he sees a plan with the directions to an island, a picture of a seaplane and its location. The big brains on Matrix guesses that his daughter must be held in that island, and figures out he could go there with the seaplane. But before going to his daughter’s rescue, Matrix robs Surplus City, a huge gun store. He runs through the window with an excavator, goes through the alleys with a shopping cart and fills it with guns, bullets, explosives and knives. Despite Matrix’s tactful approach, the cops catch him red-handed. While Matrix’s transported in a police truck, Cindy (when the cops arrived, she was putting the weapons in the car) frees him by shooting at the truck with a rocket launcher.
After this inconvenience, the duo flies to the island with the seaplane. Matrix tells the girl to stay in the plane and to contact Kirby, but only when the bad guys will have seen him.
“How will I know?” she asks.
“Because all fucking hell is gonna break loose.”
Then begins the coolest action sequence of all time. First, Matrix gets from the seaplane to the shore in a lifeboat. Schwarzenegger wears only a speedo and we can admire his impressive body. Then, in an extremely well directed, acted, edited and scored scene, Matrix packs himself up. It’s all in extreme close-ups. He puts on leather boots, a combat vest, he zips it up and adjust some snaps, attaches bullets and grenades on the vest, takes two handguns, put some make-up on his face and arms, loads a machine gun, pumps his shotgun and grabs the rocket launcher.
We then see the final product: Matrix with all his stuff, about to kick some serious butt. I saw this scene many, many times, but I still get a film buff hard-on every time I see it. This level of cinematographic perfection is almost orgasmic. Matrix then assails the island, where all hell fucking breaks loose indeed. First, Matrix visits the island. He kills the guards with knives and drops some explosives all over the place. Then, he makes everything blow up! Of course, the survivors now know someone’s here, and hundreds of soldiers go after Matrix. There’s a lot of people getting killed in many different ways.
In one especially fun scene, Matrix hides in a toolshed. The soldiers spread the shed with bullets, then one of them opens the door to see Matrix’s corpse. Surprise! Matrix falls from the ceiling and stabs the guy to death with a pitchfork. He then throws two circular saws and kills two guys, hits the next one in the crotch with an ax and cuts another one’s arm with a machete.
Then Matrix runs around the camp, shooting everyone and throwing grenades. I dig Matrix’s perseverance. At first he has a Valmet full-auto Battle riffle. He kills about 25 guys, then runs out of ammo. He takes his 12-gauge Remington H70 Laser shotgun, more killing, then empty again. He draws his Desert Eagle .357 Magnum and wastes the remaining men. Matrix also uses a selective-fire Uzi, two 60 lb, M-60 light machine-guns, a rocket launcher and a Colt M-16, among others.
Matrix finally gets into Arius’ mansion. Matrix takes a shotgun and shoots at him. Arius shoots back at John with a machine gun. Matrix easily wins the gunfight by shooting 4 times in a row with the shotgun. Hey! the guy’s dead! Everyone is… Except Matrix’s nemesis, Bennett, who was trying to escape with Jenny. Matrix confronts Bennett and challenges to fight like a man, without weapons.
MATRIX – “You don’t just want to pull the trigger. To put a knife in me, look me in the eye, see what’s going on in there when you turn it. That’s what you wanna do, right? (… ) Come on Bennett, let’s party.”
BENNETT – “I can beat you John! I don’t need no gun! I’M GONNA KILL YOU JOHN!”
You gotta watch Vernon Wells in this scene. His performance so deserved a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Just look at his face as Matrix is taunting him. You can see in his facial expressions that he knows how stupid it is to get rid of his gun and fight Matrix mano a mano, but he can’t help it. Bennett’s a true macho man, so he drops his gun in order to show Matrix who’s the man and who’s the bitch. At first, they use some big knives. Nothing’s cooler than some good old knifefight. This fight is the most exciting and intense showdown ever. It’s acted, directed, scored and edited masterfully. We feel the fight. Bennett and Matrix don’t want anything but to rip each other’s throat. Muscles, knives, blood and sweat fill the screen. The setting is also really cool. They fight in a heating room, and at one moment, they’re trying to put the other guy’s face into a coal fire. There’s also an hilarious twist : Bennett is electrocuted, but instead of dying, he becomes stronger! After more struggle, Matrix finally kills Bennett by throwing a steam pipe into his guts.
“Let off some steam, Bennett…”
Matrix then leaves with Jenny and Cindy. But before that, Kirby has a chat with him.
KIRBY – “Leave anything for us?”
MATRIX – “Just bodies.”
KIRBY – “We were thinking of bringing back your unit…”
MATRIX – “This was the last time.”
KIRBY – “Until next time?”
MATRIX – “No chance.”
Matrix and his girls get into the seaplane and fly away over the sunset. Closing credits, on a great pop tune from the 80s, the ridiculous We fight for love, from Power Station. Add a few scenes showing the bad guys talking bullshit (“Slitting a little girl’s throat is like cutting warm butter!”), and you’ve got a very good idea of what’s in “Commando”. It’s all the cool things I wrote about and much more. Now, can you show me one scene that ain’t great in all that? NO! That proves my point! This film is exciting from start to end. It’s pure entertainment. The film lasts 90 minutes, but you could spend 2 hours talking about it because there are hundreds of cool things in it.
The Steven E. De Souza script is perfect, Mark L. Lester’s direction is brilliant, the photography is beautiful, the acting is excellent and the James Horner score is one of the coolest I’ve ever heard. It gives even more power to Lester’s unique visual style. Schwarzenegger gives his best performance. He’s enormously likable and funny, and he’s also an awesome physical actor. He performed nearly all his own stunts (according to the press kit): jumping through windows, doing all his fight scenes and even hanging onto a plane’s landing gear as it traveled 65 miles an hour? The price? A dislocated shoulder and some stitches on his hand and elbow.
Don’t believe these so-called film connaisseurs who say that say that the best film ever is “Citizen Kane”, “2001” or whatnot. COMMANDO’s the film you MUST see!!!
WHY COMMANDO ?
More Thoughts on my Favorite Movie Ever (updated 28-08-99)
You’d think I’d have gone through everything I love about “Commando” in the previous 3373 word piece on this timeless action masterpiece. Yet on an end of summer night, the time of year when studios release almost only junk not good enough for the blockbuster season nor the Oscar-friendly fall, I decided what the heck, I’ll write about a 14 year old flick I’ve already reviewed! After all, the film hasn’t aged a bit. In fact, I find myself liking it more and more with each viewing. And since I wrote my feature on it, various things hit me and slightly affected my feelings towards it.
Unless you’ve spent 1999 hidden under a rock, you can’t have missed this phenomenal genre flick which instantly became a cult favorite for every young guy under the sun. It’s got it all: nifty SFX, a babe, Hong Kong-caliber fights and shoot-outs, wicked humor, visionary storyline… I myself loved the movie and went to see it three times in theaters (which I hadn’t done for any film since John Woo’s “Face/Off”). What does all that have to do with “Commando”? Well, watching it again lately, I was surprised not to see its action scenes pale in comparison. Au contraire, I realized that a lot of the cool shit in “The Matrix” is just a flashier take on stuff “Commando” was already onto in 85. I’m not saying the Wachowski brothers ripped it off; I’m just trying to prove that there’s nothing odd with me calling “Commando” the coolest flick ever. Tons of people are already saying that about The Matrix, a movie which rules for many of the same reasons my favorite does. Both follow the classic pattern of action movies. Start with a bang, introduce your hero, have him thrown into action against his will, go through various motions and finally get to the big ass, out of this world showdown with countless bad guys, before an intense one-on-one with his nemesis. And when you take a closer look, some of the action in “The Matrix” is almost identical to “Commando”. Heck, the hero of “Commando” is named John Matrix!
THE OMEGA MAN
I discovered this gem recently, and it affected me like few movies ever did. One of the things I love the most is how ambiguous the Charlton Heston character is. As the last man on earth alone against mutated weirdoes, he chooses to stay strong and kill them all one by one. That can be seen as heroism, but you can also start thinking that Heston’s Neville is actually a raging maniac who goes around shooting everything that moves. There’s some of that in “Commando” too. Matrix might be a brave Army veteran who just wants to get his daughter back, but you gotta admit his methods are excessive! He beats up cops, destroys private property, kills people gruesomely, breaks into a gun store to loot it… I love characters I’m not sure of, and Matrix is one of them. I like how tough he is, but I also enjoy his macho, brutal stupidity. I love how he barely takes time to think about an obstacle before just breaking the shit out of it!
I almost get sexual satisfaction from watching this movie! It grabs me with the initial shootings, then gives me a (figurative) hard-on with the hella cool introduction of Schwarzenegger, and then it just keeps getting more and more exciting until the clench-the-drapes climax! One of the reasons I pick “Commando” as my favorite movie is that it’s almost the only movie that has a physical effect on me. “Forrest Gump” makes me cry every time, “Austin Powers” makes me roll on the floor with laughter, “Say Anything” fills me with hope and love, “Taxi Driver” reaches my darkest feelings and thoughts… And then there’s “Commando”, which grabs me in a headlock and won’t let me go. You got to admire the storytelling/editing job they did. Movies don’t get more action packed than this! Whole complex plot lines are run through in seconds, character development is thrown out the window, and danger is in every other frame. And the attitude! “Commando” is a fine balance of comedy and action, so intricate that a lot of people -myself included- aren’t sure if the filmmakers intended the film to be so hilarious! And to go back to the editing, watch how action scenes are cut lightning fast, with jump cuts and all, but so smoothly you don’t even realize it. It just all adds up to get your adrenaline pumping and make you wonder what hit you!
Let’s get back to the issue of whether it was intended for “Commando” to be such a brilliant feature. Does director Mark L. Lester (a Canuck who made almost just B-movies and is now in the straight-to-video biz) realize what he created? I’m fascinated by practically every frame in his movie. The colors, the clothes, the sets, the lighting, the cinematography… There’s something to be loved every step of the way. We’re not talking Scorsese or Orson Welles, but some sequences are soooo awesome, and some shots just amaze me. Okay some of the plot doesn’t make much sense, there are some little goofs, the acting is sometimes off, there is barely any emotional core or depth of character. Who cares? It’s part of the pleasure of this particular movie experience that you laugh at the film as much as with it and that it’s all guts and no brains. And we have to give much of the credit for the exceptional fun of “Commando” to screenwriter Steven E. De Souza, who also wrote another wonderful testosterone extravaganza, John McTiernan’s “Die Hard”.
Of course there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. My admiration for the guy approaches gay love. He’s got such a powerful presence on screen, such charisma, he kicks so much ass that you forgive his uneven acting. And unlike some other action heroes, there’s also this wicked sense of humor about him, the always enjoyable way that, after he’s provoked, he smiles for a beat then smashes the guy’s face in! And the accent! Dude, is it cool or what? Even in his crappiest movies, Ah-nuld shines through. He’s that much of a bright star.
But “Commando” also has great supporting players. I’ve long claimed Australian thespian Vernon Welles should have got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn as the evil Bennett, if only for the jaw-dropping scene in which Matrix taunts him to defy all logic, drop his gun, let go his hostage and face him in a knife fight. No one would ever find this to be a mentally healthy move, but Welles’ acting is so intense and revelatory that I totally buy his character’s motivations. You can see in the way Bennett twitches his eyebrow and nervously try to contain his machismo that he knows he’s gonna make a retarded decision, yet he can’t help it. Brilliant. Also watch for Alyssa Milano (from “Charmed”) as Matrix’ daughter, Bill Paxton (“Twister”) as a radar operator and Dan Hedaya (Nixon in “Dick”) as General Arius.
Yeah, finally, you got to understand that a favorite movie is a really personal thing. Maybe non-stop mayhem and snickering doesn’t turn you on, maybe Schwarzenegger doesn’t push your buttons. And then again, as they say, you had to be there. When “Commando” started to play on French Canadian TV, I was something like 8, a shy, powerless kid fascinated by this big Germanic badass who blasted through any problem. I instantly got a liking to the film, and years of regular watchings made it more and more a part of my consciousness. When I hit like, 15, it was obvious this was the movie that rocked my world the most. I literally spent hours and hours in high school with buddies talking enthusiastically about our favorite one-liners and moments, which are countless. As you can see, it’s all this and more that I have projected in the movie. More than just the already greatish picture, it’s childhood and social memories related to “Commando” that make it my very favorite. No need to say that if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re seriously missing out, man! BUY COMMANDO NOW!
COMMANDO : THE BODYCOUNT
PEOPLE KILLED, NOT BY MATRIX
A guy gets killed while taking out his garbage
A car dealer is squashed by a Cadillac
Bennett explodes but… he’s not that dead.
Harris is shot dead by guerrillas
Jackson’s body is found dead by Matrix
A cop is killed in the mall by Sully
Another one is killed by the fake ID dealer
The dealer is killed by a cop
One of Jenny’s kidnappers is shot in the head
Henriques is killed by Matrix bare-handed
Sully is thrown down a cliff
Cooke is impaled after a fight
In the harbor, Matrix breaks some guy’s head
He also kills two guys in a jeep with a machine gun
(on the island)
5 guys are stabbed with knives
Matrix shoots dead 43 guys with his machine gun…
… 2 with his handgun…
… 4 with his shotgun …
… 4 with his rocket launcher …
…and 5 more with grenades.
In the shed, one is stabbed with a pitchfork
… another is scalped by a saw
… one receives a circular saw in the chest
(The two following are presumed dead)
… one received an ax in the crotch
… and the other was amputed from an arm with an old blade
Arius is killed 4 times by Matrix, but we’ll count him only once.
Bennett is impaled with a steam pipe
Hard to count
When Matrix arrives on the island,
he makes almost every building blow up,
and we hear many dying screams.
But how much were really killed ?
My estimation would go around 75.
AUSSIE COMMANDO FAN SPEAKS OUT!
May I congratulate you on your magnificent analytical dissertation on the motion picture “Commando”. It was such a delight to read such a thoroughly researched and scholarly work, and one that reflects my own empirical conclusions so faithfully.
I clearly remember seeing “Commando” for the first time on video as a teenager. I had loved “The A-Team” as a child, and I loved Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator”. But “Commando” stands out as absolutely the most hilariously entertaining action movie of all time. Arnie said “Let’s party!”. I sure did!
Having seen the movie again recently, you’re absolutely right about what makes it so good: terrific action; Arnie in his prime; and a completely unashamedly preposterous and clichéd script that is so ridiculous that it is a classic. The fact that the movie manages to ‘keep a straight face’ throughout the contrived lunacy makes it a masterpiece.
One of my favourite bits is at the beginning. Arnie jumps off the landing gear of a plane, travelling at take-off speed, from what, at least 200 feet in the air? Yet when we see him actually land in the swamp, it is clearly footage of a person who has jumped off a stationary platform placed just out of frame at no more than 15 feet above the swamp. Absolutely obvious, and I love it!
Always having had a soft-spot for mindless destruction, I remember the exhilaration I felt when Arnie, impossibly, just tore that car seat out of the Cindy’s car as though it wasn’t bolted in (and don’t tell me it wasn’t). Then, as you so rightly make specific mention of, comes the awesomeness of Arnie stopping Sully’s phone call (no cell phones in those days!). How does Arnie do it? By attacking Sully? By opening the door ripping the phone out his hand? By ripping Sully out of the booth? Not on your life, Arnie rips the whole booth out, raises it above his head and smashes it to the ground – with Sully inside!! Wonderful, brilliant, lateral-thinking destruction that drove me to instant delirium on first viewing. (Another example, though less awesome, is Steven Seagal in the opening sequence to “Marked For Death”. A baddie has a gun in his hand, Seagal has a Samurai sword. Why try to kill him or dodge the bullets or try and knock the gun out his hand, when you can just cut the whole hand off? So, off the hand comes. Love it.)
Other things I love about the mall sequence: the ludicrously high number of security guards; and the perfectly timed, perfectly judged balloon swing.
Again, the boat row over to the island – what possible reason is there for Arnie to be in nothing but swimming briefs? No good reason; it’s just to show him off. The filmmakers know this, Arnie knows it, and they know that we know, yet they keep a straight face all the same.
And what about the war paint when he gets to shore? It’s supposed to be camouflage. But if you look carefully, much of it is used to accentuate Arnie’s muscles by emphasising the natural shadow: muscle-liner instead of eye-liner. Absolutely ridiculous!
I loved Steven Seagal at his prime. The mystery-man who could take out scores of men single-handedly. It was always ridiculous, but at least he appeared to do it by stealth and one-by-one. In the island sequence, Arnie is wide-open half the time. He stands or runs in exposed, vulnerable positions, machine gun blazing, mowing down wave after wave after wave of attacking soldiers and, apart from the token shrapnel injury, he kills them all without ever taking a single hit. Arnie is in wide-open positions, dozens of men running towards him and firing at him simultaneously (and he’s no tiny target!), and yet he’s so fantastic, so invincible, that he kills all of them before even one of them can shoot him. When I first saw “Commando”, I remember doing a full movie body count from start to finish. I recall counting Arnie as having killed 110 people during the movie (although I haven’t confirmed this since).
Your fantastic listing of each and every different weapon that Arnie goes through on the island had me pissing myself with laughter. Great research. Every different weapon in the book. Contrived, and unashamedly so.
I also find Bennett very compelling. As a proud fellow Aussie, I think he effortlessly captures the essence of a larrikin Aussie tough guy. It doesn’t look forced at all. I find him very convincing and look forward to every scene he appears in. But then of course, the completely ridiculous loss of his mind to put his gun and Jenny aside for the climactic fight – just a great cliché scene.
Congratulations again, Kevin, on such outstanding appreciation of the finest of filmmaking and taking the time to so thoroughly put that appreciation into words.
WOW! SOMEONE ELSE CALLS COMMANDO HIS FAVORITE MOVIE!
Reading this from Jonny from Ruthless Reviews brought me endless pleasure:
More than you could possibly imagine. I mean all the crap about Arnold being Der Gropin’fuhrer was just a ruse to distract Californians from the fact that Schwarzenegger has starred in the single gayest movie ever made. The Republican Party had to make Schwarzenegger look like the worst hetero sexual predator since Marv Albert just so that their own people would vote for him. For reals. The first time we see Arnold in Commando, Mr. Olympia is carrying a big chainsaw with like a four-foot blade and an even larger log on one shoulder. He’s all sweaty and determined looking, rugged, and accompanied by a steamy sax solo! Bear City, USA man. While flipping through his daughter’s Tiger Beat a few scenes later, he exclaims, “Why don’t they just call him Girl George? It would cut down on the confusion.” Meaning of course that while others might have been confused about Boy George’s sexuality back in 1986, Arnold knew the straight truth. Or lack thereof.
When Arnold’s old commander comes to tell Die Governator that somebody is killing all of his old men, Schwarzenegger sneaks up behind him and puts a hard gun in his back. The commander says, “Silent and smooth–just like always.” Is that what straight men say when another dude sticks ’em with something hard from behind? Didn’t think so. Arnold also of course picks up another man by his balls. And, for God knows what reason, Arnold is in a speedo for at least four minutes. Just paddling around in a boat.
But, you can’t talk about the amazing gayness of Commando without mentioning Bennett. In fact, if I ever go back to school, I will write a paper detailing how the late twentieth/early twenty-first century embracing of homosexuality stems from Vernon Wells’ portrayal of this particular character. After I’m done, West Hollywood will be renamed “Vernon Wells.” Where to even start… Bennett spends nearly the entire movie wearing the following outfit:
* Leather pants
* A black, sleeveless T-shirt
* A chain mail vest
* A large belt that turns said chain mail into a little skirt
* Fingerless leather gloves
* A dog chain choker
* A flat top
* A push broom moustache
Basically your standard leather-daddy get up, minus the cop hat. His Australian accent doesn’t help things much. But what really sent my gaydar off the chart was the following exchange between Arnold and Mr. Wells:
Arnold: “You can beat me… You want to put a knife in me. Look me in the eyes. See what’s going on in there while you turn it. That’s what you want to do to me, right? Come on, let the girl go. You and me. Don’t deprive yourself of some pleasure. Come on Bennett; let’s party.”
Bennett: “I don’t need the girl–I don’t need the girl!!”
Short of Arnold actually licking Vernon’s ass, you simply could not come up with a gayer scene. Seriously, men fucking is straighter.
Read the rest here!
YET ANOTHER UPDATE (07/08/07)
The reason for this update is two-fold: first, I’ve just discovered the best fan site for a movie (any movie) I’ve ever seen: Commando Fans!; second, it’s been announced that a DIRECTOR’S CUT of the movie would be released on September 18, 2007! I’ll be sure to buy it and review it right here.
COMMANDO: DIRECTOR’S CUT! (added 09/18/07)
As promised, I ran out and got the new “Commando” DVD today, and I immediately played this so-called Director’s Cut. As one of the world’s leading scholars in Schwarzeneggerology who just happens to know every shot and every line in “Commando” by heart, let me tell you that the changes between this and the theatrical version are minimal.
The first added bits comes more than a half hour into the flick: in the first scene in Cindy’s car when they are following Sully, she asks Matrix what he does:
“I’m a retired colonel in the army.”
“Retired? Does that mean like, my taxes pay your pension?”
Then, after Matrix “lets go” Sully, Cindy asks him a little more about himself and his daughter Jenny:
“What about her mother?”
“She died when Jenny was born.”
“I was in Laos at the time. So I came back intending to raise her. But I was never home. When she was three, I was in Lebanon. When she was in grammar school, I was in Angola. When she had the measles, I was in Pakistan. And now, she’s been kidnapped because of me.”
“Well, why did you do all that traveling?”
“Was that for the army or something?”
“Oh. What did you have to do?”
“Things you don’t want to know about. Things that sometimes I wish I didn’t know about. But that part of my life is over with.”
Okay, the “retired colonel” bit was just an inconsequential little joke, but the exchange I just quoted is pretty crucial. I always wondered why no mention was made of why Matrix was raising Jenny alone, and it adds a little weight to the idea that Matrix is a reluctant hero to hear how he feels he’s made enough sacrifices for the army (or something) already, having missed most of his daughter’s childhood, plus there’s this furthered political subtext about the American foreign policy, black ops and the such, which Matrix doesn’t seem all that proud about. This might also be Arnold’s finest acting moment in the whole picture, you really feel his regrets and bitterness during this rare character moment. Then again, the beauty of “Commando” has always been the utter absence of such character development, how Matrix was just this brutish, unthinking killing machine. Now all of the sudden we discover he’s like fucking Jason Bourne? Curious and curiouser.
The next noticeable alterations are during the classic toolshed scene, which was always great bloody fun but is now even more violent! I counted 4 extra shots: an insert of the pitchfork entering the gut of the first piss-ant soldier, one of a poor bastard getting a circular saw thrown into his throat, then we see more of the pain of the dude whom Matrix hits in the crotch with an axe and finally, there’s a shot of the guy with the macheted off arm falling to the ground and screaming in agony!
And that’s that. Actually, there are other deleted scenes, but they’re not included in the Director’s Cut, they’re only on the DVD as separate extras. There’s another bit with General Kirby talking about how badass Matrix is, then you got these army guys yelling “Freeze!” to Matrix at the end and he just keeps walking on with his daughter in his arms, and finally there are a few alternate post-Bennett’s death one-liners. Nothing to write home about. I’d heard of a flashback sequence that would show Matrix back in the day with his commando unit, but it’s nowhere to be seen.
Other extras include two featurettes which include recent interviews with, amongst others, screenwriter Steven E. De Souza. And guess what? He confirms what I thought all along: “Commando” is hilarious on purpose! In De Souza’s words: “The most important thing that made this movie work was that it did not take itself seriously.” Even better, he acknowledges the homoeroticism of the film: “The wardrobe on Vernon Wells has led to a lot of conjecture that Bennett had a crush on Arnold’s character!”
There’s also a feature-length commentary by director Mark L. Lester, which is okay, but nothing great. Lester mostly talks about the locations, the fact that everything was done practical as this was before the advent of CGI, Arnold was great to work with, etc.