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COMMANDO
Director's Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, Alyssa Milano
Director: Mark L. Lester
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2007

“You scared motherfu**er? You better be because this green beret is going to kick your big ass.”

“I eat green berets for breakfast. And right now I’m very hungry!”

Film *** (On the guilty pleasure scale)

Ahh, the glory days of 80s action cheese.

Following the release of The Terminator in 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger was well on his way to becoming king of the action genre. How do you follow a movie like The Terminator? If you’re Arnold, you do a movie with a much more challenging title, Commando. You’ve got to love sarcasm. Had Terminator not existed, the film could’ve been appropriately titled Terminating Commando.

Surprisingly enough, Commando is action movie that manages to hold up. It’s quite possibly one of the most graphically violent action films I’ve ever seen. I first saw it on TV years ago in an edited fashion, which I thought was intense enough. Then I caught it on video years later, and all I can tell you the amount of footage cut out for network TV could very well be matched with the human body count of this movie, which is of course A LOT!

What makes Commando significant is that it’s the movie that started a certain formula that would be common in just about every Schwarzenegger movie that followed it. The plot, as almost always in an action junkfest like this, is not so much important. What matters to the core audience of a movie like this is to see Arnold break as many necks, shoot/blow up everything in his way, and have that one scene near the end of the movie where he suits up with enough weapons to start a nuclear holocaust and blow away the baddies to kingdom come.

Try watching this movie back-to-back with Raw Deal, the movie Arnold did the following year. Trust me, you won’t be able to tell the two movies apart. Then reward yourself with a bonus viewing of Kindergarten Cop. Actually, I’m joking about that last part, please don’t.

The set up of the excessive Arnold body count goes like this; Arnie is John Matrix (does anyone in real life occupy such a badass last name?), a retired army commando (what else would he be?) who is enjoying a life in the mountains with his ten year old daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano, obviously before she became the male obsession she is today).

Jenny is kidnapped by a group of renegade soldiers, who served once under Matrix. They now work for an evil/exiled Latin American dictator named Arius (played by AMERICAN actor Dan Hedaya). The dictator gives Matrix a choice, assassinate the president of his Latin country, or suffer the loss of his daughter. With no choice, Matrix agrees. But one uttering of the phrase, “I’ll be back”, and you know Matrix has a plan of his own. NOTE TO BAD GUYS; when that phrase is directed at you, you are going to have your ass handed to you in a most unpleasant way.

After snapping the first of many necks, Matrix makes his way off the plane and stages a plan to rescue his daughter. How will he rescue his daughter? By eventually coming into possession of enough explosives and ammunition to make John Rambo jealous, and storming the evil dictator’s multi housed base and not leaving until A) His daughter is rescued and B) He leaves every baddie inhabiting the base blown up, shot, beheaded, limbless, or impaled with a steam pipe.

For the record, I am convinced that being trapped in a woodshed with Arnold would be the most frightening nightmare anyone could ever have. Watching him go to work on the baddies with saws, an ax and huge ass blade was one of the most violent sequences I’d ever seen at the time. And the Director’s Cut is even more graphic!

As you can tell, I sound as if I’m having a field day poking fun at Commando, but a movie this over the top welcomes it. I enjoy it for all its violent and campy qualities. And who can’t resist the countless one-liners Arnold is given in this movie? I believe this is the movie that started the trend of Arnold having a funny line to say after every big action scene. Case in point, after snapping the neck of a baddie on a commercial flight, he tells the flight attendant, “Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired.”

Commando is to simply put it, an action junkies dream put to life on celluloid. Along with Road House, this movie is the pure definition of darn near brilliant pieces of cinematic cheese that one could get away with in the 80s. And it officially marked Schwarzenegger’s first big step as the screen’s biggest action star. And I’m pleased to report that, after 22 years, the movie holds up quite well.

Video ***

“You’re a funny man, Sully. I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.”

This re-issue of what was one of the first DVD releases from Fox, which mean non-anamorphic, gets the proper visual treatment this time around. The picture is clear and crisp mostly throughout, despite showing slight signs of grain here and there. All and all, a true improvement over the first release.

Audio ***1/2

“LET OFF SOME STEAM, BENNETT!”

I was really caught by surprise at how strong the 5.1 mix was for this movie from 1985. It’s 90 minutes of action and little else, so the sound mix has a lot to deliver. The retro 80s score even sounds terrific in the presentation. But the action takes center stage here, as all the gunfire and explosions account from some major high quality sound!

Features ***

“Attention all units, emergency on theater level, suspect six foot two, brown hair. He is ONE GIGANTIC MOTHERFU**ER!”

The extras have also thankfully been upgraded for this release. First off, you have a choice of watching the Theatrical Version or the new Director’s Cut (go for the latter, since it’s more hardcore). Extras-wise, we have a commentary track with director Mark L. Lester, two featurettes; “Pure Action” and “Let Off Some Steam”. Rounding the features are Deleted Scenes, Three Added Scenes, and an Exclusive Stills Gallery containing up to 160 images.

Summary:

Commando is pure 80s action junk at its highest possible level. It’s also one of the best Schwarzenegger action movies to date. It’s just mindless fun with a monumental body count! Lock, load and ENJOY!

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