Ha ha, it’s Burl, and I’m back… with a review of an Arnold Schwarzenegger picture! No, not Total Recall again! It’s called Commando, and I’m sure you’ve all seen it, and I’d certainly seen it before too, being that it was one of the more popular films enjoyed by my school chums and I in the olden VHS days!
Commando is probably Arnold’s most stripped-down and basic action movie! It comes in at a lean 90 minutes and has almost enough story to half-fill that time! It seems Arnold is John Matrix, another of his curiously-named cod-American characters! Ha ha, why couldn’t he have played “Heinrich Obermayer” or something, just once? Though there is a moment here in which, after grumping about Boy George’s andr*gyny, he actually admits to being foreign, bellowing “When I was a boy in East Germany, ha ha, the Communists considered rock ‘n’ roll subversive – who knows, maybe dey right!”
Anyway, John Matrix has a little daughter, Jenny Matrix, ha ha, and she gets kidnapped by the henchmen of none other than Dan “Buckaroo Banzai” Hedaya, playing a dictator who apparently wants to stage a coup of Catalina! He’s got a merry band of henchmen helping him out, like David Patrick Kelly from Dreamscape, rocking a three tie-clip look; Bill ”Action Jackson” Duke (for my money the movie’s ringer), and of course Vernon Welles, “welles-known,” ha ha, from Weird Science and Innerspace! John Matrix has only a short time to catch up with his daughter, and thankfully Rae Dawn Chong, whom we’re familiar with from Fear City, is along to help him out!
Punchfights and shootslplosions ensue, all to the sounds of a James Horner score filled with steel drums borrowed from 48 Hours; and John Matrix pauses only to deliver a quip or drop David Patrick Kelly and his three tie clips off a cliff! It’s not to be believed how Rae Dawn Chong becomes his greatest helper after being virtually kidnapped by him, but perhaps the sight of this musclebound fellow swinging across the Sherman Oaks Galleria on a giant sausage-balloon simply captured her heart, ha ha! (Though it ought to be noted that, curiously, there’s no hint of r*mance between these two characters at any point in the picture!)
It all comes to a head at Hedaya’s island stronghold, where John Matrix blows people up and shoots them and throws saw blades at them and chops them with machetes, then finally impales Vernon Welles on a big pipe right through his chain mail and into an even bigger steam pipe! If they’d had the courage of their convictions, though, they’d have shown a moment where the transfixed Welles tilts forward and some sizzling, bloody giblets slide out; but Commando is nevertheless really the template for the Violent 80s Hollywood Action Movie, alongside Cobra and a few other dubious gems!
The picture is slick and quick, which should be no surprise as it was directed by Mark Lester: not the child actor from Oliver!, but the fellow who brought us such varied gems as Truck Stop Women, Roller Boogie and Armed and Dangerous! It gets rolling right off the bat, and most of the scenes have things going on in them! Schwarzenegger is as robotic here as in The Terminator, but you still root for the big lug – that rascal John Matrix, ha ha! I enjoyed the picture, even though the TV I watched it on made it look as though it had been shot on consumer-grade video! I’m going to give Commando – and nostalgia figures into this rating, ha ha – two and a half tie clips!