Commando (1985) Directed by Mark L Lester. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Vernon Wells, Bill Duke and Dan Hedaya.
What Mark L Lester’s Commando lacks in brains, it makes up for in blunt force testosterone. Arnold Schwarzenegger is John Matrix (really), an ex black-ops specialist with a dark past. His daughter has been kidnapped, and he faces a race against the clock to get her back.
Released the same year as Stallone’s Rambo sequel, First Blood Part II, the film fully capitalises on the action movie boom of the 1980’s, by operating as a chunk of unashamed, balls-to-the-wall, easy to digest daftness. Where the tone of Rambo was deadly serious, Commando is more of an action caper, with Schwarzenegger offing bad guys, while quipping like James Bond with an Austrian accent.
In one fight scene that pits a hulking Arnie against the formidable Bill Duke, actress Rae Dawn Chong states to herself (and us), “I can’t believe this macho bull$*!t“. The knowing nods and tongue-in-cheek humour lend the film a camp charm. That said, the sheer stupidity of many of the plot developments often stretch your willingness to hang in there; an air hostess with the sudden ability to use a rocket launcher, Arnie killing an entire army of hapless soldiers, all of who line up in exposed spaces, seemingly happy to be machine-gunned into next week.
While it’s stating the obvious to say it’s rubbish, there’s still some fun to be had, given the right mood. Schwarzenegger cuts an impressive physical presence, and although his acting is never anything better than camp-terrible, the man has a certain charisma that makes him hard to dislike. Some of the stunts and action are well put together, while as the main villain, Vernon Wells looks dressed for an audition in a Freddie Mercury tribute act. Schlock and load. 3/5