Summer of Schwarzenegger - "Commando" (1985)


I realized when I started this whole Summer of Schwarzenegger thing, I'd have to wade through some pieces of shit I've never seen, gloss over some that I've seen too many times or rewatched recently, and sometimes get reacquainted with some old favorites. The thing is, though, is that I actually saw Commando for the first time way under a year ago. Yet I didn't skip this one and just give a brief write-up on it. In fact, I was waiting for the chance to watch it again, and I had to force myself to be patient and reward myself.

So I watched Hercules in New York and The Villain (barely.) I realized that Conan The Barbarian wasn't anywhere close to what I'd call a great movie, and that Destroyer was way better than I remembered. Oh, yeah, and I just skipped over Terminator, because fuck watching that again. So when I was skimming Blockbuster (yes, they still have a shit-ton where I'm staying at the moment,) and found the next film on my list, I did a little internal jump for joy. Because Commando is one of the best fucking action movies ever made. Lemme tell you a thing about the movie that kickstarted Alyssa Milano's Japanese pop music career.


Commando's set-up is simple and sweet. John Cable's daughter (a tiny Alyssa Milano in dorky overalls) gets kidnapped by some Green Berets he used to work with, he gets pissed off and armed to the teeth with the help of a pilot-in-training (Rae Dawn Chong before she called Oprah a... well, you know,) and then he kills a ton of people. Like, a ton of people. 80-plus, actually. But despite the typical plot and casual genocide, this is one of the most unexpectedly fun thrill rides in cinema. No, really. The whole thing is a goofy, dumb popcorn flick, and one of the rare movies where being ridiculously dated actually works in its favor. Yes, this is one of those 80's movies. Bad one-liners, obvious stunt doubles, synth-laden soundtrack, giant explosions... they're all here. And it's beautiful.

But Commando doesn't work just because it's a dumb 80's action movie. If it did, I would be singing the praises of First Blood Part Two: Rambo or Delta Force from the rooftops, too, but I'm not, and I never will be. See, the reason this movie snaps the necks of its competitors is because it matches them in the action department, then trounces them in every other possible one.

First off, let's talk about the action scenes. They're dumb. They're implausible. They're amazing. Arnold throws circular saw blades to scalp a dude in one scene, and shoves a guy through a wall into a table leg in another. He uses a car with no engine by pushing it down the side of a fucking mountain, then jumps in and steers it through trees and over rocks in an attempt to wreck some bad guys. Virtually every big action scene has some sort of stupid stunt or ridiculous death, and the movie is better off for it. It never really devolves into "Arnold goes here, shoots some guys, then moves on." The whole fucking time, viewers are kept on their toes and it's... well, it's a thing of beauty. Enough to make a grown man cry.

But not this grown man.
You know what else kicks ass about Commando? Everything. No, but seriously, there's some other cool stuff aside from the action. Like the good female characterization. No kidding. Chong's character is incredibly resourceful and works together with Arnold, never actually being a damsel-in-distress. In fact, Arnold gets "damselled" at one point and she uses a fucking RPG to save his bacon. And even though Milano is kidnapped, she's still resilient and doesn't stop trying to escape, never being the typical "bound-and-gagged" hostage. It's refreshing. Also, this movie has a fucking killer soundtrack, with steel drums clanging everywhere and saxophones blaring like there's no tomorrow. To some, that may be a bad thing, but for my money? It doesn't get better than watching Arnold slit throats while getting some sax therapy. Oh, and when there's no music, Arnold's dropping some sick one-liners, some of the best in all of his movies I'd say. He drops a guy off a cliff, and then he gets asked what happened to the dude, and he answers, "I let him go." Gold, ladies and gents, fucking gold.

It may sound like I'm saying this is a perfect movie, and as a matter of fact, I am. No, no, just kidding again, but it is hard for me to see any real faults here. I really love Commando. It's one of those rare movies that keeps me happy and entertained the entire time I'm watching it, and it really takes something special to do that for me after how many movies I've seen. But low and behold, this perfect balance of exciting action and cheesiness has managed to do it twice, now, and will probably do it again before I know it. I mean, I just can't stay away from this flick.

I even sleep with it.
Basically, watching Commando will improve your quality of life, so go do it. Now.



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