Commando

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90 mins
Director: Mark L. Lester
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Vernon Wells
Genre: Action
Country: USA

When an exiled dictator named Arius (Dan Hedaya) hires a former Special Forces commando to kidnap the daughter of John Matrix in order to force him to start a revolution in South America to overthrow the Government there’s one thing he didn’t count on and that something has six syllables Arn-old Schwarz-en-egg-er.

Schwarzenegger stars as John Matrix, an elite and retired Black Ops commando who is forced to wage a one man war on everyone who gets in his way in order to get his daughter back; somewhere, somehow, someone is going to pay.  Commando, as a child, was the holy grail of action films and at ninety minutes it’s incredibly economic with it’s narrative in order to cram in as much fighting, shooting, exploding and pummelling as possible.  The cast here is nothing short of phenomenal; yes you have a relationship between Matrix and his daughter (Alyssa Milano) which threatens to deliver you an early wave of type two diabetes but Lester has over-egged the sentiment in order to snatch her away quickly and get the good times rolling and it works beautifully.  Not only is the sequence in which Jenny taken incredibly tense and extremely well constructed but it also sets the bar for the level of physicality that you’re to expect and amazingly Commando doesn’t let up.

David Patrick Kelly (as Sully) is a great middle man, he’s a ratty little villain who poses no real threat to Matrix other than who he can communicate with before Matrix gets to him but everything I have watched DPK in since Commando has paled in comparison.  His screen time is short, his character is under written but he brings to the screen an intensity that burns the screen up every time you see him and his interplays with Schwarzenegger is fantastic.  Bill Duke (as Cooke) is a excellent cameo piece of casting and re-teaming the two men in Predator was another wonderful decision.  The two monolithic Alphas have an on screen chemistry that is electric.  Both men are physically powerful, physically dominant and charismatic in frame and the only problem there is with their motel hand to hand combat sequence is that looking back now; with the Bourne and modern Bond fight scenes; it’s far too short in comparison.  Dan Hedaya offers; like McGavin and Wanamaker in Raw Deal an actor with a capital A to drive the exposition which someone needs to do as Arnie’s too busy going for a world record body count and Jeph Loeb’s story could do with another pass but he does it wonderfully and without issue.  Rae Dawn Chong is a great piece of casting (as Cindy) she provides a different kind of sidekick for Schwarzenegger and allows him to not only showcase his softer side in conversation but also an intelligence in locating “the next objective”…whatever that may be.  Arnold was made for this role; it’s perfectly inside his wheelhouse and like DPK it’s always the barometer in which I measure all other performances against…yes including The Terminator!  The only problem with Commando is Bennnett.  I don’t buy Vernon Wells; he’s a great actor and I’ve liked him in many other things but even as a wee one I felt him out of his depth.

Lester’s cinematography is unchallenging and accepting of it’s place in the pecking order of the action movie as there to service the action and then the narrative.  The soundtrack has been either sampled by other low budget action films or from a stock action vault as I've heard it play over many other films but it’s not intrusive and therefore fine.

A note for all Commando fans is that the UK region 2 DVD has had some of the action cut as I distinctly remember a few moments that sunk a little deeper into the chest or lingered longer and therefore shouldn’t be purchased; have a little patience and ship in a US region 1 DVD which is much much better!  Commando is simply brilliant; it’s not the Citizen Kane of action movies that’s another one for another review another time but what it is, is the It’s A Wonderful Life of action movies in that it’s always as good as it was the first time you watched it; ever dependable and screenable 365 days a year and ends on a corker of a happy ending.












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