Action movies of the 80’s are a special beast indeed. Uncomplicated, unoriginal, and unctuous in their righteous love of violence as the solution to every problem, they nevertheless revel in their gratuitousness and take audiences on one hell of a ride, time after time. And nobody but nobody could top Arnold at this game…and COMMANDO is the movie where, for my money, he shotgunned Chuck Norris’ INVASION USA ass and forcefed it to Stallone’s COBRA along with a bundle of K-rations and concussion grenades. Cheap and laughable as it is, COMMANDO crowned a new A –list king of gouda and gunshots and shake-and-baked a formula for bad action movies which remains if not gold, then at least silver-plated, to this day.Flashback to 1984: CONAN THE BARBARIAN had been a hit, but there was no real dialogue to be found in that one. TERMINATOR was a smash (and would become a phenomenon on video and cable), and it showcased Arnold’s imposing presence while leaving the acting to Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. If we forget about RED SONJA, and, yes, let’s, COMMANDO was the first Arnold vehicle to prove he could juggle the spotlight, a big hunk of verbal exposition, and a battery of NATO and Warsaw pact weaponry within 90-120 minutes.
"THIS is the perfect Arnold movie. Trust me."
The plot is as thin as an Elite model after a black tar bender, but it’s got all the little checkpoints that make the action genre tolerable to those who actually LIKE a story. Silly government intrigue that’s little more than a cheap plot device as played out by Dan Hedaya---check. The lone good guy badass special ops war hero coaxed out of retirement---yep. A bevy of low-rent bad guys, including one weaselly runt and another a counter-badass from good badass’ war days---gotcha. The hottie who helps him out under duress ‘cause it’s the “right thing to do”---oh yeah, thanks Rae Dawn Chong. The cute plot point who happens to be the kidnapped daughter as played by Alyssa “you know she’s gonna be a hottie one day and will play that Rae Dawn Chong role herself” Milano. Gore, violence, and three guys falling down from the force of one bullet? Hell yes, Beelzebub. Lots of MacGyver meets Dahmer-type pragmatism when Arnold gets locked in the woodshed with a passel of lawn-tending products? Oh my Lord jump up and speak in tongues in the affirmative of your high, holy mission, huzzah!
And need I mention the one-liners? Yeah, Arnie had given us “I’ll be back” and that whole “drive your enemies before you, hear the lamentations of the women” speech in the original CONAN, but this is the movie wherein he became the one-liner EMPEROR of a generation, and one-liners became the rival currency of bullets in over-the-top actioners. Before there was Bruce Vilanch, there was Jeph Loeb, screenwriter of COMMANDO, comic book writer and zinger king extraordinaire. When Arnold (ok, his character is named John Matrix….hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!) throws a large industrial pipe right through the counter-badass’ chest and copious amounts of superheated water spew out of the front of said pipe and Arnold tells the counter-badass to “Let off some steam, Bennett,” you wonder why in God’s name the MTV movie awards weren’t around to award SOMETHING to SOMEBODY. I’m not picky…Best Diction by a former Austrian weightlifter, Best Non-Nude Scene by Rae Dawn Chong, Best Soon-To-Be Amazing Hot Chick to Alyssa….I DON”T CARE! SOMEONE PLEASE REWARD THIS FILM THE GRUDGING RESPECT IT DESERVES!!!!
If you look at Arnold’s track record, most of his movies are, well, for shit. Outside the TERMINATORS, there’s little to speak well of other than “It was cool watching him blow up that guy/truck/building/continent.” (Don’t get me started on the sad little movie called TRUE LIES, either, Arnie defenders). But with this movie and PREDATOR, Arnold has no pretensions of being a fully rounded actor, or a big, walking visual gag. He kicked some ass, mispronounced some names, and made a B-grade movie on an A-budget, and, damn it, we loved him for it!
I used to be a movie snob, and I thought this was a steaming pile of hairy toffee, but then I saw it as a perfect melding of purpose and execution, a film that knows exactly what it wants to be, and hits or surpasses every mark it sets for itself. Who gives a wet slap if it aims low? I’ll bet Lee Harvey Oswald aimed low, and now everybody knows who HE is!Where’s the sequel? Arnold passes the wetworks mantle to a catsuit-clad Alyssa Milano and her partners, Tera Patrick and Brooke Burke! Salma Hayek can be Dan Hedaya’s vengeful daughter! Get to work on it, Hollywood. Hot women kicking ass equals dollars!
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originally posted: 06/17/02 19:14:38