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Commando is a 1985 American action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vernon Wells, Rae Dawn Chong, Alyssa Milano, Bill Duke, Dan Hedaya and James Olson. It was directed by Mark L. Lester and shot on location in and around Los Angeles, California. The film was nominated for a Saturn Award in 1986 for Best Special Effects but lost to James Cameron's Aliens, another movie with music provided by James Horner from Commando. A critical success and commercial hit, Commando is the 7th highest grossing movie of 1985 worldwide. Retired Delta Force Operative Colonel John Matrix is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. Despite being given protection, the mercenaries attack Matrix’s secluded mountain home, kill Kirby’s men and kidnap Matrix’s young daughter Jenny. Matrix desperately gives chase in his truck, but finds the brakes have been tampered with and eventually loses control, crashing the vehicle.
Commando, first released 22 years ago, has the simplest of premises: Arnold Schwarzenegger kills bad guys in every way imaginable for about 90 minutes. That's it. There isn't a subplot about reforming veterans' benefits or an extensive introduction into Latin America's political climate. Commando is one of the best arguments available for the action movie as pure entertainment.
Schwarzenegger plays John Matrix, a retired Army special forces Colonel living in mountainous seclusion with his young daughter (Alyssa Milano), a life that is ruined when angry enemies from Matrix's past kidnap her. The conditions for her release: Kill the dictator of a Latin American country, allowing for the reinstatement of the exiled Arius (Dan Hedaya). Don't follow the rules, and she's dead. Matrix boards the plane for his assignment but escapes (in mid-air, of course), setting in motion a vengeful, race-against-the-clock search for his daughter.
Commando is meant to be watched with your disbelief suspended and your levels for deep, artistic satisfaction turned off. Essentially, you're watching a cartoon for carnage-minded grown-ups, and Lester and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard and The Running Man) execute the concept beautifully. The action scenes are outlandish yet oddly captivating. You chuckle and cheer. Matrix breaks one of his captive's necks in an airplane full of people then tells the stewardess not to disturb the deceased because he's 'dead tired.' The muscle-bound commando also kills one enemy with a pipe, pushes another into an upended chair leg, and uses a table saw blade as a lethal discuss. There's an inventiveness and cheekiness to the brutality that carries the movie, making it more than a collection of gunned-down extras and macho posing.
And who better to play the lead then Schwarzenegger, who became a superstar by being a physical presence without possessing a shred of charisma? The difference between The Terminator and Commando's Matrix is that the latter exhibits some human tendencies, like bleeding. Lester and de Souza let Schwarzenegger wreak havoc and spout some terrific one-liners, which are even funnier because the now-governor of California is such a stern and inflexible actor.
Despite the movie's humor and its ability to both hail and parody action hero conventions, Commando is not usually hailed as one of Schwarzenegger's best movies. However, it should be, especially now. When action movies aren't clunky dramas with muscles, their directors are covering the holes with CGI finery. Commando is a reminder of a simpler era of American movies, one that very skilled directors now have a hard time replicating.
Give him a drink from the water cooler, then torture him.
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