Director: Mark L. Lester
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Vernon Wells, Dan Hedaya, Alyssa Milano, Bill Duke, David Patrick Kelly, James Olsen
Plot: An ex-Colonel (Schwarzenegger) is targeted by vengeful enemies from his past, who kidnap his daughter and force him to carry out an assassination.
Commando is one of the more popular Arnies, even if it doesn’t aim as high as his other major successes. Commando is nowhere near the intricate quality of Terminator, doesn’t boast the universe of Total Recall or have the dripping atmosphere of Predator. However, it is probably the most immediate source of pure Arnie. Commando’s main trick is that it is actually surprisingly textbook. An action movie that has no illusion of grandeur. It never wants to be anything more than Arnie punching nameless henchmen for two hours of your time. In fact, there is almost a talent to how Lester deftly evades any sort of build-up. The “bad guys are coming to kill you” speech is interrupted by bad guys coming to kill him. An 11 hour plane ride is amusingly interrupted in such a direct and aggressive way it is almost the highlight of the film. Even the epilogue is so to the point that you could swear that the script was written in bullet points. Looking back, it might even come across as a major disappointment. When one of the more hyped Arnie movies is actually little more than one extensive punch-em-up, there is a sense of feeling cheated. Cast Van Damme or Seagal as the lead and this movie doesn’t ever leave the bargain bucket. But Commando is better treated as a shot of adrenaline: the kind of action movie that refuses to let up, until the end credits are rolling. From the first, chilling assassination from appropriately menacing bad guys to the final, explosive (never before has the Oracle of Film used the term ‘explosive’ more correctly), shoot-out in a military base, Commando’s main job is to entertain. And entertain, it does, with nonsense firefights, where Arnie is the only man in the film who can aim, and the body count rises to silly proportions. In stripping away any attempt of a coherent storyline, Lester gives us the Arnie film we always wanted.
It is just a shame that it doesn’t try that little bit harder. With the exception of maybe Alyssa Milano’s daughter character, everyone here is just picking up a paycheck. No one is trying to add anything to the picture. The villains are about as imaginative as a randomly generated character in SIMS 3. Dan Hedaya is a ‘that’ll work’ villain, a commando who needs Arnie to do something and pisses him off enough to warrant retribution. More stock is put into the henchman character, an outrageous Australian accent and personal stake in the story thrown in. His performance, especially in the end fight, is enough to want the man dead, both actor and character. The helpless girl dragged along for the ride is also surprisingly poor. The truth is that she doesn’t need to be in this film, but being a textbook 80s action, Commando feels the need to shoe-horn in a pretty girl. There isn’t even a romantic back-story, the father-daughter relationship bringing in the emotional angle. She is simply there because it is the done thing. In fact, the only man doing his job properly is Arnold. Yes, Schwarzenegger will never be classed as one of our generation’s better actors, but he is much more important than an actor: he is an entertainer. And Arnie knows how to entertain. He works the audience like puppets, impressing with his deadpan humour or muscular physique. One scene where he bursts through mall security like King Kong is an over-the-top, glorious example of what an Arnie movie is able to achieve. Yes, there is little to recommend in this film, other than Arnie blasting through bad guy after bad guy, but isn’t that why you bought it in the first place?
Final Verdict: An unashamed Arnie vehicle that gets to the point so quickly, its several problems aren’t even worth bringing up.