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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Retro Review: Commando (1985) #Schwarzenegger

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Alyssa Milano, David Patrick Kelly, Bill Duke, Vernon Wells 
Genre: Action 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million  

Plot: A retired elite Black Ops Commando launches a one-man war against a group of South American criminals who have kidnapped his daughter to blackmail him into starting a revolution and getting an exiled dictator back into power 

'Schwarzenegger's Take On Rambo'

Commando is to Arnold Schwarzenegger as is Rambo to Sylvester Stallone. From the very first scene, the film doesn't let up when it comes to the action; that, and it is one of the very best starring Arnie. Commando set a precedent for him as an action hero star and leading protagonist; since 1984's The Terminator made him one fearless cyborg on a mission to kill Sarah Connor, as retired Colonel John Matrix, he is the good guy, not to mention a loving father. It was a complete departure from The Terminator and Conan The Barbarian, as this was the first major movie he has appeared in that is set in the present day.

When John's beloved young daughter is held hostage by a psycho madman alongside Bennett, just because John refuses to go along with General Arius's plans in assassinating the president, he wages war and goes out of his way and beyond to track the guys responsible and to get her back.

This film is littered throughout with wit and memorable one-liners and as much as in The Running Man. The villain Bennett looks like a cross between Queen singer Freddie Mercury and a Mad Max road warrior! Rae Dawn Chong is the lone lady and innocent bystander, Cindy who later becomes embroiled in John's efforts in rescuing his daughter. Though she isn't in the same league as the strong-headed Melina from Total Recall, she still comes in handy. Out of the two female stars, Chong edges it for me ahead of Milano. I didn't really care for Jenny. Without a character such as Cindy, or be it, Chong, this film would be a lot less intentionally fun. & what a lot of fun this movie is - the action is fun to watch and it's entertaining also. 

Like many action movies, Commando has no pretentions and isn't one that ought to be taken seriously as it operates as a standard action film, but when it comes to action set pieces, carnage, tension and suspense, it has that in abundance. And it's fun too through Arnie's one-liners and puns. The pace of the film is so fast, it never pauses for one minute and that by the time it ends, you'll realise it is not a very long film. And yet within those 90 mins, a lot of things happen in a short space of time; the director crammed a lot here and there is never really a dull moment. The violence is adequate and not too bloody, which I like. And though a lot of people have called this as Arnie's best bad movie, it's not like proper 'bad'. Is it his best? Personally no. Is it highly entertaining and watchable? For sure, yes. Does it have enough interesting scenes and moments to make it watchable? Yes. The shopping mall scene is one that can sit along Jackie Chan's Police Story, despite not being as memorable and action-packed. So is the fight between Arnie and Bill Duke in a motel. 

Inasfar as the music is concerned, it is overplayed a lot and sometimes, I try to ignore it as much as I can. 

Even though it was The Terminator that essentially opened doors for his career, Commando has to be credited for helping to launch Schwarzenegger's movie career as the good guy. This is a brutish, brainless, old-fashioned '80s action romp, that whilst it is silly in places, Commando is still a very good & highly entertaining action flick. 

Final Verdict

Essentially Rambo but slightly more elaborate and with over-the-top gunfire shenanigans & amusing one-liners, Commando, is interestingly enough directed by the same guy who later did Showdown In Little Tokyo, which wasn't so enjoyable for me. It ranks in my favourite top ten Arnie films and though he has gone on to star in more developed roles, especially roles that stretch his acting abilities, this is a quintessential Arnie action movie, bar none.    

Occasionally fun, entertaining with action galore, just switch off your brain for 1 hour, 30 mins, sit back and watch Arnie go all 'commando' on the bad guys. 


*score last updated: April 4, 2018*

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