Rewatched Jun 17, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
There's a great YouTube video doing the rounds these days which holds the 100 greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes from all of his movies, and I'm convinced that Commando holds a strong proportion of them. As simple, trim and utterly Arnie an action movie you are likely to find; it's an 85 minute masterclass on how to make a balls out, effective, crowd pleasing action flick that doesn't for one moment, as Arnie's brace of one-liners evidence, take itself seriously. For the most part, it's simply a joy to watch.
Don't get me wrong, Mark L. Lester's movie is no masterpiece, in fact were you probably to remove Schwarzenegger from the equation it most likely would not have the cult status it does, but I defy anyone going into this knowing full well what to expect not to enjoy what Lester delivers. Granted, you'll most likely want to put a sock in the mouth of Rae Dawn Chong the moment she opens it (and the tether keeping her in the story is hilariously flimsy), but for the most part Arnie and his support are perfectly entertaining; the big man himself does well with a clear, simple character arc as John Matrix, a formula everyone from Jack Bauer to Liam Neeson have tried to emulate over the years (thankfully with some success). It's one of Arnie's most enjoyable roles - he truly gets some terrific one-liners and punch the air, one man army moments. And while Dan Hedaya's deposed military man is limp, at least Vernon Wells' uber-camp turn as ex-military Bennett is hilarious - though admittedly pitting Arnie against a Freddie Mercury lookalike for the climax does take the wind out of the badass sails a bit! Mind you it rarely concerns itself with narrative, in fact arguably the weakest mid-section is where Lester tries to inject some plot; it's at its gleeful best lurching from one Arnie kill to the next, and by the time we reach the bombastic climax you'll be cheering every time Matrix caps a goon with a line to go with it. It's more a joy for that than being so beautifully 80's in its fashions and it's ever so slightly bizarre synth soundtrack (you'll never believe James Horner scored this).
If you love your Arnie movies, and indeed you enjoy a slice of 'switch you brain off' action, then Commando is a delight. If you don't, then I feel sorry for you! In all seriousness, it's very light on character or story and will certainly win no awards for acting, but damn if this isn't joyously tongue-in-cheek, balls out OTT, tight on pace and one of Arnie's finest 80's actioners. Let off some steam and give it a watch.