Should I Watch..? 'Commando'

Updated on June 21, 2018
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin has been reviewing films for over ten years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!

Poster for the director's cut of "Commando"
Poster for the director's cut of "Commando" | Source

What's the big deal?

Commando is an action thriller film released in 1985 and was written for the screen by Steven E. de Souza. The film sees a pre-superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger play a retired Delta Force operative forced into action after his daughter is kidnapped. Capitalising on the success of The Terminator the year before as well as the likes of First Blood, the film introduces a previously unseen comedic side of Schwarzenegger which has helped the film become a cult hit in the years since its release. A commercial and critical success upon release, it went on to gross a respectable $57 million against a $10 million budget. It would also spawn a Russian remake in 2008 as well as a reported Hollywood remake with Sam Worthington, presently in development at the time of writing.

Watchable

3 stars for Commando

What's it about?

Retired Delta Force operative John Matrix is living a quiet life in a remote mountainside cabin with his young daughter Jenny. Informed by his former superior officer Major General Kirby that all members of John's unit have been murdered by an unknown group of mercenaries, John quickly prepares to disappear with Jenny before he's next. Sadly, he's too late - the mercenaries arrive led by John's former colleague Bennett who destroy his house, kidnap Jenny and overpower John.

John is told that he must conduct one final mission on behalf of Bennett's paymaster, deposed South American general Arius. By assassinating his political rival, Arius can return to power in the country of Val Verde and John begrudgingly accepts, knowing that his daughter's life is on the line. Boarding a plane to Val Verde, John quickly manages to escape his handlers and exits the plane before it takes off - leaving John with just eleven hours to rescue his daughter and take every one of the baddies down...

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Arnold Schwarzengger
John Matrix
Rae Dawn Chong
Cindy
Vernon Wells
Bennett
Dan Hedaya
Arius
Alyssa Milano
Jenny Matrix
David Patrick Kelly
Sully

Technical Info

Director
Mark L. Lester
Screenplay
Steven E. de Souza *
Running Time
90 minutes
Release Date (UK)
21st February, 1986
Genre
Action, Adventure, Thriller
*story by Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman & Steven E. de Souza
Arnie had a horrible feeling he was holding the rocket launcher the wrong way around...
Arnie had a horrible feeling he was holding the rocket launcher the wrong way around... | Source

What's to like?

Arnie's action films usually combine elements of different genres together - sci-fi elements in The Terminator franchise, comedy in films like True Lies or a fantasy setting in the two Conan movies. Commando is the first outright, old-school action film that throws the audience head-first into a world where the only way to combat violence is to be more violent than the other guys. Out-dated philosophy aside, it allows Schwarzenegger full scope to look every inch the badass we know he is. I lost count of the number of different ways he dispatches the villains with a glib one-liner, many of which do raise a smile. There is a charisma to John Matrix that you might not have expected from the famously monotone Austrian.

Alongside the leading man, Wells proves a surprisingly memorable foil as the oddly camp Bennett. Chong looks the part as the female sidekick woefully out of her comfort zone and a young Milano also does well as the young damsel-in-distress. And while the plot may have all the depth of a boyband cover version, the action more that makes up for it with a stunning escape from a moving aircraft, a midnight car chase and the explosive final showdown. Commando doesn't disappoint, even giving the ultra-violent Rambo: First Blood - Part 2 a run for its money - more so when you compare Matrix to Stallone's charmless Rambo.

Fun Facts

  • Vernon Wells later admitted that before shooting, he had never even heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nevertheless, both men enjoyed working with each other and have remained good friends ever since.
  • Alyssa Milano recalls that Schwarzenegger was very protective of her on set, even helping her out with her algebra homework. After working with Schwarzenegger, Milano's friends started calling her Conan.
  • The enemy complex featured in the film's finale was actually a number of beach properties belonging to the Hearst Castle Estate, once owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who died in 1951. It saw visits from the likes of Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Roosevelt.

What's not to like?

Much like Schwarzenegger's political career, the film feels very much a product of its time with its flag-waving patriotism and muddled back-story involving dodgy politics in South America. If anything, it feels like a precursor to cheesy throwbacks like The Expendables but without the ever-bulging roster of fading action stars (ironically, like Arnie himself). It also feels somewhat disposable like a cheap novel you pick up at the airport. The short running time doesn't help but there isn't much in the film you haven't seen already and there is a strong sense of following a formula.

Although it is enjoyable, Commando doesn't do much to stay in the memory afterwards. Despite Schwarzenegger having fun and loads of quotable dialogue to remember, the film feels like a one-trick pony that blasts from one explosive sequence to the other with little to link it all together. For example, put yourself in the role of Cindy - the unfortunate flight attendant somehow caught up in the carnage. Personally I'd have got the hell out of there and informed the police but no, she hangs around in spite of the very real danger to her life and even has the gumption to try and fire a rocket launcher! In no way is this a film to take seriously, the lightness and comic touches destroy any attempt by the film to develop any real sense of tension.

Wells (left) is an oddly camp baddie opposite the mountain of meat that is Arnie (right)...
Wells (left) is an oddly camp baddie opposite the mountain of meat that is Arnie (right)... | Source

Should I watch it?

Anyone desperate for a fix of old-school Arnie-flavoured violence won't find much better than this. It may be short and light but it packs one hell of a punch, thanks to Schwarzenegger's undeniable charisma shining through the material and the film throwing in more action sequences than it needs to. Commando might lack some of the high quality production values associated with Arnie's later career but it's still worth checking out if you're in the mood.

Great For: boys nights in, spree killers, lovers of cheesy B-movies

Not So Great For: poets, female viewers, Democrats

What else should I watch?

Actually, now that I think about it, there are a couple of Arnie's early films that I prefer to this movie. It goes without saying that The Terminator is a terrific film with the role that would become forever associated with the actor but it remains a genuinely gripping thriller as poor Linda Hamilton is chased by an unstoppable killing machine from the future. The other film I prefer is Predator, an old-school action shooter like Commando but with the added bonuses of having an invisible alien hunter picking off the good guys one-by-one and Jesse Ventura armed with a mini-gun.

The reason I brought up Rambo: First Blood - Part 2 was because there is a great deal of similarity between the two. They were both released in 1985 and had their muscular leading men dealing death to America's enemies, mostly by themselves. But whereas Stallone's damaged war veteran isn't exactly a bundle of laughs, Schwarzenegger's John Matrix has both the skills and the personality to get us on side. By contrast, Rambo himself feels like a grim examination of the futility of war whereas we have fun with Matrix. Ask yourself who you'd rather go for a beer with and who you wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • CYong74 profile image

        Kuan Leong Yong 

        2 years ago from Singapore

        I think this is one of those 80s things that's just, unapologetic. It's silly, eyes-rollable, and it doesn't hide from that. That makes it fun and entertaining for casual viewing.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)