No, Commando isn’t as good as Terminator, Predator, or Total Recall, but it’s better than just about any Schwarzenegger vehicle which came out after True Lies. It’s better than his comedies, too, but I’m biased because I’m not a huge fan of Twins or Kindergarten Cop. (I appreciate the effort, but I get it already: he’s playing against his masculine image… is that really funny enough to carry multiple movies?)
All you really need to know about Arnie’s role in Commando is he’s a special forces type whose daughter (Alyssa Milano) has been kidnapped by Dan Hedaya, who plays a pretty good bad guy. In fact, most of the bad guys in this movie are pretty good bad guys. You won’t believe any of them are appropriate matches for fist fights with Schwarzenegger, but that’s beside the point. The point is Schwarzenegger’s going to kill them all and that’s enough for me.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the original cut of Commando I’m not entirely sure what the uncensored cut reinstates. If I had to guess, it’s probably the brutal scene in which a handful of henchmen trap Schwarzenegger in a garden shed and he comes out hacking and slashing with circular saw blades and a sling blade. It’s a flurry of insanity and Savini-level gore effects which seem to be taken straight out of a Friday the 13th movie. Brief as it is, I doubt I’m going to see anything as awesome from any movie which comes out in 2017.
No, I’m not here to lament about how awesome movies were in the 80s because, overall, they really weren’t. Commando, like so many of the other movies I feature here, is an exception to the rule. I’m perfectly happy that we still get great exceptions like Ex Machina, Arrival, and The Witch—three movies I think we’ll also remember in thirty years. Every decade has exceptions in the overwhelming pool of shit and I happen to think this decade is the best for exceptions in a long time.
Having said that, you just can’t dispute the fact Commando contains an absurd amount of entertainment value, which makes me all the more likely to watch it again instead of the movies I mentioned above. And I’m not even ignoring the fact that Commando is a dumb movie… really dumb. In one scene, Schwarzenegger is tackled by a dozen security guards who he casts off of him with Superman-strength. He rips seats out of cars, carries trees on his shoulder, and easily rights flipped sport cars. Bad guys who clearly have the tactical advantage conveniently can’t shoot worth a shit, even when they get the drop on him, and when one bad guy finally manages to clip him, it’s only a flesh wound. Then you’ve got Rae Dawn Chong’s character, who has absolutely zero motivation and proves completely pointless until she has to fly a plane, but she’s actually pretty great at doing nothing.
It’s easy to look past the movie’s faults because it’s is an unstoppable machine with one function and it performs that function very well: dazzling its audience with great explosions and decent stunts. Legendary producers like Joel Silver hadn’t yet figured out Schwarzenegger could carry smarter roles (perhaps he couldn’t yet), but he was getting better with almost every movie he made and it’s always fun to see him at the various points of his career.
I’ll be first in line for John Wick 2, but that’s just a throwback. Commando is the real deal.