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Film Review: Commando
In 1985, Mark L. Lester released Commando, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, James Olson, David Patrick Kelly, Alyssa Milano, Bill Duke, Bill Paxton and Drew Snyder. Grossing $57.5 million at the box office, it was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects and the Young Artist Award for Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress Starring in a Feature Film - Comedy or Drama. A cult classic, there was a 2008 Russian remake produced and directed by Mikhail Porechenkov as well as a sequel that eventually became Die Hard.
John Matrix is a retired Special Forces colonel whose daughter is kidnapped by a man he kicked out of the unit. To get her back, he has to kill a high ranking politician. But he has other ideas, ignores the demands and goes after all of them.
The first film Schwarzenegger did after The Terminator, Commando is quite a campy B movie. However, where it lacks in seriousness, it more than makes up for it when it comes to just how much fun the movie is to watch.
The first glimpse we see that this film doesn’t really want to take itself seriously and just have fun is in the introduction of John Matrix. He’s carrying a tree one handed without any effort and not long after this introduction, the audience is shown just where the film is taking the character as it shows that he can hear helicopters in the distance and smell a man who is stealthily approaching. As the film rolls on, he goes on to do more impossible acts, such as push a car that’s had engine parts removed and drive straight down a hill, but is still able to steer in order avoid the trees. Further, when he gets into another car to tail the only link he has to getting his daughter back, he is able to rip the seat out without any effort whatsoever.
It's not just the actions of Matrix that show how the film isn't taking itself seriously though. During the final fight, Bennett is thrown into a high voltage generator while wearing a chainmail vest. Not only does he get back into the fight unfazed, but he fights better than he did before he was electrocuted.
What's more is not only does the film portray Matrix as the only useful “good guy,” but it also makes all the police that are present in the film completely useless. They attempt to arrest him at the army surplus store, but don’t put him in handcuffs and also fail to notice the presence of Cindy. It gets even more hilariously ridiculous when Cindy pulls up alongside a paddy wagon in a convertible, with military grade weapons in plain sight, they just think she’s a prostitute. Then there’s the mall scene where all the police move in to attack Matrix while Sully was killing all of them.
The incredibly ridiculous and stupid special effects mistakes throughout the film also contribute to making it so enjoyable. For example, several of Matrix’ grenades send quite a few soldiers flying. However, the explosion is clearly a huge distance from them and small in comparison to the results seen and the soldiers are clearly seen being launched off of some platforms. Then there’s the obvious dummies standing at attention outside the island’s buildings amd since the final explosion is shown multiple times from multiple angles, with several shots duplicated, there are multiple chances to actually see all those dummies. The explosion itself is also a great example as Matrix placed claymore mines outside the building. While the explosion is supposed to be cause by them, the buildings are seen exploding from the inside.
Yet, despite all these special effects mistakes it doesn’t detract from the overall experience as stated above. Instead. it makes it more enjoyable to see just how over the top the film can make its characters while showing so many of the humorous failures made by the special effects department.The end result feels like a film that was ultimately made for drinking games and that's not entirely a bad thing.
Commando works because it just tries to have fun and doesn’t really take itself seriously at all. And for what it’s worth, it makes for a good time. It’ll get three stars and a recommendation.
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