Schwarzenegger goes Commando
There are many movies which epitomise the 80s and when it comes to the action genre Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando" is one of the best. It has a storyline but one which is ultimately pointless, it has dialogue mainly of the corny variety, it has characters that border on caricatures and it mainly consists of scenes which feature a combination of bulging biceps, gunfire and bloody deaths. But despite sounding like a movie devoid of anything other than Schwarzenegger and his Mr Universe body "Commando" is exactly what 80's action movies were all about and as such is in a strange way a little good and entertaining.
After learning that his former team of crack operatives have been picked off one by one, John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator) is thrown back into action when his daughter is kidnapped and he is forced to undertake another job by the kidnappers for her safe return. But his daughter is more important to him than anything and having escaped the clutches of the bad guys, including one of his former operatives Bennett (Vernon Wells - Weird Science), John goes on the rampage with just 11 hours to rescue her from the clutches of baddie Arius (Dan Hedaya - A Civil Action).
To try and find any depth to the "Commando" storyline would be as futile as trying to beat Arnie in an arm wrestle as there is none. Plain and simply it's about a guy going on the rampage on a rescue mission. There are no hidden messages or clever twists or anything which causes you to concentrate on what is happening. But that is not a negative as this is what many 80s action movies were like, they were skimpy on storyline and heavy on action, action and more action.
As such "Commando" does have a lot of action and there are very few scenes which don't feature chases, explosions and so on. Even the intro to John Matrix features enough scenes of Schwarzenegger carrying tree trunks to emphasise his amazing strength and physique. Many of the action scenes end up being quite blood thirsty such as when Matrix uses a saw blade as a weapon throwing it Frisbee like to take off the top of a bad guys head. But then there are others which are a little comical usually thanks to the corny dialogue which Schwarzenegger gets to spout such as when he is dangling bad guy Sully over the cliff's edge. Which of course leads to the various comical continuity errors such as having disposed with Sully, Matrix drives off in the pristine yellow Porsche which only seconds later had been banged up after being crashed.
I would like to say that when it comes to the action "Commando" builds up to a crescendo saving the biggest and best to last. But in a strange way despite having that big action ending, and you would expect nothing less, it doesn't seem any bigger than what has gone before, just more concentrated, with more going on in a shorter pace of time. It certainly is bloody, even by today's standards but again with that corny dialogue it almost feels diluted.
As for performances well Schwarzenegger does little more than being the action hero who we can champion whilst spouting dialogue as if he's reading it from the cue cards. There is no emotion or anger but yet Schwarzenegger's performance is strangely entertaining because no one delivers corny dialogue and big muscles in such a daft but enjoyable way, especially back in the mid 80s. Alongside Schwarzenegger is Rae Dawn Chong as the obligatory female who gets caught up in the rescue mission and to be frank Chong although adds a touch of beauty in a strong male cast does not do much else. Plus there is Australian actor Vernon Wells as camp bad guy Bennett who thanks to a last minute casting change found himself wearing outfits, which include a chainmail vest, that were far too tight making it an even more preposterous character.
In a strange way the nicest performance and it doesn't take much to stand out in this sort of film comes from Alyssa Milano as John's daughter Jenny. Maybe it was that as a child her performance was easier or maybe that watching "Commando" now I suddenly remembered her going on to feature in the sitcom "Who's the Boss?" but which ever she is entertaining in those opening scenes.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Commando" is predictable, corny and devoid of anything close to being an intelligent storyline it is exactly what the action genre was all about during the mid 80s. With a whole plethora of action scenes some more violent and bloody than others as well as meaningless and corny dialogue which makes many scenes a little humorous it is still as entertaining now as when it was first released.