Commando (1985)

commando IMDb

This is our first proper Arnie movie. I know we’ve already reviewed Batman & Robin, but that should never be counted among the Schwarzenegger classics. It is very easy to write these films off as cliché and generic action flicks, but you need to remember that these weren’t generic when they were first released. Arnie almost singlehandedly created the action movie genre, so when you watch his older movies, you need to remember that this is what everybody is now copying. He was the first huge action star, he was where the bar was in terms of action and it was high. I will admit this is not Arnold’s best movie, but there is enough good action and classic Arnold one liners here to be entertaining.

The film follows John Matrix (Schwarzenegger). He used to be the commander of a group of elite black ops commandos and is now retired, living with his daughter, Jenny (a very young Alyssa Milano). When members of his old team start getting killed, his old General (James Olson) sends some soldiers over to guard him. They do not arrive in time to stop the bad guys from kidnapping Jenny and taking Matrix hostage. They want him to start a revolution in by assassinating a political figure in Val Verde, the home country of head bad guy, Arius (Dan Hedaya). They put him on a plane where people will meet him in South America when he lands. Matrix is able to get off the plane before it takes off and is working against the clock to find his daughter before his plane lands and the bad guys become aware he is not on the plane. Along the way, Matrix teams up with a lady flight attendant (Rae Dawn Chong), who proves quite useful in Matrix’s adventure. I always have the film’s IMDb page on hand when we are watching films and I was interested to see that Rae Dawn Chong is the daughter of Cheech & Chong’s Tommy Chong. I found that really funny for some reason.

This is fun action. It’s completely implausible, but who cares. There are so many plot holes in this film which make no sense, but the audience is able to ignore these and enjoy Arnie in his prime. Schwarzenegger has made several better films, but this is still a lot of fun and an average addition to Arnold’s filmography is still worth checking out.

Rating: B-

Commando doesn’t waste anytime getting into the action. But then, when your movie is only 90 minutes long you really have no choice but to jump right in with the gun fire and explosions.

This movie reminds me a bit of Bloodsport— they’re both cult classics that I don’t completely get. Which is fine, I don’t have to enjoy every action movie I see. Surprisingly though, there were a couple things in Commando that I genuinely liked. For one, Arnold Schwarzenegger is great, but that’s not really surprising. I’ve actually come to like many of his movies, in part because I recently read his memoir. Say what you will about his personal life or politics, but the guy is incredibly charismatic, and this always comes across on screen (and in the pages of his book). He’s all action here, but there are a few hints of humor that foreshadow his success in the comedy genre.

Arnie’s reluctant partner is an off duty flight attendant played by Rae Dawn Chong. I won’t lie, I found this character very annoying at first. She’s your typical screaming, worrisome, do-little token lady. Except that she’s not so typical, because she’s an ethnic mix of Chinese, Scotch-Irish, French, Afro-Canadian, and Cherokee (FYI- her dad is Tommy Chong, of Cheech & Chong fame). In any other action film this character would have been your stock blonde. In a way, it’s refreshing that Chong was cast in this role. Yes, she’s still playing a stereotype, but at least the casting in this case was color blind. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.

Also, a really young Alyssa Milano co-stars as Schwarzenegger’s kidnapped daughter. She’s adorable, even if it’s never explained why she has no trace of an Austrian accent despite her father’s heritage. But, whatever. She’s cute and kicks a little butt.

Rating: C+

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