Commando (1985) (part 1 of 6)

The Cast of Characters:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as John MatrixJohn Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Our mountainous hero who also has a softer (or mildly retarded, depending on how you look at it) side, when he’s not mowing down bad guys by the dozens, stealing cars, or spouting off smartass quips.
Vernon Wells as BennettBennett (Vernon Wells). Possibly the least intimidating opponent Arnold has ever faced, and that’s including Sinbad. Comes off like one of the Village People gone bad. I mean, seriously… Chain mail? Jesus.
Rae Dawn Chong as CindyCindy (Rae Dawn Chong). Female lead, conveniently budding pilot, and comic relief who decides to tag along with Matrix after he rips out the passenger seat of her car. Yeah, that would pretty much convince me to stick around, too.
Alyssa Milano as JennyJenny (Alyssa Milano). Matrix’s daughter, who gets kidnapped, thus setting the plot into motion. Not much else to say really, except that she evidently watches a lot of MacGyver.
Dan Hedaya as General AriusGeneral Arius (Dan Hedaya). Deposed dictator who wants his job back so badly that he’s willing to piss off Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now that’s what I call serious dedication to one’s career goals!
David Patrick Kelly as SullySully (David Patrick Kelly). Slimy weasel of a henchman who snivels like a coward when cornered. So, basically every character David Patrick Kelly has ever played.
Bill Duke as CookeCooke (Bill Duke). Ex-Green Beret henchman who looks good in a suit. Has the misfortune of meeting a guy who “eats Green Berets for breakfast”.

This gem, straight from Joel Silver, is the most gleefully overblown ‘80s action film ever. It’s essentially a live action comic book, and is in many ways the quintessential Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. It’s a lean ninety minutes of Arnold being Arnold: Big, muscular, smart-assed, and violent.

Released five months after Rambo: First Blood Part II cleaned up at the box office, Commando is a huge, bright (“bright” as in well-lit, not smart), hilarious slaughterfest that packs as much bang for the buck as possible inside of an hour and a half. Just for the sake of clarity, I’m recapping the director’s cut from the special edition DVD; differences will be noted. Yes, just like Road House, this movie earned the deluxe treatment, with a commentary track, some featurettes, and a nice new transfer.

A word of warning before we start: This is maybe the most over-the-top macho action flick you’re likely to encounter in your lifetime. Side effects may include:

  • Sweating
  • Getting a subscription to Guns & Ammo
  • The desire to eat red meat
  • The desire to eat raw red meat
  • The desire to acquire that raw red meat by killing an animal with your bare hands
  • And last but not least, possible loss of equilibrium due to laughing too hard.

I give it 10 out of 10 Austrian oaks. Let’s check it out.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Commando (1985)

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