By Marc S. Sanders
Colonel John Matrix (HUGE ACTION STAR NAME WITH MUSCLE AND BULK AND SWEAT AND…AND…MUSCLE, because this is Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives a quiet life in the beautiful nature the mountains have to offer him, along with his 11-year-old daughter Jenny Matrix (Alyssa Milano). SIDE BAR: Imagine roll call at elementary school and that name comes up, Matrix, Jennifer Matrix. OKAY! BACK ON POINT: Father and daughter tickle one another, mash ice cream in each other’s faces and feed gentle deer from the palm of their hands. By and large, Commando is a beautiful after school special.
However, this is also a cheerfully bloody and fiery explosive R rated after school special adventure. Jenny is kidnapped and used as ransom to coax John, better known as Matrix, (cuz it’s cooler that way), into assassinating a foreign political leader. Though that’s not how this film is gonna go.
Matrix makes an escape from his watchful guard who ends up “dead tired,” by jumping out of a commercial airliner. He determines that he has eleven hours to find Jenny and blow everyone up real good. He gets help from an airline stewardess, a hilarious Rae Dawn Chong that pioneered what Sandra Bullock memorably did later in Speed. She conveniently has been taking flying lessons that will get Matrix to the private island where Jenny is being held. Thank goodness for that, or Jenny might never see daddy again. Everything happens for a reason.
Look, the chances this film would ever be Oscar nominated against the 1985 Best Picture winner, Out Of Africa, were slim for sure. However, all these years later and I’m still not exhausted of repeatedly watching Commando. It’s a comfortable crowd pleaser. The film is action packed to the teeth with bad guys getting impaled, razor saw disks being used as frisbees to take off a scalp or two, arms getting chopped off and big bunker houses being blown up into huge balls of fire. Thankfully, lots of blood gets to splurt all over the place.
This is an action film for the eyes and ears. For me, it’s better than any of the unfunny Rambo films with their minimal dialogue. In Commando, you get some fun at a shopping mall with elevators rolling across the floors and swings from balloon streamers. Matrix even pushes 10 security guards off him all at once. There are car chases. In a neighboring hotel room, he takes on another muscle head while a naked couple is going at it in the room next door. Commando is just too damn funny, for sure.
Schwarzenegger is a master of the one liner. He drops a bad guy off a cliff and tells his new stewardess friend “I let him go.” Well, he ain’t lying. Rae Dawn Chong is equally funny in her own way. I’d argue the script called for a nothing woman role and she brought something special to the picture. Her incessant complaints and screams at this ridiculous circumstance she gets caught up in are laugh out loud hilarious. Commando is not just action alone. The characters respond to the hyped-up scenarios.
No, the villains are nothing special. A potbellied cheesy porno lookalike Australian, named Bennett (Vernon Wells), with a chain mail tank top and tight leather pants is a former squad member of Matrix’ team from when they were military mercenaries. Bennett is no James Bond villain by any measure, but he’s pleasurably laughable, even if it is all unintentional.
This is a guy’s movie for the most part. It’s brawny and muscled out. It’s got machine guns, shotguns, handguns, and even more guns along with some grenades, detonators, knives and a rocket launcher that seems to become a character all its own. However, I think there’s an opportunity for chick flick adoring women to have a good time with Commando too, when I once again hearken back to Rae Dawn Chong. She is probably Schwarzenegger’s best female counterpart in any of his films. Yes! Above Linda Hamilton and Jamie Lee Curtis. The chemistry just works so well here.
There’s so much to like about Commando and I believe it remains as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s satisfyingly best films to date.