Judge David Johnson has decided to legally change his last name to Johnson-John-Matrix.
"Let off some steam, Bennett."
In the beginning there was Commando. And the God of '80s Action Excess looked upon it and it was good. And lo did Arnold Schwarzenegger kill many South American mercenaries and cut off their heads with saw blades and forcibly amputate their arms at the elbow with a hatchet and Alyssa Milano did rejoice. Amen.
Facts of the Case
Schwarzenegger is Colonel John Matrix (awesome hero name, The First Law of Early '80s Action Movies; see "Cobretti, Marion," "Hawk, Lincoln," "Cabot, Jonathan"), former special ops soldier, now retired and living on a mountain in a secluded cabin with his loving daughter and deer that like being hand-fed. Matrix thought his old life of violence and gunfire and post-mortem one-liner cracking was behind him, but a former dictator is unwilling to let the man rest in peace.
Arius (Dan Hedaya) is said dictator and along with Bennett (Vernon Wells), a psychotic soldier from Matrix's old platoon, he enacts a daring plan to regain power in the third-world hellhole he was ousted from. Arius and his cronies assault the Matrix homestead, capture John's daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) and force the Colonel to do their bidding.
But there's one thing these guys weren't counting on: nobody f—--—with John Matrix. Here's another thing: dudes that can't eliminate entire guerilla armies single-handedly and swing from mall decorations don't have names like John Matrix. I got one more for you: John Matrix can you shoot you in the head and quip about it as your vision turns black at the same time he shoots the guy standing next to you in the head.
After a couple Conans and a Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger got to totally tear it up and usher in the type of bruising, explosive, pectoral-ridden macho exercises in Reagan-era death and destruction that we've come to associate with the Governator. Commando is an action film that is more about "action" and less about "film." There is virtually no downtime in this flick, an experience that surges forward from improbable set-piece to improbable set-piece, pausing only for the occasional Arnold one-liner and shots of Alyssa Milano sneering at her captors.
Here's a breakdown of the major action offerings that can be found in this exquisite fireball of a motion picture (beware of spoilers if you have never seen Commando before, but then again, if you've never seen Commando I don't want you reading my reviews anyway; seriously, leave now and never come back):
The Mountain-Top Siege
The Airplane Escape
Chaos at the Mall
Motel Room Smackdown
The Final Bad Guy Fight
If that's not enough Grade-A sirloin to convince you that you need to watch Commando and show it to everyone you see and that includes members of the clergy and psychologically unstable homeless men, then, friend, there's nothing else I can do for you. This film shines as bright as Arnold's lubed-up deltoids in the action canon, and features more over-the-top, ceaseless, bloody violence per capita than anything short of a National Geographic special devoted to lion-perpetrated antelope slayings.
This new DVD release features both the director's cut and the theatrical cut, though the difference between the two is negligible (that is, three added scenes to former). The video transfer isn't mind-blowing, but it's sufficient; the picture quality has an aged feel with soft colors and detailing, but it fits with the nostalgia of the film, so I don't have a big problem with it. Sound on the other hand is as aggressive as you'd want. Gunplay, explosions, donkey kicks to the genitals, they all resonate well in the 5.1 surround mix. The real beneficiary is the funky-fresh soundtrack, an insane amalgam of Calypso music and Miami Vice-like saxophone.
Extras include a commentary track with Lester, deleted scenes (highlighted by the alternate versions of John Matrix's one-liner following the death of Bennett), still galleries and two featurettes—"Pure Action" and "Let off Some Steam." These last two bring cast and crew members back together to reminisce and it's a lot of self-deprecating fun.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Does "I wish John Matrix was my uncle" count?
Commando is about as awesome as campy, overly-violent action films from the days of yore come. The new DVD treatment from Fox is a welcome repackaging of a film that deserves prominence in any action-lover's display unit.
If I actually have to tell you, then may John Matrix strike me down from heaven where I stand.
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Scales of Justice
• Director's Commentary
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