On paper Commando is the poster child for bad B-movies. It features a simplistic plot about an ex-commando whose daughter has been kidnapped. He has to kill some president of a made up Hispanic country to get her back, but instead goes on a rampage to save her. The movie is shot on a low budget and stars a foreign guy with a difficult last name, thick accent, whose qualities are purely physical and is mostly known for playing a robot and a barbarian. The star is Arnold Schwarzenegger; one of the few athletic men who successfully traded in his sport to become an A-list movie star. Where so many have tried, he actually succeeds and Commando is one of those movies that played an important part in his career. It’s the follow up movie to his breakthrough in The Terminator and benefits from having a script that isn’t just a simple action movie, but also functions as a spoof of all those (straight to video) B action movies starring the likes of Chuck Norris, Billy Blanks and Michael Dudikoff.
Commando portrays Schwarzenegger’s Col. Matrix as an almost God-like being. The first shots of him are close-ups of his sweaty biceps. The first total shot we get is him holding a chainsaw in one hand and an enormous ten feat log he just cut resting on his shoulder as if it’s nothing. Later on he will tear down an entire phone booth with an adult male in it from a wall and toss it around, he will tear a seat out of a car with his bare hands, jump from a plane landing in a swamp without a scratch and is seemingly unable to get shot by nameless bad guys. He’s is also able to smell enemies when the air current is just right.
But before he demonstrates how much of a bad ass he is he will show us his soft side in an opening montage which has him petting a deer with his daughter Jenny and getting ice cream shoved into his face by her.
At this point you might be wondering how this could be any good. But then again Commando isn’t really a good movie, it’s a fun movie. Why? Because it’s so over the top, never takes itself seriously and has a script full of great one-liners which are even better when they come from Arnold’s mouth. Everybody who has seen Commando can quote it. This is also the movie that brought back the line that might Arnold famous in the first place: I’ll be back. Commando made it a recurring trademark which from this moment on was featured in almost every movie he made after this.
Commando is also known for its many homo-erotic undertones. It features a segment in which Arnold is wearing just a speedo while rowing a boat, the main bad guy Bennet is dressed up in the weirdest outfit for a mercenary ever including black leather pants and men are exchanging weird dialogue full of sexual innuendo’s like:
Cooke: You scared, motherfucker? Well, you should be, because this Green Beret is going to kick your big ass!
John Matrix: I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry!
Or how about this classic when Arnold sneaks up on an old army commander from behind:
Major General Franklin Kirby: Silent and smooth just like always
John Matrix: I better be, you taught me.
It basically provides a drinking game for all those out there: Take a shot every time you point out something homo-erotic.
Even the female “love interest” Rae Dawn Chong doesn’t take away the undertones one bit. She’s more of a sidekick than a love interest. It’s actually logical considering the movie takes place over the course of just 11 hours and Arnold’s main concern is his daughter, but still most movies would have a couple like this make out during the end credits. Commando doesn’t.
Commando delivers what all those other action also promise: a testosterone fueled 90 minute full of explosions and fight. Commando takes it a step further and goes so over the top it lingers in spoof territory. This gives the movie that extra layer which elevates it from mediocrity and makes it fun to watch every time you decide to revisit it. There’s never a dull moment in Commando: there’s always some action scene or comic interlude going on, and at many times a mash-up of both.