In late October three blogger, Donnie Sturges, Mike Crossey and Ken Savage decided to watch Commando and attempt to write a shared blog on the movie. Over many weeks and through some serious personal crap for all three parties they discusses the film in more detail than any sane man should. However they had a blast doing it and the result is the blog you are about to read….
We hope you enjoy it.
Ken: Well let me start off with a bold statement, Commando is the best Action
Movie ever made. But before everyone lynches me let me clarify; I think
there is more than one type of Action Movie, smart (e.g Die Hard) Sci
Fi (Terminator) and balls to the wall action (Commando). So if we sub
categorize Action Movies in that way Commando is the best of it’s bunch,
I also just want to throw out there my own personal theory: Bennett is in love with Matrix and attempting to kill him is the only way he can show his love in the macho world he lives in.
Mike: I can never remember whether I genuinely like Commando or if I just
enjoy it in that goofy nostalgic way you watch The Goonies or Flight of
the Navigator. Watching it recently I realized I haven’t seriously sat
down and watched it in years (at least not sober).Giving it it’s own sub
genre is the only way to view it objectively, and, oh yes, it’s
absolutely the best. In fact, Commando is the shining example of what a
perfect(ly daft) Action Movie should be.
Don: Ok my intital thoughts:
This may not have set the bar for pure, unadulterated action films, but it certainly became the gold standard.
It’s a shame that films like this used to get a theatrical release, but any more are only fit for direct-to-video releases.
saw the homo erotic subtext between Bennett and Matrix, especially when
Bennett man-crushes on him to the president-to-never-be. Also agree on
the show of love through machismo. Hell, Chong’s character pretty much
runs a constant commentary on this very thing throughout the film.
crap, you weren’t kidding about the body count, Ken. I lost count
after around 23. Dear Lord… but some of those kills were friggin’
awesome. Puts most slasher flicks to shame.
David Patrick Kelly plays creeps way too well.
Whatever happened to Rae Dawn Chong?
love that 11 minutes into the film, and you already have everything you
need to know to carry you through the rest of the flick. After that,
just sit back and enjoy Arnold tear shit up trying to get to his
The one-liners in this film are the stuff of legend. Cheesy, but funny – I still laughed at every single quip.
Ken: Great thoughts Don. A random fact worth mentioning is that the fictional
country in this film is the same one mentioned in Die Hard. (Thank you
Vern and your kick ass book for that info.)
Don: Thanks, Ken! Another random fact I forgot to mention – the house matrix
shoots up at the end of the film is the same house Axel Foley shoots up
at the end of Beverly Hills Cop.
Ken: Going back to the kills, all the best ones are when Matrix is trapped in the tool shed.
Don: Oh absolutely! Of course, the way the film’s formulaic plot plays out,
it’s pretty much expected for the kills to go over the top and overly
enjoyable by that point in the film. You’re in the last act of the
flick, so the final swath to the sub-boss, then the final boss has to be
Mike: When John attacks the villa that is the quintessential action movie
scene, endless goons firing directly at our hero and missing every-time.
Also it has that beautiful 80’s grenade logic. If a grenade explodes
behind you you aren’t thrown forward, you are launched vertically into
Ken: Donnie you mentioned a formulaic plot but i think that works in this
film’s favor. if you tried to give it to much of a plot not only would
it slow the film down but it would also ruin it.
Don: Oh, I wasn’t referring to the formulaic plot in a negative sense, by any
means. I totally agree that it works in the film’s favor.
Mike: I think Commando’s plot is actually quite impressive in it’s simplicity.
Specifically, Matrix having to find his daughter before the plan lands.
From the moment he sets his watch to eleven hours the film because one
long action sequence.
Don: Good point, Mike! I think that’s one of the key elements that makes the film work so well.
Ken: Agreed, the countdown pretty much does away with the need for any
additional plot points. Matrix has a timescale to keep to and that
pretty much justifies his every action from there on.
Mike: It’s also a very lean film. I think just shy of 90 minutes. It does what
it does and then leaves you wanting more. These days you’ll be hard
pushed to find a film of that length, leading to some very bloated
films. Commando assaults your senses and the ends. Job done.
Don: One of the elements I definitely want to get into here is how Arnold is
pretty much depicted as superhuman, but not in such a way that you’re
slapped in the face with that fact. The film makers don’t make it a
point to spell it out for you, but as you watch the film you notice that
Matrix continues to take and mete out punishment like no man ever
could. From his drop from the plane at the beginning to his ability to
push over the Porsche by himself to his ability to be a one-man army
against a couple hundred soldiers, Arnold’s übermensch quality is
definitely a reflection of America’s mentality in the eighties during
the Reagan era. The US felt that it was invincible at that time, and a
lot of films (action, especially) reflected that. Again, I think
Commando was the film that took the ideas and tropes that were used in a
lot of other action flicks that came out up to that point, streamlined
them, and delivered those ideas in the purest, most simple way possible.
I certainly think that Commando was the pinnacle of this as well,
because by the late eighties our action heroes started to become a
little more flawed and easier to damage – Bruce Willis in Die Hard being
a prime example. Even Arnold himself would find he wasn’t as
invincible as we thought he was when Predator came around a couple of
Ken: Agreed, just like He-Man is the cartoon epitome of 80’s America Commando is the film version.
Don: Ken – my esteemed admiration and applause for finding a way to bring He-Man into this conversation. =)
Ken: There is always room for He-Man
Mike: I confess myself disappointed it took us so long to mention He Man
Great stuff Donnie. Everything you need to know about Matrix is in that
opening shot of him. It’s a shot of the chainsaw, a shot of his bicep, a
shot of the monstrous log he is carrying and then his face. I don’t
think he’s ever been bigger.
You call him superhuman and that’s
exactly what he is. The film is obviously in a heightened reality to
start with but Matrix’s strength (and the fact that bullets are
seemingly terrified of him) takes it to a whole new level. My favorite
moment of the film is in the mall when he can’t get Sully out of the
phonebooth. After banging the glass he hoists both phonebooth and Sully
over his head and throws it to the ground. It’s a moment of such over
the top machismo that it borders on genius. Ken, you split the action
genre into categories and you can do the same for Schwarzeneggar. He has
his absolutely iconic roles like The Terminator and Predator, his later
roles where he began to deconstruct himself and somewhere in the middle
you have Commando and the like. Commando stands as the best of those
and John Matrix is absolutely one of his best performances.
Ken: A argument could be made for the fact that they (He-Man and Matrix) are basically the same character, Superhuman men with camp villains, but I think thats for another time.
Mike: Also we need to mention the opening montage of Matrix and his daughter
feeding the deer which had me absolutely howling with laughter.
Ken: That scene is cinematic gold, it tells you he is a man of peace and has put war behind him. Plus it also shows you all you need to domesticate a dear is a small child and the ability to carry heavy logs.
Don: I actually love the opening montage. Like I mentioned earlier, it does a
great job of getting you up to speed as quickly as possible so you can
just watch the vengeance unfold for the rest of the film. As I was
watching it, I was grinning from ear to ear at the somewhat forced
expositional scenes showing that Arnold is now a peaceful man with a
daughter out in the middle of the forest, nurturing his love for Bambi
and tolerant of strange sandwiches made by Tony Danza’s joint-offspring.
Ken: if this movie was made today there would be a 10 minute flashback
detailing why he left the Army, complete with said music and guilt
tinged voiceover. Which we clearly don’t need. We know why he left, to raise his daughter and ask why don’t the call him Girl Geroge.
Ken: So how about some closing statements?
Overall I feel Commando has
more than earned it’s place at the top of the action chain. Not only is
it one of the most quotable movies ever made, not a second of this
movie is slow or wasted space. Hand on heart I can honestly say this
film is as close to perfect as they come.
Don: I have to agree with you Ken. First I have to admit that originally,
Commando just kind of fit in the back of my mind with all of the other
straight-up, pure action flicks that came out right around the same
time. It didn’t really stand out amongst the rest of the Van Dammes,
Seagals, or other flicks that would become regular cable-fodder for
Showtime, HBO, or Cinemax back in the eighties. In fact, being that
Predator is probably my favorite Arnie action flick outside of anything
involving a neural-net processor, it’s easy for Commando to fade into
the shadows once you throw it up against its mandabled successor. But,
after giving it another watch for this tag-team, I found that Commando
really is a gem of its own, delivering in ninety minutes exactly what it
promises – Arnold mowing down baddie after baddie in a gruesome display
of aggressive heroism. Just like Bennett, I grossly underestimated the
sheer power of Schwarzenegger in this flick. Luckily, I was able to
enjoy letting off some steam during my latest viewing without taking a
pipe through the mid-section.
Mike: Donnie, your last line is genius.
Ken, it’s interesting you mention a hypothetical remake. It’s amazing
the film has survived this long without a sequel/reboot rearing it’s
head, (although because I’m a loser, I sometimes pretend Predator is a
prequel to Commando). The film is the definition of cult classic with a
huge fanbase and I’m amazed Bruckheimer hasn’t tried to put his hand in
the pot. You can just imagine Michael Bay’s Commando can’t you? But
this is a time capsule to a genre of film that just doesn’t exist
anymore and never will again. Stallone proved that, even with the most
noble of intentions, if you try to kickstart the 80’s action thing all
you can hope to get is a throwback. Donnie you echoed what I was
thinking as I watched it. I used to write off the film as just an
exercises in excess. But it’s far better than that. At the end of the
day it’s all about intent. There are certain films that, regardless of
what you think of them, succeed entirely at what they set out to do.
Commando is the poster child of that kind of film and in all seriousness
it’s quite hard to fault it without getting very, very cynical. It’s a
perfect Schwazenegger vehicle, a perfect example of that 80’s action
scene and, ah to hell with it I’m saying it, it’s a perfect film.
So there you have it. Three 80’s junkies thoughts on what may be the best action moive of all time. I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers Mike and Don for joining me on this. It’s been a pleasure working with you gents and I hope to do it again someday.
It’s worth noting that this is edited version of our thoughts. The Facebook thread we used to discuss it was massive and also included all our personal woes, which was why this thing felt so much more epic (to us) than it actually is.
Anyway enough of that, we just hope you didn’t think it sucked.