Thursday, February 07, 2008

And somehow this became a synonym for not wearing any underwear: "Commando"

That's right ... the guilty pleasure of one Daniel P. George! I shook my head when I heard that, and I'm shaking my head now. (The 6 out of 10 group rating on doesn't help.) And yes, I'm the guy who swears by "Road House."

Most of us know the most basic story -- that is, the Governor of California kills a buttload of people. There's more? Really? OK, here goes: Arnie is John Matrix, a retired Special Forces guy whose daughter -- a prepubescent Alyssa Milano(!!!) -- is kidnapped by an exiled Latin dictator (of "Val Verde," so as not to offend a real country) who wants our hero to return him to power. Alas, Arnold has other ideas -- namely killing whoever he has to to get his daughter back. I'll give you a hint ... it's more than three people.

You know about Schwarzenegger. Let's review some of the other players:
  • Rae Dawn Chong: For some reason, she was the It Girl of '80s B-movies. You know what? Not that hot. (Not that there's any sexual tension. Gets in the way of the killin'.) Anyway, she's the token female, Cindy, who helps our hero -- reluctantly at first, before his boundless charm wins her over.
  • Dan Hedaya: You see, this is a big reason, I think, that my dad likes this movie. He's always been a Hedaya fan, and playing the villain here is one of Danny's bigger roles. Horrible, but big.
  • Vernon Wells: Was about to say I've never seen this guy anywhere else, but it turns out he was a bad guy in "Innerspace," "The Road Warrior" and "Weird Science." And "Phillip" in the Shannon Tweed movie "Sexual Response." (It was on cable late one night. I apologize for nothing.) Here he's another villain, and somewhat amusing in his obsession with Arnold.
  • David Patrick Kelly: Another consumate bad guy, and his usual entertaining self here as Sully. His demise -- oops, spoiler -- is one of the film's funnier moments. Just ask Dan.
Also, "Commando" is directed by Mark L. Lester, whose storied 30-year career ranges from "Truck Stop Women" in 1974 to "Pterodactyl" in 2005. So yeah, quite the awesome collection of talent. How can this movie miss?

Even by lame '80s action standards, "Commando" is -- and I don't use this word often -- ridiculous. Consider the opening scene where one of Arnold's former squad members is killed. First, it's by two guys masquerading a garbage men. Wow, good thing the guy strolled down the driveway as expected! Second, they use small machine guns instead of -- I don't know -- a pistol with a silencer. And they shoot him a lot. I'm sure that didn't draw any attention on the cul-de-sac.

It just gets better from there, all the way to the final scene, where Alyssa and Rae Dawn embrace on a beach despite having never met before in their lives, plus the overall trauma this young girl has suffered at the hand of her kidnappers. Makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, one scene didn't make it into the movie, according to IMDB. It turns out that after Arnold cuts a soldier's arm off, he originally was supposed to hit the guy with it and say "Need a hand?" "This scene was edited out as being too macabre," IMDB states. Or f*cking hilarious! You decide.

Of course, nobody watches this movie expecting Scorsese and De Niro. And hey, there's plenty of good killing -- individual victims in the first half, a slaughter in the compound in the second. But really, this movie is best watched in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, since it's actually painful to withhold observations and commentary on these solemn proceedings.

We close with what are, for now, my three favorite exchanges in "Commando." I say for now because clearly I have to watch this again. There were so many subtleties and nuances, i.e. was that an automatic machine gun or semi-automatic that Arnold used to kill victim No. 5? Until then ...

3. Cindy: Can you tell me what this is all about?
Matrix: Yeah, a guy I trusted for years wants me dead.
Cindy: That’s understandable. I've only known you for five minutes and I want you dead, too.

2. Gen. Kirby: Leave anything for us?
Matrix: Just bodies.

1. Matrix: You're a funny man, Sully. I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last.


At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still kicking myself for not throwing down on this when I saw it in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Rae Dawn Chong not hot? C'mon! I love Rae Dawn Chong. And, yes, Dan Hedaya, too -- albeit in substantially different ways. And did David Patrick Kelly have that little man syndrome bit down, or what?

But seriously ... OK, OK, no comment on "Commando" should ever begin with the words "But seriously" but, yes, I do like this movie.

Arnold destroying a mall. Arnold firing a rocket launcher during a high-speed chase. Arnold righting an overturned car. Arnold dropping bon mots that David Mamet could only dream of writing. What's not to like?

Anybody need anything from Wal-Mart?

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Jefferson said...

This from the guy with a thing for Amanda Plummer.

If you really want to laugh -- "No, no thank you very much" -- go to the main IMDB page for this masterpiece ( and check out the latest message board, which starts something like "Somebody wants me dead!" It's pretty good.

Me, I'll take "Predator." Even with an alien, it was infinitely more believable.

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, did I say that Amanda Plummer stuff out loud?

Yeah, that is some message board. I especially liked the thread titled "Not very realistic."

Almost as much as the one called "Director's Cut." Ooooohhh.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Jeff on choosing Predator over Commando. The one liners come from everyone ("The Body's being the best)and not just a couple of people. But at least Commando rounds out the complete guy movie quailification: language, blood and nudity. I have a friend that uses this guide for viewing movies. And yes, Rae Dawn Chong was hot, especially in that caveman movie with Ron Pearlman.


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