One of the videos I rented the most during the golden years of home video was Commando, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. I watched it again recently to see if it still stands up. My God, it really does! Re-watching it felt like meeting up with an old friend.
This was the golden period of Arnie’s career for me. He was fresh from The Terminator (which is in my humble opinion, one of the best sci-fi/horror movies ever made. I was so inspired by it that I wrote about the film as part of my university Film Studies dissertation) and Red Sonja (criminally underrated) and really was on top form.
Commando is brilliant in every way. Arnie’s deadpan delivery is perfect for his character Matrix especially when he is delivering some witty line regarding the dispatch of one of his enemies. Another interesting facet of his performance is that he looks like he’s scanning his surroundings just like the camera is scanning and recording him. It makes you realise that there was a lot of Arnie in his characterisation of The Terminator and that he wasn’t just some malleable piece of muscle for James Cameron to tell what to do.
I also love that his character seems to have more acute senses than others. He hears the helicopter approaching his mountainside home before his daughter or we do. He also mentions that at one point he could *smell* when an enemy was nearby. That’s awesome. Half man, half bloodhound but with a lot more muscle.
The screenplay for Commando is also amazing. There’s so much great dialogue within the film that makes you literally laugh out loud. Almost every line that leading lady Rae Dawn Chong utters is some witty putdown which she delivers brilliantly. And that’s something else I love about Commando. Chong’s character isn’t some vapid female appendage who was just cast to merely look pretty. She has plenty to say, is shown to be intelligent and gets stuck in trying to help Matrix get his daughter back. She’s also very funny. The scene with the rocket launcher is still hilarious after all these years.
It’s also nice to see the full film at last. In the ’80s the film was cut by the BBFC with most of the garden shed scene being censored. That meant that we didn’t get to see the glorious moment when Arnie throws a circular garden blade at someone’s head or when he uses a machete to cut someone’s arm off. This sequence feels like something from a slasher movie so it’s no surprise that the BBFC got its knickers in a twist. It was worth the wait.
The soundtrack rocks too. Who knew that steel drums and pan pipes would work so well with drum machines and saxophones? James Horner did. It really is one of the great soundtracks of the 80s.
Is Commando the greatest action movie of the 1980s? I actually think it might be.