Do we need to talk about Commando? There seems to be an issue with this Arnold Schwarzenegger action thriller; a big hit back when I was at school, it was one of the first X or 18 certificate films I ever saw, and watching it again, it’s pretty good. Predator gave birth to a unending series of sequels and reboots, franchise, Terminator did the same, Conan The Barbarian and Total Recall have been rebooted, so why should Commando be a derelict property since, from this distance, it looks like prime real estate?
Finding roles of a larger-than –life star back in the 80’s cannot have been easy; the original script for Commando was about a peace-loving Israeli, but Mark L Lester’s film is all about war, and war is just fantastic. Cars, boats and even people explode while John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) seeks out those who have kidnapped his daughter, namely Dan Hedeya and his side-kick Bennett (Vernon Wells). In his muscle vest and chains, Bennett cuts an incongruous figure here; to steal a line, ‘the gayest man on earth might think he was over the top.’ There’s no real surprises as to how Matrix’s mission goes, but there’s are high-points. A visit to LA’s Galleria shopping mall leads to an impressive stunt where the star swings from one side of the other before dropping down onto a moving elevator. Elsewhere, Matrix hangs onto the undercarriage of a plane as it takes off, before dropping down into presumably very soft marshland.
What’s notable here apart from the slick action is the comedy, which later replaced the toughness in the star’s vehicles. “I thought you said I’d be last to die,’ complains a henchman, dangled over a canyon by our hero. ‘I lied’ replies Matrix, before dropping his enemy to a certain death. ‘What happened?’ asks Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) as Matrix returns to their car ‘I let him go,’ replies Matrix. This is something of a double-whammy when it comes to one-liners, tailored to the star’s lack of expressiveness, one following neatly on from another as Arnie methodically makes his way through the cast-list in typically violent style.
Oddly, the best moment in Commando involves Cindy using a rocket-launcher; being a woman, she’s not au fait with the tech, and accidentally explodes a vehicle behind her when she fires it. She gets the trick right later in the film, when it counts, and no spoilers are required to say that Matrix rescues his daughter and kills the baddies in short order. Even in 2020, Commando has obvious sequel/franchise potential; it’s a known, loved IP and the star would be great as an older, wiser Matrix, possibly helping his daughter escape his shadow. With Terminator and Rambo franchises running dry, surely Commando 2020 would be worth a shot?