COMMANDO (1985): A disappointingly bad film
Let me set the context, I think Schwarzenegger is great. And he has been in some of the best Sci Fi films in Sci Fi film history. I’m sure you have heard of the Terminator, Terminator 2 and Total Recall (the latter of which was based on Philip K Dick source material called “We can remember it for you wholesale"). But he was also in Batman and Robin as Mr. Freeze so you can’t win them all.
I was supposed to like this film. Or let’s say someone else said I was supposed to like this film. It’s listed on a filmsite I enjoy under Greatest Guy Movies of All Time. Calling anything GOAT outside of Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali always makes me suspicious, but I figured I’d try the list anyway. I should have known when I saw the description. Guy films supposedly contain: sophomoric humor and raunchy dialogue (sorry, no, that’s a boy film), various kick-arse fight sequences, copious amounts of violence and explosions (can’t argue with that), and sexual conquest over females with accompanying nudity (boy wish-fulfillment films again).
With that as my lead in, I didn’t expect much of value to be included- and then they list films like the Magnificent 7, the Connery Bond Films, the Great Escape, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, and the Wild Bunch- all films worthy of accolades. Rolling into the 70s we find the French Connection, the Godfather, Enter the Dragon, Rollerball and Rocky. Wow! All exceptional picks. Maybe I was wrong. But then I got into the 80s and it went down hill quickly. Remember the title of the list- Greatest Guy Movies of All Time! which I guess includes Caddyshack, Raging Bull (a movie I couldn’t take for longer that 10 minutes), Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Porky’s. Really??? How do you put the Godfather on the same list as Fast Times at Ridgemont High? A travesty of the worst magnitude.
Also included in the 80s was Commando- called a quintessential Mark Lester shootout film. Right before Commando on the list was the Terminator. So maybe I let that color what I was to expect from Commando. Or maybe I got it mixed up with Predator, a Schwarzenegger Sci Fi blockbuster. In any event, I popped in the DVD. Yes, I’m one of those guys, figuring that if I own a DVD its mine, and I can watch it when I want, not when a streaming service says when, or if, I can. You may do as you please.
So Schwarz has retired from the military and lives in the country with his daughter (12 year old Alyssa Milano?), having made some people mad, once upon a time. The mad men, come and kidnap his daughter, and he has to use his very particular skill set to get her back. Yes, that sounds like another action film we have seen. Taken, an excellent film, was allegedly influenced by this stinker but nothing up to now is the problem, with the stage set for a shootemup bang bang Schwarzenegger film. The problem is that Schwarz has to find his daughter, while ducking the henchmen of the guy that kidnapped her, because to get said daughter back, he has to go to a foreign country and kill the leader. Knowing that they will kill the daughter anyway, he takes on the task of saving her himself. Almost.
Enter Rae Dawn Chong, daughter of Tommy Chong, from Cheech and Chong. Let the lameness begin, because Rae Dawn becomes his serendipitous, Deus Ex Machina fix-all for whatever Schwarz needs doing. At first, she seems like a complicit, off-duty flight attendant who doesn’t call for the cops when the Austrian Oak grabs her. It's not like a 6'2" 250 lb guy with 1.5% body fat grabbing someone would be intimidating. No, she instead believes him instantly when the bad guy following him (David Patrick Kelly from the Warriors) pulls a gun on him, and since Schwarz is now the victim, it makes everything OK.
Schwarz is chasing Kelly in an extended car chase, crashes the car, catches Kelly and drops him off a cliff. And since the Schwarz-mobile (which was really the Rae Dawn convertible) was now crashed, Schwarz decided to take Kelly’s convertible which had just been rolled up on its driver’s side and just had to be pushed back over by Schwarz. The motel key in Kelly’s pocket gave them their next clue.
Going to the motel, Schwarz and Rae Dawn don’t find Cooke (Mr. Huge and Ugly) because he is waiting off screen for his cue to enter after Schwarz and Rae Dawn show up. The guys fight after Cooke mentions that he is a Green Beret and Schwarz says “I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry.” This film was lauded for its combination of action and humor. I don’t know why. Back to the story, Schwarz impales Cooke on a table leg.
Then Schwarz and Rae Dawn break into a prepper store. He steals knives, pistols, full-auto weapons (completely ignoring the fact that private citizens cannot buy or sell anything full-auto), and a rocket launcher. I did not mistype that. Even if you allow for the fact that the owner of the prep store had a class of firearms license that allowed him to sell to police and military and that Schwarz grabbed that specialized inventory, I know of no where in the country where anyone can purchase rocket launchers and live grenades. Doesn’t matter because the police finally show up and throw Schwarz in the paddy wagon. He’s going to jail. Game over.
If only he had an off-duty stewardess who could work the rocket launcher that the police didn’t see her running away with (which is terrible grammar, but I’m just trying to match the professional level of the script writing for this film). Oh wait, he does- the serendipitous Rae Dawn who blasts the paddy wagon with the rocket launcher and doesn’t kill anybody, and saves Schwarz. Yay! They collect all their stolen weapons, because I guess all the other police officers were busy rousting homeless people, and head for the marina. Why?
Because the have to go save Schwarz’s daughter on an island that is only accessible by boat or seaplane. A boat would take too long. If only there was a seaplane he could steal that was fueled up and ready to go. Oh look! But who could fly it? No one, except serendipitous Rae Dawn, who just happens to be getting her pilot license in her off time from being a flight attendant.
The rest of the film is Schwarz landing, blowing up everything in sight, killing 100 other guys who also have automatic weapons but shoot like Stormtroopers, and saving his daughter, which is actually the good part but it took a whole lot of Deus Ex Machina to get us there.
IMDB says 6.7/10. I love good action films. This one isn’t. I love Schwarzenegger, but this mess (because of the lazy writing) is a 5.7. Watch it for the island assault at the end.