Action Heroes – Schwarzenegger: Commando

There are very few action films from the 80s that are as instantly quotable Commando, a cheesy slice of 80s action gold. Yes that’s right, I am under no illusions that this is anything short of amazing. If you don’t agree, well it’s obvious you’re quite wrong.

When John Matrix has his house besieged by an ex-army buddy gone rogue (played with sadistic relish by Vernon Wells) who kidnaps his daughter, John decides to become a one-man army and take on every goon that gets between him and his daughter.

What follows is a collection of mass slaughter, brilliant one-liners (which I will come back to later), lashings of violence and more stupidly entertaining moments of outlandishness then any film with an 89-minute running time has any right to.

When I first watched Commando all those years ago, I neither liked it nor did I enjoy it for what it was. It took several years (and a good friend who is obsessed with its greatness) to truly appreciate it for what it has become; a Friday night guilty pleasure, and the best film to watch with drinking buddies. I guarantee after you watch this with a group of friends it will become one of your most-quoted films.

This really is chock-full with some absolute gems of bad acting. Schwarzenegger does what he does best in this: he breaks bones, pumps people full of lead and reels out some god-awful one-liners that will become forever lodged in your subconscious. When he has just broken the neck of a goon sitting next to him on plane, he tells the stewardess “Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired”; or, equally brilliant, when he kills Bennett with a metal pipe to the chest, he quips, “Let off some steam, Bennett.”

This film is so quintessentially 80s, from its fashions – just check out Bennett’s Freddie Mercury-inspired look – to its synthesized score (by a little-known (at the time) James Horner). The theme to Commando is probably one of the best 80s action themes and it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Even the gloriously over-the-top violence of the last 20 minutes, in which Arnie takes on hundreds of soldiers, is hard not to enjoy. The infamous “shed sequence”, when seen in its entirety, really is a blast. Matrix unleashes the pain with garden tools; I never saw Liam Neeson do this in Taken.

Commando doesn’t take itself too seriously – it’s gloriously OTT and proud of it.

If you have yet to see this, seek it out as soon as you can. It’s got Arnie being Arnie, lashings of ultra violence, cool music, Rae Dawn Chong and classic lines. Sit down, relax and let off some steam because, dear reader, this is quite possibly one of the ex-Governator’s best.

Remember when I said this is a Friday night guilty pleasure? I lied. It’s an any time of the day guilty pleasure. In an era when action films take themselves so seriously (yes, Bond, I am looking at you), this is certainly a breath of fresh air.

Dominic O’Brien

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