Arnold Schwarzenegger has kept his word. He’s back! At least on DVD he his, kicking butt and shooting dozens of bad guys in Commando, a memorable 1985 classic that set a perfect example for many action flicks to follow. It collected $35 million at the North American box office (which is a lot for that period), and worked its way into the hearts of thousands of fans. Arnie jumps into the role of John Matrix, a former elite Commando who now enjoys the quiet life after retreating to a secluded mountain cabin with his 11-year-old daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano). Matrix thought his days as a solider were over, but he thought wrong. When an evil dictator kidnaps his daughter and forces him to assassinate the president of Val Verde, Matrix grabs his rifle and embarks on an explosive killing spree to retrieve his loved one and eliminate his enemies once and for all. Matrix shows no mercy to anyone who dares blocking his way, and whether he has to jump off a plane or face an army of ruthless soldiers, he’s always a step ahead of those who want to cause him harm.
Where do I even start? Commando is a great action film for so many reasons. One, of course, is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who back in the '80’s was celebrating the start of a glorious career as an action icon. He wonderfully masters his role as the tough colonel nobody should want to mess with, delivers compelling stunts, and most importantly, generates big laughs with some of the most hilarious one-liners in the history of over-the-top action extravaganzas. "If you want your daughter back, you gotta cooperate. Right?," asks one of the kidnappers. "Wrong!" answers Matrix, and shoots the guy in the head. Moments like these prove that the movie does not take itself too seriously, which, amid the continuous action, comes in just handy.
This leads me to the plot of the flick, which, despite its lack of credibility, kicks some serious butt. Skillfully helmed by Mark L. Lester, Commando jumps right into the action and keeps the entertainment at a superior level all throughout. Sure, the numerous fights, stunts, pursuits and shoot-outs Matrix engages in share striking similarities, but his character’s irresistible humor adds just enough spice to the formula to keep the audiences cheering at the degree of action and violence. John Matrix is flirting with death in nearly every scene in the movie, but he just doesn’t care. If a bad guy walks up to him and tells him "You're scared, motherfucker? Well you should be cause this Green Beret is gonna kick your big ass...," all Matrix replies is: "I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now, I'm very hungry." Next thing we know the bad guy is lying on the floor, dead and bleeding.
The final showdown between Matrix and his ruthless rival Bennett (played by Vernon Wells) is the film’s most compelling sequence – a climax as perfectly coordinated as a climax in a movie of this genre should be. At this stage of the movie, it’s also time to check on the body count Matrix leaves behind. Believe it or not, 81 people end up kicking the bucket. There is a lot more to discover in Commando, but since I don’t want to ruin the party, my only advice to head out to the closest store and grab a copy of the new DVD release. In case you read on from this point, you’ll see it’s worth it. Time to “let off some steam.” Whether you adore hardcore action flicks, worship Arnold Schwarzenegger, or seek a movie that does not require any form of thinking, Commando on DVD is an absolute must. For once, the disc includes both the theatrical and director’s cut, which is always a great treat for film freaks and passionate DVD collectors. And if that’s not enough, the special features section has a few surprises to offer as well.
Let me first mention the feature commentary by director Mark L. Lester, which is clearly the highlight of the disc. Early on, Lester mentions that this is favorite film among the 21 or so he directed, and given his input, I can understand why. He calmly talks his way through the movie, revealing some highly interesting details about the filming in general, the many locations they shot at, and the fact that they had no CGI to set up the stunts and action scenes. Lester also picks his favorite sequences of the film, with the big galleria scene climbing to the top of his chart. On top of all this, he also makes longer pauses, so audiences can enjoy both the film’s best sequences and the director’s comments.
The bonus material also comprises two brand new featurettes. In “Pure Action, ” a 15-minute behind-the-scenes look, members of the cast and crew discuss what exactly turned this film into a success. In the seven-minute piece “Let off some Steam,” they discuss some of the film’s best one-liners and talk about the different relationship they shared with each other during the production of the film. Although these two specials don’t reveal more information about the actual process of filming the numerous action sequences, they still offer interesting information about the main characters and the actors who portrayed them.
Furthermore, the disc includes three deleted scenes, and four still galleries with a total of 160 images from the set. Although the difference between the theatrical version of the film and the director’s cut is microscopic (the latter comprises three additional scenes), the new Commando DVD is definitely worth its price for the clean digital transfer and the film’s undeniable fun factor. It shows us Arnie at his best when he was still in the movie business, and sort of makes us want to shout: “Arnie, please come back!” Over and out.
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