dir. Mark L. Lester
And so continues the rewatchin' of the old favorites. Just as a rewatchin' of John Landis' horror classic proved to me that An American Werewolf in London is still very much the shit, so too did a rewatchin' of Commando prove that the Schwarzenegger action flick is still one of America's finest achievements in shit. Significantly, Class of 1984 director Mark L. Lester opens his Commando with a trash truck ambling down the street of a peaceful suburb. All seems well in the world of the home of the man who lives with his wife on the street in the town where the trash truck has arrived. And everything is well. That is, everything is well until the trashmen on the trash truck gun down the suburban man on his driveway. Has any opening scene ever made as beautifully elegant/blunt a metaphor for the artistic/thematic/tonal intent of the film to come. The bland, safe, respectable world of middle-class suburbia (middle-brow films) has been obliterated by trash men (trash films). Lester is saying here, and I quote, "That's right, motherfuckers, Garbage Day!" [Side note: Not an actual quote.]
It's amazing the turnaround in appreciation I've had when it comes to movies like Commando. It's quite the same as my reaction to metal. As a young'un, listening to angry music and watching hyper-macho action flicks produced the same visceral response: angry/joyful, fuck yeah-gasms. Now when I watch and listen to such movies and music, I mostly just laugh a fuck-ton. Wow, I can't believe I used to find this stuff so "fucking, unbelievably hardcore and like badass and stuff, motherfuckers. Fuck yeah." Revisiting metal and over-the-top eighties action, I now realize how delightfully dumb and campy this shit is. Considering how much entertainment cheese I consumed as a youngster, it's no wonder I used to have such severe constipation.
And yet I enjoy said entertainments with just as much enthusiasm as I did as a wee lad. Sure my emotional response has switched from triumph to laughter, but ain't much of a gulf exists between these two feelings.
Everything about Commando is ludicrous to the breaking point. Take the story: ex-commando (hey, that's the name of the movie) John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is dealt an ultimatum by the thugs who recently offed his old partners and kidnapped his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano): assassinate the leader of the Latin American country Val Verde or the thugs will kill Jenny. Ol' Matrix won't stand for that bull-manure, however. No sir, no how. As his plane to Val Verde begins take off, Matrix casually murders the goon guarding him in the adjacent seat, surreptitiously walks to the back of the plane—past the other passengers, past the bathroom, past the cargo hold—and onto a wheel. From here, motherfucker drops hundreds of feet to the shallow pond below, dusts himself off and walks away. Shit, ain't no thing.
Matrix is free, on the warpath, and very hungry. Mastermind Arius (Dan Hedaya)—he of the "even though my native tongue is Spanish, my Spanish accent while speaking English is about as convincing as a racist comic who's had a few too many" variety—and his henchman Bennett (Vernon Wells) had better learn to become a lot less appetizing, because what Matrix has an appetite for is murder, and they're the main course. Before getting to them, of course, Matrix is more than happy to snack on an endless sampler tray.
Although single-handedly fighting through an endless sea of baddies would be an insurmountable task for mortals, Matrix luckily has an invisible force-field protecting him from any of the heavy artillery fire coming his way, and guns that can fire hundreds of rounds without reloading. As can be guessed, Commando's conclusion ain't surprising in the least. Arius and Bennett kill Jenny, and Matrix kills himself. (Just making sure you're still reading.)
Is Commando the crowning artistic achievement of Western Civilization? Yes. Yes it is.