“Give me back my bullets!”-Lynyrd Skynyrd
As our country wages war on terrorism, and tries to decipher who are the good guys from the bad guys, our leadership recently made a nuclear deal with the ethically questionable country of Iran. In response to this agreement, with such a vocal opponent of our country and supporter of terrorism, U.S. officials involved have privately concluded that a key sanctions relief provision (a concession to Iran that will open the doors to tens of billions of dollars in U.S.), backed commerce with the Islamic regime is a conflict with existing federal statutes (Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act passed by our president in ’12), and cannot be implemented without violating those laws. Once again, we find our nation in quite the pickle on the world stage.
This administration wants to make nice with Iran, though they still develop nuclear weapons threatening the West, openly fund terrorism, has an Anti-American Museum located in Tehran (set up shop in our old embassy that we evacuated years ago), and tries to strong arm the West any chance they get. Do you remember the U.S. hostages or the Fatwa against author Salman Rushdie?
These are bad, stubborn dudes we are cozying up to. I foresee this deal going sour, and Iran capturing more U.S. citizens or interests for collateral in bargaining with Washington in the coming years. Sometimes I wish we had a true patriot like in Commando (1985), which could rid our world of such evil men.
Time to take out the trash! The trash men of a sleepy cul de sac wake up a normal bloke who runs his garbage to the curb for pickup stating in relief, “I was worried you’d miss me,” as a stoic looking garbage man Cooke, Bill Duke of Predator (1987) says, “don’t worry, we won’t,” before cutting down the Normal Joe in a barrage of bullets. Before you know it, Cooke is trying out a new Cadillac on a showroom floor, starts it’s up, and runs over the dealer stealing the car leaving the scene of the crime. Cooke once again, remote in hand, blows up a fisherman venturing on his boat out for an honest day’s work. Got it. Cooke is a bad guy.
Venture with me to the remote cabin in the mountains of Retired Delta Force Colonel John Matrix (must have got his Commission after leaving Austria), Arnold Schwarzenegger of The Terminator (1984), where he lives with his daughter, Jenny (pronounced CHHENNY by Arnold), Alyssa Milano of Embrace of the Vampire (1995). There is no mention of a mother or wife; divorce rates are high in the military.
We see Matrix carrying full-size logs around the foliage, chopping wood (foreshadowing scene of his trained instincts), feeding deer, fishing, sharing ice cream, and tossing Jenny around the pool like a ragdoll. Their normal, quiet life is interrupted by the unwelcoming approach of an Army helicopter after a deep discussion about Boy George during lunch. The visitor is former boss, Major General Franklin Kirby, James Olson of The Andromeda Strain (1971). Kirby pays a visit to warn Matrix that three operators from his old unit have been killed (the three from the opening), by unknown mercenaries that could have ties to anyone that is ticked with Matrix from all of enemies he has around the world.
Kirby passes on this cheerful news and leaves two of his “finest” troops (HA! They look like a bag of donuts) behind to protect Matrix and Jenny. The helicopter leaves, Matrix gets a whiff of Charlie in the bush, and hits the deck before bullets starts flying taking out the two soldiers that were praised minutes earlier at being fine warriors. Not so much.
Instincts kick in, Matrix instructs Jenny to hide in her room while he heads to his personal weapons vault. Armed and ready to defend his fort, Matrix takes action before being halted in Jenny’s room by a member of the mercs. It is revealed that Jenny has been kidnapped and Matrix must cooperate with their demands to get her back safe, right? WRONG!
Matrix chases the mercs in his truck down the sidewinder roads of the mountain before making impact with the evil entourage resulting in a huge brawl. Matrix is outnumbered and overpowered by the mercenaries. To Matrix’s surprise, and ours, we meet Bennett, who was the fisherman that blew up. Nope. Bennett, Vernon Wells of The Road Warrior (1981), is an ex-member of Matrix’s kicked out of the service for dishonorable actions, has traded in his uniform for a chain mail tank top, driving gloves, and looks like an chubby Freddie Mercury, hungry for revenge against his old comrade in arms.
Matrix receives an ultimatum, carry out a political assassination for former dictator Arius, Dan Hedaya of Blood Simple (1984), so he can once again control the fictitious country of Val Verde, or Arius and his assassins will kill Jenny. Matrix accepts the deal in order to buy some time to devise a plan.
Matrix is escorted to LAX by Cooke, Bennet (which has some memorable dialogue with Matrix), Henriques, Charles Meshack of Action Jackson (1987), and the slime ball Sully, David Patrick Kelly of The Warriors (1979). That guy is great at playing a creep. Before Matrix boards the plane, he tells Sully, “You’re funny Sully, that’s why I’m going to kill you last.” That’s an odd farewell before departing on a trip, but Matrix isn’t a man that minces words. After boarding the plane, Matrix manages to kill, Henriques (who is dressed like a 70s pimp in South Florida), and jumps from the plane as it is taking off. Matrix lands in a marsh and sets his watch for 11 hours (the arrival time in Val Verde). Matrix is now on the prowl for Sully.
Sully at this time, is busy being his sleazy self sexually harassing off-duty flight attendant Cindy, Rae Dawn Chong of Soul Man (1987). Cindy isn’t smokin’ what Sully is rollin’ and the two depart on the worst of terms in the parking lot. Before you know it, Matrix forcibly invites himself into Cindy’s car and instructs her to follow Sully. Cindy, understandably assumes that Matrix is buff weirdo, but after seeing him desperately trying to get his hands on Sully (the muscles may have changed her mind), decides to assist him on his mission to save his beloved CHHENNY. The two do have chemistry between them, a bit memorable of Hepburn and Wayne in Rooster Cogburn (1975). The daring, determined duo are involved in car chases, motel murder madness, bulldozing into a weapons surplus store, firing RPG’s down a city street, stealing a seaplane, and flying to Arius’s armed compound to save Jenny. Cindy stays behind to make radio contact with the Army, because Matrix is now a one man army attacking the island causing General Kirby to insist that World War III is upon us.
Matrix embarks on a massacre against Arius’s hired guns eliminating the threat via knife, various guns, explosives, saw blades and garden tools. Matrix makes his way to the main villa of our devilish dictator and his aides. Will Matrix and Bennett settle their beef once and for all? Will Cindy and Matrix fly off into the sunset to live in sin? Will Matrix learn how to pronounce Jenny? Tune in, and find out troops! The conclusion is memorable and will leave you satisfied after 90 minutes of action-packed excitement.
Commando, released thirty years ago this week, was directed by Mark L. Lester of Class of 1984 (1982), with an original story/screenplay Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman of Teen Wolf (1985), before the studio went with Steven E. de Souza of The Running Man (1987). Stuck in developmental hell for some time, duties were offered to many different talents. Gene Simmons of KISS, Walter Hill and Nick Nolte of 48 Hrs. (1982), were originally on board till the concept changed and final casting call was a lock. Commando was made on the shoestring budget of 10 mil, and was a huge box office success sending Schwarzenegger into a friendly rivalry with Sly Stallone as the lead action star in Hollywood. Commando is not short of violence (81 kills orchestrated by Matrix), memorable dialogue (pretty much the whole movie), awesome one liners, or steel drum music.
If you are into drinking games, you can play the Commando Blooper Drinking Game and be completely tore up from the floor up, within a half hour, as Commando has more goofs than Imelda Marcos had shoes. Commando has become such a fan favorite over the years it released a Matrix action figure, which I had, tons of merchandise, and was set to have a sequel. Arnold turned down the role in the second installment, the script was changed and it is now known as the blockbuster Die Hard (1987). Can you imagine Arnold shimming his girth through an elevator shaft or yelling “Yippee Ki Yay,” with his accent? It makes me smile just thinking of what could have been.
As usual, the studios like to cash in on anything that still has a pulse, and for the past couple of years, remake rumors have been thrown around. Fingers crossed, it never sees the light of day. So if you are an Arnold fan, a military vet, action junkie, or lover of 80’s cheese, Commando is a great way to spend your evening when not worrying about our country sleeping with the enemy. Remember what Bruce Dern said, “A soldier’s way, saves the day.” Post.
Check out Commando’s Trailer
- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
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