Commando

Dir: Mark L. Lester, 1985

20/10

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Let’s get one thing straight…this…is…the greatest film…ever made!

I’ve had to give it 20/10 because 10 is just too low a score.

The whole film is flawless. It’s perfect.

Schwarzenegger is John Matrix. How’s that for a cool name?!

Matrix is an ex-army Colonel living in the mountains with his twelve years old daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). His old unit has all been given new identities but, due to a leak, are all murdered.

Matrix’s erstwhile Major, Franklin Kirby, arrive at his home with several guards to protect him but, are soon ambushed by mercenaries.

They abduct Jenny and threaten Matrix with her death if he doesn’t do what they order, which is to assassinate the head of Val Verde.

Matrix agrees to do it but escapes and goes to get his daughter back.

There’s action from start to finish.

As is to be expected from the director, it’s comic book violence. The whole film is tongue in cheek.

Arnie throws punches, headbutts and, just generally knocks out or kills anyone who gets in his way.

He is a one man army.

The secret to an action film is you’ve got to like the character. You need someone you can root for. Arnie is amiable in real life and it shows on screen.

If a fight scene is about to take place, the hero has to be somebody that can assure you that everybody else is going to get a good hiding!

In a way, Commando is a parody of action films like First Blood. The one man army.

The film is so ludicrous that old Matrix ACTUALLY smells the ambushers. That’s not even possible. But it’s awesome.

Being an eighties film, the film is rife is homoeroticism. The thing is, it’s all totally unintentional.

The main bad guy of the mercenaries is Bennet (Vernon Wells). He wears a chainmail vest, leather trousers and has a thick, bushy moustache.

He looks like Freddie Mercury.

Writer, Steven E. DeSouza just has a complete wild time with Schwarzenegger’s dialogue. He crams it with Arnie’s trademark one-liners. All cheesy, yet brilliant at the same time.

All of these one-liners have entered the lexicon of cinema; with such zingers as “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And, right now, I’m very hungry”. See? Pure brilliance.

John Matrix has zero faults. He’s the guy you want to know. If you’re ever in trouble, give him a bell.

As a whole the film is corny, but it’s supposed to be.

The opening credits Arnie and Milano going fishing, eating ice cream and feeding wild deers, bonding like a good father and daughter should.

Totally laughable and schmaltzy but who cares?

It’s the action that matters. And there’s plenty of it.

Not content with wiping out the entire security team of a shopping centre, or completely ransacking a weapons store with a stolen JCB (where he got it from n the first place is anybody’s guess).

No, proceeds to the army compound where Jenny is being held and continues to annihilate every single person there with a never-ending surplus of weapons and ammo. Seriously. I mean, I’m talking rocket launchers that he half-inched from the weapons shop.

Oh, you think it ends there? Not a chance!

Despite hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of soldiers shooting at him and throwing grenades, he retreats to a work shed with only a single bullet wound (more of a scratch, really).

It is there, that a contender for possibly the best scene in the whole film, takes place.

Surrounded by armed guards, Schwarzenegger sets to work dispatching all the men with a set of tools, such as a rake, circular blades, an axe to the groin and a machete.

It’s a thrilling scene full of excitement and delivers what an action film should.

Even though the film is still extraordinarily violent, the American censors insisted upon a few shots of violence being trimmed.

The shots are of a guard with a circular blade embedded in his neck and the shot of a guard crawling on the floor with a bloody stump after Arnie has chopped it off.

With these cuts made, an ‘R’ rating was granted.

In Britain, the film fared a little worse causing confusion when you consider what they did let through.

The American theatrical print was submitted but the BBFC made around twelve seconds of cuts.

The cuts were to Arnie chopping the guards arm off and the pan along the steam pipe protruding from Bennet’s stomach.

Looking at this, you have to wonder what the censors were trying to achieve. They allowed through Arnie slicing a guards throat open, some poor bloke getting scalped with a circular blade, and the axe to the groin but found a pipe sticking out of someone too much to handle! And then they wonder why people have such low opinions of them.

Anyway, with this butchering completed the film was awarded an ’18’ certificate.

Later, in 1986, the film was submitted for a video certificate and the same cuts were carried over and granted another ’18’ certificate.

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UK rental VHS

This was the only version available to audiences in Great Britain. However, in 2001, a DVD was released.

With the relaxing of the guidelines, it was inevitable that the uncut version would finally be released.

Unfotunately, Twentieth Century Fox submitted the German print which had been cut by around 53 seconds and it was this version that was released.

So, not only were British audiences still denied the chance to see it uncut, they were forced to watch an even more hacked up version.

Fox didn’t do anything about it. They continued to issue this print for several years.

It wasn’t the first time that the distributor had done this. Schwarzenegger’s well known film, Predator, was initially issued on DVD using the censored German print, even though it had passed through the offices of the BBFC unscathed.

UK audiences wrere lucky this time, though. As Predator had a franchise around it, Fox was able to release a Special Edition two disc set. Commando didn’t have the same recognition so it wasn’t worth there time.

But, in 2007, Fox allowed Lester the chance to re-edit the film and put the censored footage back in. Additionaldeleted footage was integrated into the film, revealing a little more back story to Matrix and Jenny’s mother. A small alteration was made to Jenny’s line about “watching him smash your face in” to “watching him kick your ass”. A totally unneeded change that doesn’t work. The original sounds so much better.

Later in the year, a Deluxe Edition DVD was released in the USA featuring the censored US theatrical version and the uncensored, unrated version along with this was a few deleted scenes and a commentary by the director.

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US DVD Director’s Cut (Note the reversal of Schwarzenegger’s pose in relation to the original poster)

The same year, the BBFC passed the Director’s/unrated cut uncut with all the earlier cuts waived and the theatrical version but, unfortunately, it took a while to materialise.

Nevertheless, a full uncut version is now freely availble in Britain.

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Uncut UK Blu Ray

The soundtrack by the late James Horner is of his typical style. Pan pipes with mysterious passages designed to heat up the suspense.

It’s not really my cup of tea but the end theme by Power Station is kick-ass! Titled We Fight For Love, it’s style is firmly rooted in the eighties. Electric drums, loud vocals and heavy guitars, it fits the film brilliantly.

My missus fell asleep while watching it but, to be fair, it’s bursting at the seams with testerone so it is more a man’s film.

It’s a brainless, anything goes actioner. Of course men are going to like it. Women like a bit of intelligence or love story in the viewing habits.

Go out and get it. Saturday night, takeaway, beer. You’re guaranteed a great time.

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