This may seem like an odd choice for a cult movie, given it was a big hit for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Surely something like The Last Action Hero might seem like a better choice. But two years shy of its thirtieth anniversary, we can ask if the world still remembers Commando, the original badass Eighties action movie romp. Perhaps not – an acquaintance recently remarked that they thought it was an alternative title for Predator. Well, the covers DO look a bit similar…
The true originator of the Eighties action cliche has to be Rambo: First Blood Part 2, bringing in big knives and bigger guns – measured through both firepower and the size of biceps. It had such an impact that many people still think it’s the original Rambo film. But if you compare their achievements pound for pound, Arnie outperformed Sly in the action game. And Commando, released in the same year as Rambo 2, might have carried more stature today were it not the raw start of the Arnie star vehicle. It was his first real full-blown action (not fantasy) film where he is the star, yet Commando has disappeared under the movies that followed in the next few years: Predator, The Running Man and Red Heat. By the Nineties the film has been all but forgotten thanks to Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and Terminator 2. Hardcore fans certainly keep a light on for it, but Commando has seemingly fallen off the map.
So what makes this an outright classic? First, it proves that almost anything can become a quotable movie line, as long as Arnie says it. He started the habit in Terminator and got much better later on. But Commando still has a few, notably informing an air stewardess his just-killed criminal chaperone is “dead tired” and telling a baddie, impaled on a bellowing pipe, to “blow off some steam.” Then there is the sheer impossibility of it all: Arnie survives falling from an ascending airliner, walks unscathed from a car crash and can steer a brakeless, careening truck down the side of a hill. The bad guys practically run into his line of fire, almost too eager to die, and their plans don’t really seem well thought-out at all. Arnie meanwhile shows that being stealthy is relative to your awesomeness, anything can be blown up with just three well-placed claymores and no number of security guards can hold him down. Also, he can carry a tree.
There is probably a predecessor for the scene, but the moment where our hero straps on all his gear and paints his warface is better than Rambo’s best efforts. Commando doesn’t just ooze machismo – it dumps barrels of the stuff over the audience’s heads. It’s the kind of over-the-top action that only worked really well in the mid-Eighties, later cemented with films like Cobra, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. Perhaps if Rambo wasn’t released first, going Commando may have meant something quite different than avoiding your laundry for another day.
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Last Updated: July 29, 2013