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Cinophile – Commando

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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.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: July 29, 2013


  1. “avoiding your laundry for another day” – I object! Going Commando is a lifestyle choice, not a laziness choice!! And Commando – need to watch it again. Good times good times!


    • James Francis

      July 29, 2013 at 14:58

      Yeah, yeah, I’ve used that excuse too :p


      • Lardus-Wolverine

        July 29, 2013 at 15:09

        You dare impugn my honour? I dare you to find any undies in my closet!


  2. RinceDAmasterdebata

    July 29, 2013 at 13:53

    And he can carry a tree! LOL Arnie forever!


  3. Wtf101

    July 29, 2013 at 14:50

    Commando was the first movie I ever saw in a cinema. There was no way that a kid like me would not have been blown away by the sheer Arnie awesomeness emanating from the big screen.

    You forgot to mention Rae Dawn Chong’s performance in this movie. As well as her rocket launcher skills. “I read the instructions!”


    • James Francis

      July 29, 2013 at 14:55

      Ah, yes, she was actually great in this. Certainly her moment with the rocket launcher is one of the best scenes from the Eighties.


  4. xdvd

    July 29, 2013 at 16:02

    Some classic scenes here. Arnold: You know when I told you that I would kill you last? Sully (bad guy): Yes, yes. Arnold: I lied. (drops bad guy of cliff) Or how about when Arnold fights Bill Duke in the motel room. Bill Duke : I am a Green Beret. Arnold : I eat Green Berets for breakfast. (and continues to impale Bill on a metal spike). Good Times.


    • James Francis

      July 29, 2013 at 16:57

      The motel fight was a great scene. You’re right about the line – another classic Arnie one. Here’s the quote, courtesy of IMDB:

      Cooke: You scared, motherfucker? Well, you should be, because this Green Beret is going to kick your big ass!

      Matrix: I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry!

      Cindy: [hiding under a table] I can’t believe this macho bullshit…


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