“Remember when I promised I’d kill you last? I lied.”
Time to relieve the glory days. Arguably the finest of Schwarzenegger’s over-the-top, muscle-bound 80s action flicks, Commando is finally getting the respect it deserves. This is the perfect example of a movie so bad it’s good. Really bad, and really good. Commando has it all: copious one-liners, a ridiculously huge Ah-nold physique, and a body count so high you’ll run out of fingers and toes in no time flat.
Yes, Commando is the quintessential 80s action extravaganza, and proof positive that the governator used to be a one-man Ah-my.
Schwarzenegger is John Matrix, a retired army bad-ass. He’s left behind the life of special ops and ultraviolence, having chosen to live a peaceful life raising his daughter (Alyssa Milano, Charmed). Thing is, you can run from the old life, but you can’t hide. When some old enemies start hunting down the members of John’s former unit, he and his daughter become involved in the action. She gets kidnapped, and he has 11 hours to kill all the bad guys and save her from his most deadly nemesis. Along the way, he enlists the help of an off-duty flight attendant (Rae Dawn Chong, Mysterious Ways), who becomes his sidekick-of-sorts as he prepares to unleash world war III.
Commando is one of those special movies that stands the test of time. While it’s dated by a synth-heavy score and out-dated technology, it has aged very well thanks to a straightforward story, impressive special effects and, of course, Arnold’s electrifying presence. The man is absolutely impressive to watch – a perfect specimen. My only complaint is buying the final tussle between Arnold and the main villain, Bennett (Vernon Wells, Fortress), whose physique falls well short of impressive. Plus, Bennett is dressed like one of village people and sports a mustache to match. They have a great fight, but even with one arm incapacitated, who can believe Arnold would have trouble with that guy?
As for this director’s cut, I’m sure it will please Commando fans. It only clocks in about five minutes longer than the theatrical version, but the new and/or revised footage raises the level of carnage John Matrix wreaks on his foes. This is particularly evident with the tool shed scene, which now involves graphic scalping and limb-severing. What more could a Schwarzenegger fan ask for?
“Attention all units, emergency on theater level, suspect six foot two, brown hair. He is one gigantic motherf**ker.”
Commando – Director’s Cut is presented on one disc, in 1.85:1 widescreen format. Since I’ve held off picking up the 1999 release in anticipation of something better, I can’t say for certain whether this transfer has been remastered. However, from reading online reports about the ’99 release, it does seem that this one is substantially improved. The picture is mostly sharp throughout, and there are few issues carried over from the source film. Colours are on the pale side but very consistent, and even detail in the darker scenes looks pretty good. Overall, this is a solid transfer.
“Don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.”
There’s definitely a step up from the ’99 release on the aural side of thing. New to this director’s cut is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, mixed from the original 2.0 audio. While it pales in comparison to the tracks we’re accustomed to from newer action flicks, this new mix does what it can. Levels are good throughout, with a balanced presentation of the dialogue, score and effects. You won’t have trouble hearing anything, but you’ll probably long for more bigger, more modern sound when things start exploding, and Arnold opens fire with his incredible arsenal.
Audio is also available in English in Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish in mono. Subtitles are up for grabs in English and Spanish.
“I eat green berets for breakfast. And right now I’m very hungry.”
Despite zero input from Schwarzenegger, this is where Commando – Director’s Cut really improves upon the previous DVD release. Where the old disc offered only a theatrical trailer, we now have a handful of new extra features, including:
- Audio commentary: by director Mark Lester (Showdown in Little Tokyo), who does an ok job, but doesn’t talk enough about the behind-the-scenes stuff, or the various logistical issues they must have faced while filming. And I have to say, Lester sure sounds like a weenie, which doesn’t help when you’re watching such a macho film.
- Pure Action: a 15-minute featurette, with cast and crew interviews admitting that the film came together without much concern for a script, and plenty of self-awareness about the campy nature of the project. Basically, their goal was to make an action flick to show off Arnold’s muscles, and they had fun doing it.
- Let Off Some Steam: named after a memorable one-liner from the film, this six-minute featurette is more a humour piece than anything else. With clips of just about every one-liner in the film, and lots of interview footage with Rae Dawn Chong, this featurette jokingly examines the homoerotic sexuality of the violence and the relationship between Matrix and Bennett.
- Deleted Scenes: three short scenes running just a couple of minutes, these don’t offer much value. The only real highlight is some alternate one-liners for the end of the Matrix-Bennett fight.
- Photo Galleries: divided into four categories, these image montages show a variety of on-screen and behind-the-scenes stuff.
Commando is pure, mindless entertainment. All you have to do is sit back, pay just enough attention to enjoy all of the great one-liners, and watch Arnold go to town on an army of mercenaries. And with this new director’s cut from Fox, the experience has never been better. If you’re a fan, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
- Video Business’ Laurence Lerman blogs about the staying power of Arnold’s one-liners.
- Win a copy of Commando – Director’s Cut from Digitally Obsessed.