The main character is introduced carrying a huge log on his shoulder (from a tree) and it's done in a manner similar to something Leni Riefenstahl did in her movies, at least that's what director Mark L. Lester says on his commentary. Where do I stand on Riefenstahl? Preferably over her grave. You know, I never liked the term "guilty pleasure" because I don't think such a thing exists. If you like it, you like it, fuck what everybody else thinks, everybody's always going on about what everybody else thinks. Yet, these same assholes who would call something like Big Trouble in Little China a guilty pleasure, they're the same assholes who would call Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will a cinematic masterpiece with a straight face. Shit, if any movie deserved to be called a guilty pleasure, it should be THAT fuckin' movie, a movie about how awesome Hitler and the Nazis are -- that movie, and Feds.
Our soon-to-be-former governor plays John Matrix, who came to the States from East Germany, where rock n' roll was considered subversive and I guess that's why he got the fuck out. Anyway, he has a daughter played by Alyssa Milano, who at the time was just a cute little girl but eventually grew up to become to athletes what Winona Ryder was to musicians -- just something to be used and passed around like a joint at a Bob Marley concert, and I say this as someone who still considers Ms. Ryder to be one of Earth's most precious assets. It didn't surprise me that she was caught shoplifting because the little lass had long ago stolen my heart.
Anyway, Matrix and his daughter are out living the kind of life that comes off like Full House Goes To The Wilderness; they're hiking and swimming and doing karate and feeding wild animals and wasting perfectly good ice cream by shoving it in each others faces even though meanwhile in Africa some poor child with a distended belly and a fly on his eyeball just wants a grain of rice to chew on. This is apparently the kind of retirement life a member of the Special Forces gets after deciding he's killed enough brown and yellow people for the government.
Like a Joe Walsh song, life's been good to Matrix so far, until his former superior, General Franklin Kirby (I think General is his first name, which kinda sucks since he's only a Major; a kid is fucked at birth if you give him a name like that, setting him or her up for some lofty position in life without knowing if he or she is capable or even wants to), shows up to give him some bad news; his former teammates have been killed and he's the only one left, so you better watch out and here's a couple of lame-ass soldiers to watch over you until we can get you the fuck out, OK bye. No sooner does Colonel Trautman-lite take off when the bad guys pop out and immediately dispatch those two guards and it's fuckin' on. Matrix manages to get a rifle from Charlton Heston's outhouse and shoots an unarmed Mexican in the head in cold-blood and then finds out the hard way that it's probably best not to put a Ford in neutral and send it careening down the mountains just because they kidnapped your precious "Cheeny!" even though her name is Jenny.
She gets kidnapped and Matrix is forced to go to the fictional country of Val Verde to assassinate the president, even though he and his merry band of World Police helped the prez come into power after deposing the dictator (played by Cher's dad from Clueless) who up until then had been running shit. But because this is Arnold the fuckin' Matrix we're talking about here, he's not gonna play that shit. Helping Cher's Dad is Bennett, a former member of Matrix's unit and I guess since I just typed the words "member" and "unit", this is as good a place as any to talk about the character of Bennett.
Much has been made about Bennett probably being gay and he's probably in love with Arnold and he probably got kicked out of the unit because he made a move on the Matrix, but the official reason was that he enjoyed killing too much or some bullshit like that. I can see why people would say that about Bennett's sexuality, what with all the dialogue between him and Arnold dripping with sweet, sweet subtext and that outfit he's got on: cutoff shirt, cotton netting vest, a chain necklace with a huge pendant that people think is a lock but isn't, weightlifting gloves, and um, leather pants. Fuck. Take out the leather pants and that could be me during the few times I gave working out a try. Goddammit -- looking at his fat gut and skinny arms, I realized I could've played Bennett. In that case, he looks less like some gay dude on the prowl and more like the kind of guy who dresses like he works out, only he doesn't work out, he's the kind of guy who goes to the gym dressed like that and spends most of his time bullshitting with people; the sauna is probably the extent of his workout.
I noticed during this viewing that Bennett is always fondling his knife or his gun. Yeah, that's not very phallic. Yet, I won't jump on the gay train (hmm) because I will take Mark L. Lester's word that he intended Bennett to be the most macho guy around. Well, he succeeded in creating a macho man all right -- as in the Village People song. Plus, once he and Matrix get it on (fighting), with all that talk about "Put the knife in me and look me in the eye and see what's going on in there when you turn it...don't deprive yourself of some pleasure. Come on, Bennett. Let's party." it's really hard (tee-hee!) to not take it a certain way. Look at Bennett's face, I swear he's fighting not to bust a nut right then and there. But I'll side with Lester and consider it unintentional gayness.
Rae Dawn Chong seems like a groovy lady and she's pretty funny in the DVD interviews (fave moments include her referring to Bill Duke's lips and the climax involving a bunch of Mexicans getting blasted by Arnold) so it's too bad her career didn't continue as well as she had it going during the 80's. Here she plays a stewardess who ends up having a pretty shitty day, I mean, it's already a bummer if sleazy fuckin' Sully (played by the motherfucker who shot Cyrus) calls you a "fucking whore" after you rebuff his advances, I can imagine it getting even worse if some fuckin' Austrian tears the seat out of your classic ride and makes you drive him to the mall.
I just realized that I'm doing a rundown, which I haven't done on this poor excuse for a blog in a long while. This might come as a shock to you, so you might want to sit down for this, but I don't plan these things ahead. If you need time to get over that bombshell I just dropped, go ahead, I understand.
There's a security guard at the mall, and he might be my favorite character in the entire film; he has a goofy way of speaking ("...one gigantic moth-er-fuck-er") and a very healthy amount of self-esteem ("Wanna see me kick some ass?", he asks two girls he'd been chatting up). Overall, he has a decent day, aside from getting punked out by Matrix (the way he uses his super-strength to push away an entire group of security guards is a particularly awesome bit of awesome) and watching a couple of his fellow $3.35/hr. guards take about $5 worth of bullets.
On the other hand, one of his fellow guards manages to put a bullet into some guy who was doing business with Sully, even though the guards weren't after that particular individual and probably didn't know or care that he had a briefcase filled with loose cash (the better to scatter in the air with), he just started shooting at them, the moron. The goofy guard can tell this story to his grandkids one day, about the shootout/fight at the mall that he was a part of, and how the scary gigantic motherfuckin' Austrian pulled a Tarzan with one of the big balloon decorations, and how the scary gigantic motherfuckin' Austrian used his strength to lift a phone booth up from the ground and flip it over -- with a guy inside, mind you -- and how that same scary gigantic motherfuckin' Austrian got fuckin' slammed by a speeding Ferrari and said To Hell With Internal Bleeding and went after the little motherfucker who hit him.
Ernie Kovacs was a pioneer from the Golden Age of Television that a lot of older comedians who aren't funny anymore looked up to; he did a lot of crazy experimenting with the format, mostly visually but also pulling shit like talking to the crew off-screen or ad-libbing or even test-piloting some of that Adult Swim type of humor where it doesn't have to be funny, it just has to be weird and off-putting and only amusing to the creator (kinda like this blog). Anyway, it's too bad Matrix wasn't around to chauffeur him around because maybe Kovacs would've survived *his* head-on collision with a telephone pole and live long enough to die of cancer from smoking all those goddamn cigars, rather than getting assed out of existence on his way home from a Milton Berle party. Half of the stunts in this movie, I don't know how they could've been accomplished without killing a few people; that car crash looks like they killed an Arnold lookalike and I swear the poor Rae Dawn Chong stand-in had her torso severed, because you can see it rocket out of the passenger seat. Anyway, Matrix teaches Sully a lesson in how to increase your body's flexibility so that when you're dropped from a cliff ("I lied"), you resemble a dummy.
Two guys who eat too much red meat beat each other up in front of a fucking couple (a couple in the midst of fucking) in a motel room until one of them lands on something he shouldn't have landed on. Exit Bill Duke and score another for Matrix. The way Duke said "Fuck you, asshole!" sounded like some hard shit coming from a hard man, but when Matrix shoots that shit back at him, he sounds like maybe some of Bennett rubbed off on him, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
He sounds a little gay, is what I mean.
Matrix and RDC sneak into a warehouse full of illegals and poor Branscombe Richmond gets knocked the fuck out, and it's a good thing RDC happens to have a pilot's license, because she's going to fly Matrix to the same island where the real life Citizen Kane built his real life Xanadu, so you know there's some evil shit going on there.
Surplus City is where you go to get high-quality goods if you're a survivalist or an Angry White Man. They have knives and MRE's and vests. I'm sure it's the kind of place a disturbed middle-aged guy can go to browse around for a pair of hiking boots while the owner fucks with the gay guys -- C'mon, make your play, make your play! -- then they knock over the sunglasses on their way out. Matrix knows of such a place (as he should), so he hops on a bulldozer that happened to be in the area and smashes that fucker right through the storefront and now it's like the final part of Supermarket Sweep, only instead of Rice-a-Roni, it's military surplus that's on the shelves. The best part is the secret room in the back with all the heavy artillery; machine guns, rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, grenades, fuckin' claymores -- from my cold, dead hands! -- this was obviously all the stuff that wasn't for sale, instead this was where the owner stored all the hardware for the upcoming Race War, of which Matrix was privy to since he is not only the Aryan ideal, but also a card-carrying member of the Angry White Man underground.
The worst cops in the world arrest Matrix for breaking into Surplus City; these guys must've figured that searching the perimeter was a waste of time, because after all, it's not like there would be some Rae Dawn Chong-looking chick hiding out in a convertible with a rocket launcher. So I have no pity for them when RDC blasts their bread truck with the launcher (after accidentally firing it the wrong way and blowing up a bus stop, killing many an innocent 3rd shifter waiting for their ride) and breaks Matrix out. I wonder if she was even trying to break the dude out in the first place; she had driven up to the cops and got all flirtatious, probably because she was free of Matrix and she's newly single from what was probably her lesbian lover (she goes both ways, keeping with the film's subtext, according to me because I just made that shit up) that she was talking to on the pay phone in her introductory scene.
In response to Chong's comely come-on, one of the cops looks over to his partner and says "hooker" and they both have a laugh, obviously too blind to notice that she's wearing a fuckin' flight attendant uniform (which would explain how they were able to not notice RDC hanging out behind Surplus City in the first place). I don't understand confusing RDC for a prostitute because I paid for it once and while the woman was attractive in a single-mother-office-worker-supplementing-her-income-because-she-has-3-kids-to-raise kinda way, she certainly wasn't pretty enough to be in Soul Man. Anyway, that's not the first time someone referred to her as a Lady of the Night ("you fuckin' whore" sayeth the late Sully), but it's sure as hell gonna be the last time, so, KABOOM.
A couple of dead blown-up Mexicans later (they're all Mexicans in this movie, let's be real here; any Spanish-speaker in a movie -- and real life -- is a Mexican to the rest of the world anyway and even Rae Dawn Chong admits as much in her DVD interview), Matrix and RDC are in the air in their newly-acquired airboatplane, headed to real-life Xanadu to save Matrix's daughter and send the motherfuckers there a message. Patricia Hearst was unable to relay a message of her own via Matrix, but the sentiment is surely the same, I'm positive of that. On the way, Bill Paxton radios to inform them that they're flying over the Danger Zone, and it's common knowledge among many an airliner that the Navy shoots the shit out of any plane flying through this restricted airspace, they just do. Matrix, though, he don't give a fuck about that shit, he knows how to handle it by backseat driving RDC into flying low enough to blend in with the waves and there you go, the airboatplane is off the radar. That's the 2nd time Paxton gets fuckin' assed out by Arnold (1st time was The Terminator), you'd think he'd learn by now not to fuck with the Oak, but it apparently took getting the piss scared out of him in True Lies to get there.
If you want to get the point across that the setting is somewhere in South America, just add chickens, or at least give the impression/feel that there are probably chickens in the off-screen vicinity. That's how we know that we're in Val Verde where a couple of rough trade-looking dudes (I would know, right?) find out that the plane Matrix was supposed to be on, well, he's not on it, leaving behind the dead pimp-looking motherfucker that was supposed to escort him. Rough Trade #1 calls Cher's Dad to inform him, which leads to Bennett being given the order to take out Matrix's daughter, and I don't mean take her out for ice cream -- HA HA YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE, I'M AWESOME! Ugh.
Having left RDC on the airboatplane to radio for the cavalry, Matrix arrives on Xanadu in his speedos and Goddamn is he in good shape,
People go on about Why Do People Love Commando When It's Just A Shit Movie and to that I respond with Silence You Commie Motherfucker. The movie is 92 fast-paced minutes of ownage, and if you didn't feel that way for the first two acts, you'll sure as shit feel that way about the last act, because that's all it is, ownage. Supposedly the original script for this had a more serious tone and I think it took place in Israel, which to me sounds like it would've played like The Delta Force -- not nearly as fun as you'd think it would be. Thankfully, Joel Silver stepped in and had Steven E. De Souza do his thing, which is take everything out but the bare bones, and put in a bunch of one-liners. Works for me.
He claymores the fuck out of a couple huge barracks (Matrix, not De Souza), and all I could think about during that bit was all the soldiers inside who were chilling out. I bet you there was a South American version of Biloxi Blues going on inside that bitch, with the evil Latin version of Eugene Jerome playing that game with his bunkmates where they'd all have to talk about what they would do with their last 5 days on Earth, not knowing that it's more like the last 5 seconds on Earth and they ain't gonna get to do shit because Matrix is about to activate those fuckin' claymores and create two incredibly awesome explosions. Sky full of smoke.
This movie should please anybody
The last time I watched this film was at a midnight screening at the New Beverly (back in '08, I believe), and during the climax, around the time Matrix was about to rocket-launch a jeep into oblivion, the film stopped and the lights came on. You can just about hear the collective sound of every guy's erection immediately going limp and flopping back against their thighs. It was a cruel moment. Thankfully, the film came back on a couple minutes later and we were back to getting off on all that violence.
Somewhere along the way, he gets grenade'd and the only place to hide is inside a shed. Oh sweet Jesus, that shed scene should be placed up high in the AFI's Top 100 Scenes of Straight-Up Fuckin' Ownage, as Matrix is surrounded by a group of soldiers that consist of some white dude with a spray-on tan and a fake mustache, some Joe Dante-looking motherfucker, another white dude they didn't even bother to spray-on tan, and the leader, played by the guy who usually plays Latino scumbags but got to serve Keanu Reeves coffee once in a rare non-scumbag role ("Jack, you forgot your muffin."). Matrix uses the tools in the shed to dispatch each of them; he pitchforks one in the chest, transforms Joe Dante into Clint Howard with the use of a saw blade to the scalp, and chops off the leader's arm. According to the commentary, Arnold wanted to smack the guy in the face with the severed arm, and in a wrongheaded display of restraint, the director decided against it -- that's right, the man who directed Showdown in Little Tokyo thought it was too much. Someone please steal that idea and use it wisely, I want to see that shit happen in a non-horror film.
More carnage ensues with Matrix blasting more soldiers, at one point firing through a garden of roses, which in my humble opinion, is as close to Film As Art as you can get. Anybody who isn't Jenny bites it hard, including Cher's dad, who takes about two too many shotgun blasts to the chest, but I understand where Matrix was coming from; you don't fuck with family, you know? Then comes the final fight between Matrix and Bennett, which as I mentioned way earlier (remember back in the day, when you started reading this entry?), is pretty much about one man's unrequited love for another. So strong is Bennett's passion for Matrix, that not even 100,000 volts of inconveniently-placed electricity will stop him, no, it will only make him stronger.
Matrix finally objects when Bennett declares that he's going to shoot him between the balls (reneging on the original plan to shoot Matrix between the eyes), so he penetrates Bennett with a piece of steam pipe, which I guess would kill him. Anyway, Matrix gets Jenny, tells General Franklin Kirby to lose his number and off they go in the airboatplane, where I'm guessing Matrix introduces Jenny to RDC aka New Mommy while some 80's rock shit plays and the credits roll, The End and all that and I guess that's it. I mean, I like the movie and all, but I don't know how I'm going to end this, so I'll end it with this video that amuses me to no end.
Oh wait, I remember something -- back when I was a kid, my cousin used to have a Commando action figure. It came with a little comic booklet that was pretty much a condensed, PG-rated version of the movie. The only bits I remember about the comic booklet was that rather than impaling Bennett with the steam pipe, Matrix uses it to blow steam in his face. Also, Matrix doesn't drop Sully, he lets him live. In other words, he doesn't let him go, he...uh...lets him go.