(1985) Mark L. Lester. Tribeca Y, June 22, 2012.
The Shine Box likes to veer from use of the superlative statement. But Commando may be the best action movie ever made. The acting, writing and directing never flinch. A soundtrack of 80s steel drum and horns, lots of bare muscle Arnold, setpieces of supremely staged ass-kicking, and skanky macho dialogue by highly individuated scumbag psycho bad guys.
Shine Box saw the movie at a recent screening in the Basic Cable Classics series at Tribeca Y. Director Mark L. Lester appeared after the screening for an interview and Q&A.
L. Lester said the movie was rushed into release after the shoot and cobbled together in just four days by a crackerjack team of editors. These proved to be perfect working conditions. The final showdown between former black-ops buddies Matrix and Bennett was supposed to take place after a boat chase, but because of the budget, they improv’d the engine room and pipe impalement. “Let off some steam, Bennett.”
John Matrix demonstrates the one-man army which the American military has made of him, and is later pulled out of retirement to take care of the blowback. Matrix is from East Germany, where the Family was the State, and rock and roll was subversive. Matrix reads Creem magazine. “Maybe they were right.”
When Bennett steals his daughter, Jenny, Matrix disregards all loyalty to law and order to get her back. He uses a bulldozer to break into a weapons supply store, beats up cops, and kidnaps a woman, Rae Dawn Chong, who is tough and pretty with spry comic timing.
The fight scenes are sugared with taunting between the trained killers – “I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I am very hungry...” All scenes in Commando end with a punchline, whether a quip, a maiming of multiple assailants, or Arnold’s hulking bicep as he carries a giant log and chainsaw down the mountain.
“You think I could smell them coming?” asks the wounded soldier. Says Matrix, “I did.”