Commando is the quintessential Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, a comic-like paean to machismo, masculinity, muscles, and over-the-top violence. Commando is an absolutely ridiculous movie; luckily, the team involved in its creation has the self-awareness to recognize how ridiculous a movie it is.
Commando tells the story of former commando John Matrix (Schwarzenegger), who now lives the kind of idyllic life that only exists in movies, alone on a ranch in the mountains with his daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). The camera lustfully tracks along his muscles, and we watch as he chops wood with ease; make no mistake – Commando is a film about muscles as much as anything else. Matrix’s former commander arrives via helicopter to interrupt their peace, warning Matrix that his unit is being killed off, one-by-one, and Matrix is next. Matrix promises Jenny that nothing’s going to happen, a promise that we know he certainly cannot keep.
The ensuing hour plus of violence is over-the-top and silly. We see John swinging across a mall like Tarzan, John snapping people’s heads in broad daylight, John dodging bullets and engaging in dangerous hand-to-hand combat, all without sustaining a scratch, and all with plenty of cinematic banter. For part of the film, flight attendant Cindy (Dawn Rae Chong) is enlisted into the action; at first, she comments on the over-the-top machismo, saying:
I can’t believe this macho bullshit… these guys eat too much red meat
But, by the end of the film, she’s wielding a rocket launcher herself. It’s just that kind of movie.
Coming a few years before Die Hard (which was originally pitched as a sequel to Commando), it’s easy to look at Commando and see the ways in which it lacks the kind of modernity that Die Hard introduced to action movies. But overall, it holds up rather well as a kind of movie best enjoyed for its surface pleasures.