Director: Mark L. Lester
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Welles, David Patrick Kelly, Alyssa Milano
Running time: 89 mins
Release date & availability: Out now on Blu-ray
With the news that Ryan Gosling has been given the blessing of Sylvester Stallone to revive his immortal character of John Rambo in a remake of FIRST BLOOD, it seems logical that sooner or later some producer will want to revive Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s character John Matrix in a reboot of his 1985 hit COMMANDO.
With this in mind, it seems fitting to revisit the original film, which has been released on Blu-Ray in a Special Edition that contains both the original 1985 Theatrical Cut, but also a never-before-seen modified Director’s Cut.
To those of you unfamiliar with the background of the film, it was released during Stallone’s unstoppable year, when both ROCKY and RAMBO tapped into the anti-Communist and Russian stance personified in Vietnam and the Soviet Union. In both cases, the films, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (a script co-written by James Cameron given on the back of his success with TERMINATOR and done whilst preparing to do ALIENS) and ROCKY IV, proved to be amongst the most lucrative of the film series, which increased in box-office from ROCKY II onwards. In RAMBO’s case, it was the film to beat until Marty and Co surprised all with BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Schwarzenegger played up the rivalry with Stallone, claiming at the time he refused to use a body double unlike Stallone. COMMANDO turned out to be a breath of fresh air against the relentless one man army of Rambo, due to the need to punctuate the violence with some corny one-liners a la James Bond.
Schwarzenegger plays retired Special Forces Colonel John Matrix, living as a single parent with his young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano, then starring in WHO’S THE BOSS, but years off being one of the witches in CHARMED). However, it isn’t his life for much longer, when the overthrown President of the country Valverde (a fictional name which was heard later in DIE HARD 2 : DIE HARD (1990) (Dan Hedaya), kidnaps his daughter to blackmail Matrix into killing the established President, Matrix also has to contend with Hedaya’s henchman , Wez (Vernon Wells, playing the wonderfully psychotic persona he created in MAD MAX 2 / THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). Matrix is escorted onto the plane, but he manages to escape in a race against time to save his daughter and stop Hedaya’s President, with help from stewardess Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong).
Thirty years on, COMMANDO remains as wonderfully trashy and cheerfully brutal as it ever was. People die horribly, but the violence is punctuated with sufficient winks at the audience and between the cast. Fans of the EXPENDABLES films will welcome a point of reference in this film.
I must stress that the Director’s Cut has little to add to the original, but to it’s credit it does explain the backstory of Matrix’s relationships pertaining to his daughter and perhaps one or two additional bits of violence and dialogue changes can be spotted if you do a comparison between the two versions on the disc.
Still, whether you are a veteran viewer or a newbie with this, I will leave the last word to Matrix: