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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mark L. Lester
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, James Olson, David Patrick Kelly, Alyssa Milano
Writing Credits:
Jeph Loeb (story), Matthew Weisman (story), Steven E. de Souza (and story)

Tagline:
Somewhere ... somehow ... someone's going to pay!

Synopsis:
In this early action classic that features his unique blend of thrills and offbeat humor, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as retired Colonel John Matrix. The ex-head of a special commando strike team, he's forced back into action when his daughter is kidnapped. With the help of a fiesty stewardess, Matrix has only a few hours to overcome his greatest challenge - finding his daughter before she is killed.

Box Office:
Budget
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$7.700 million on 1495 screens.
Domestic Gross
$37.810 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Monaural
French Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime:
90 min. (Theatrical Edition)
92 min. (Extended Version)
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/18/2007

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Extended Versions of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Director Mark L. Lester
• “Pure Action” Featurette
• “Let Off Some Steam” Featurette
• Deleted and Added Scenes
• Still Galleries
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Commando: Director's Cut (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 13, 2007)

We revisit the heyday of the ultra-macho action star with 1985’s Commando. We find Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Colonel John Matrix, a retired warrior who lives in the mountains with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). He promises her that he won’t return to active duty, but the situation changes when someone starts to kill his also-retired – and presumed hidden – men.

As soon as Matrix learns of the threat, it becomes real when baddies open fire on John in his home. They kidnap Jenny and he learns what he’ll have to do to gain her return. Some thugs want for him to kill the president of a Latin country called Val Verde so they can install their own leader. Either Matrix does the job or they’ll off Jenny.

Without any other option, Matrix accepts – but that doesn’t mean the baddies have won, of course. As soon as his plane leaves LA, he works to deal with the problem in his own manner. The rest of the flick follows the action as Matrix tries to keep Jenny alive and deal with a mix of other concerns – all while the clock ticks toward a deadline.

If you look up “gratuitous violence” in the dictionary, you’ll see a link to Commando. We watch two needlessly bloody killings with in the movie’s first three minutes, and it doesn’t get better from there. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t object to graphic violence when the film needs it. I just don’t much care for the casual manner in which Commando throws out its bloodshed.

Though one could easily argue that this was the style of the era, and they’d be correct. While you’re in the dictionary, take a look at “80s cheese” and you’ll once again locate Commando. Did any of us take this nonsense seriously back then? Maybe, but that seems very hard to imagine. From start to finish, the film is so absurd that I started to wonder if the filmmakers intended it as a parody.

But then I thought back to the 80s and realized that they probably didn’t. No, I don’t think we’re supposed to view the movie as hard drama, but I also don’t believe we’re meant to see it as quite so idiotic. Comedic elements amuse but simply because they’re not funny. Let’s look at this exchange between Arius (Dan Hedaya) and Jenny:

“Your father seems to be cooperating. You will be together with him soon. Won’t that be nice?”

“Not nearly as nice as watching him kick your ass!”

We’re supposed to cheer and holler little Jenny’s gumption. We don’t. Instead, we grimace at the dopiness of the whole thing and wonder who ever thought dialogue like that would sound cool.

Moments like that abound during Commando, one of the most stiff and awkward action films I’ve seen. Movie quips can be fun, but this one’s dialogue is so stiff that it distracts, as does the nature of the Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) character. She clearly exists as exposition and a plot device. Her presence is absurd, and it makes no sense that Matrix would allow her to come along for the ride; she’d detract from the mission. Again, I don’t expect realism from a flick like this, but at least a minor nod in the direction of logic would be nice.

Actually, I’d like for the film to make even rudimentary sense. It fits its plot to match its desires, with no concept of internal consistency. One minute Matrix can take down an onslaught of men, but then he gets caught by a couple of beat cops? That scene exists solely so we can see Cindy shoot a rocket launcher to break him out of the police van. Couldn’t they have invented a more logical manner to have this happen?

If the movie’s action excelled, I might be able to ignore these idiotic moments. Unfortunately, Commando can’t deliver in that department. If you like massive body counts and chaotic mayhem, you’ll feel differently. As for me, I’d like to see action that goes beyond the ho-hum slaying on display here. Matrix just kills, kills, kills, and the movie never generates even the most rudimentary sense of excitement or drama. It’s all about the final death tally, as the film can’t deliver anything more interesting than blasts and bullets.

If I were 14 and it was the 80s again, I might be dumb/naïve enough to find enjoyment in Commando. However, it’s 2007 and I’m 40. Nostalgia can’t save this one, as it hasn’t aged well at all. I’m not sure it ever was anything but terrible, but 22 years after its release, Commando is unwatchable for anything other than camp value and mockery.

Note that the DVD includes both the movie’s original theatrical edition along with a “Director’s Cut”. The theatrical one lasts 90 minutes, 10 seconds while the extended cut goes for 91 minutes, 46 seconds. Obviously that means you won’t find many changes for the DC, as an extra 96 seconds doesn’t allow for many additions. Since I only watched the DC, I can’t comment on the alterations, but I wanted to mention that the two versions appear here – and that they don’t seem to be very different.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Commando appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though 80s movies often present drab visuals, this one actually looked pretty positive.

Sharpness usually came across well. Some wide shots tended to be a bit soft, but those examples didn’t occur with any frequency. Most of the movie showed nice delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws were essentially non-existent. I noticed a couple of specks at most, for the majority of the film seemed clean and fresh.

As I alluded earlier, 80s movies often suffer from flat colors, but that wasn’t much of an issue with Commando. Some interiors looked a little bland and murky, but they usually came across as pretty natural and lively. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, while shadows showed acceptable clarity and definition. Though this wasn’t a stunning transfer, it lacked significant issues and earned a “B”.

Although also dated, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Commando seemed fine when I considered the film’s age. Audio quality was the main minor disappointment, as the mix didn’t show a great deal of dynamic range. In particular, the score came across as somewhat wan and lackluster; the music could’ve used more punch. Effects suffered from a little distortion and lacked great definition, but they offered some pop during louder segments and usually sounded acceptably accurate. Speech was fairly natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns.

I thought the soundfield managed to bring the action to life in a pretty positive manner. The forward spectrum showed good imaging, as the various effects were reasonably well localized and placed. Movement was a little less solid, but I still thought the pieces merged together in a good way. Music showed solid stereo spread as well. Surround usage wasn’t exceptional but it satisfied. The surrounds helped reinforce the action and added some oomph to the program. Overall, the audio had its ups and downs but was good enough for a “B”.

We get a mix of extras here that start with an audio commentary from director Mark L. Lester. He provides a running, screen-specific track. He tells us a little about locations, stunts and action, cast and performances, script issues and a few other notes.

When I say Lester tells us a little, I mean it. The director chimes in somewhat infrequently and never really digs into the movie. This makes for a forgettable discussion. Lester goes over basics but not much more. Though he does become chattier as the film progresses, he never turns this into an interesting track.

Two featurettes follow. Pure Action goes for 15 minutes, six seconds as it presents movie clips, archival materials and comments from Lester, writers Joseph Loeb III and Steven E. De Souza, and actors Arnold Schwarzenegger (in 1985), Rae Dawn Chong, Bill Duke, and Vernon Wells. “Action” provides some notes about script development, Lester’s approach to the film and its tone, cast and characters, and the flick’s legacy.

Like Lester’s commentary, “Action” occasionally touches on some good information, but it meanders too much. We see a lot of movie clips and don’t find as many useful details as I’d like. Still, it’s better than the commentary, as at least it throws out a decent array of moderately interesting bits.

Let Off Some Steam fills seven minutes, seven seconds with notes from Chong, De Souza, Wells, and Schwarzenegger (still from 1985). “Steam” looks at the movie’s many quips and some general thoughts like working with Arnie and whether or not Bennett was gay. It’s a light view of the flick as it provides minor fun.

Added Footage includes four pieces: “Alternate Line from Jenny” (0:45), “Alternate Line Between Matrix and Cindy” (3:08), “Matrix Discusses Raising His Daughter” (2:09) and “Extended Tool Shed Fight” (0:46). Note that the “Added Footage” area appears only if you click on the “Theatrical Version”, since the tidbits were placed into the Director’s Cut. Because I only watched the Director’s Cut, I can’t comment on the changes, but it’s nice to know that folks who prefer to watch the original theatrical edition can still check out the extended/altered parts.

We also locate three Deleted Scenes that run a total of two minutes, 52 seconds. We get “Mall Aftermath” (1:28), “Freeze!” (0:48) and “Bennett’s Death” (0:42). “Mall” shows General Kirby as he restates the plot of the movie; given the simplicity of the story, I don’t know what purpose it would’ve served. “Freeze” just shows Matrix and Jenny at the flick’s end; it adds nothing. Finally, “Death” gives us a few alternate lines to accompany Bennett’s demise.

Next we find some Still Galleries. They break into four areas and are presented as running slideshows: “Creating Commando” (2:33), “Domestic Bliss with John and Jenny” (1:03), “Kill, Arnold, Kill!” (2:53) and “Trashing the Galleria” (0:30). I don’t like the presentation, as you can’t skip through the photos, but the pictures themselves are pretty good. The disc also gives us a four-page booklet. It throws in some minor production notes and bits of trivia.

The DVD opens with an ad for Wall Street. No trailer for Commando appears here.

Would I call Commando the worst of the 80s action flicks? No, but right now I find it tough to think of any crummier efforts. Stiff, awkward, cheesy and idiotic, the film exists to pour on mindless mayhem. It lacks any form of drama or cleverness, but it sure does pile on the kills! The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio as well as a smattering of passable extras. Fans will likely dig this package, but I can’t find much entertainment in this sub-moronic cheese.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3913 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main