Reviewed July 1st, 2001 by David Nusair
The action genre peaked in 1985 with Commando. No movie since has been able to wield a proper combination of hard-core violence, witty one-liners and just the right amount of absurdity like Commando did.
Arnold Schwarzennegger stars as John Matrix, an ex-military man now living in a forest with his daughter, played by Alyssa Milano. Their existence is seemingly perfect - they spend their days chopping wood, feeding baby deer and frolicking in a swimming pool - but their bliss is short lived. Back in Matrix's army days, he had to discharge a fellow soldier for being too vicious. Now Bennett (played by Vernon Wells, in a remarkably flamboyant performance) is back and has kidnapped Matrix's beloved daughter.
Commando works on just about every level - from the hilariously over-the-top action sequences to the brutal violence - but hands down, it's the script that makes Commando such a gem. Plenty of movies have tried to emulate the ease with which Commando unfolds, but never quite as successfully. But more than that, it's the classic one-liners that make this an '80s staple. Here are a few choice quips: “Let off some steam” (said after Matrix has thrown a steam pipe through a baddie's chest); “I eat Green Berets for breakfast and I'm very hungry right now!”; “Don't disturb my friend - he's dead tired.” (said after snapping the neck of a villain on an airplane and making it appear as though he's sleeping. And then there's the mother of all exchanges: Matrix is holding a bad guy named Sully (who he previously assured he'd kill last) by one leg over the edge of a cliff and the following dialogue ensues:
“Hey Sully, remember when I promised to kill you last?”
“Yeah, man! You said that!”
(Followed by Matrix dropping Sully and Sully screaming as he plummets to his death.)
Gold. Pure gold.
Audio: Commando has been presented in Dolby 2-channel surround (and in 2-channel French). This is not a room-shaker. The explosions sound nice, but explosions aren't supposed to sound nice; they're supposed to sound vicious. To be fair, the dialogue is crisp and ambient sounds are uniformly relegated to the left and right speakers, but this is a film that deserved a 5.1 remix.
Video: And as mediocre as the audio is, the video's worse. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), this is a pretty awful transfer. It looks good in comparison to the VHS video, but by DVD standards, it's sub-par. The worst problem is this never-ending flickering that occurs in the bottom half of the screen. In daylight scenes, it's tough to see - but during darker sequences, it's incredibly distracting.
Extras: A full-screen trailer. That's all you get.
Conclusion: It's a shame that a seminal action flick like this one received such a shoddy DVD treatment, but for now, this is the best way to see Commando.
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