|Title:||Commando: Director’s Cut|
Rae Dawn Chong,
|Audio Format:||DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Runtime:||1 Hours 25 mins|
|Extras:||Theatrical Version & Director’s Cut included,
|Studio:||20th Century Fox|
|Release Date:||UK: May 04 2015|
|See If You Like:||Predator,
Let Off Some Steam Bennett!
It’s rare that we get a case of truly legendary action films float through the re-release schedule for Blu-ray nowadays but my interest peaked when I saw that this gem’s Director’s Cut was coming out. It is not hyperbole when I say that possibly the following is probably the granddaddy of the action movie craze, which kickstarted in the 1980’s. It’s got Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s got amazing goons being dispatched awesomely, it’s got mountains of pithy one-liners and it’s got a kill-list as long as the coastline of Val Verde – I am of course talking about Commando!
John Matrix (but he may as well be called Arnold, The Expendables 3) is a retired U.S. Special Forces Colonel and spends his retirement looking after and raising his daughter Jenny (a ridiculously young Alyssa Milano). One day after hearing of his former squad members being bumped off, Jenny is kidnapped by the South American dictator Arius (Dan Hedaya, Monk) and Matrix’s former colleague Bennett (Vernon Wells, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) threatens her life unless John carries out a political assassination. Playing along with it until he can slip away, Matrix finds out where the dastardly pair have taken Jenny and asks himself if he’s bad enough to save his own daughter.
Of course, your mileage may vary in your enjoyment of this special film, as it depends solely on whether you love Arnold’s own brand of killtacular killfests and deadpan humour. It is how much you want to revel in this glorious pinnacle of that is how much you will enjoy this movie. Those who do will not be left disappointed. Straight out of the excess of the 80’s, Commando will continue to empower disbelief in you to this day with it’s winning combination of 180mph insane action and unforgettable one-liners. I mean, this film has Arnold freewheeling 4×4 down a mountainside, combat-rolling from a plane’s landing gear during take-off into a swamp and suplexing a phonebooth whilst a yuppie goon is inside… all within the first 45 minutes! That shed scene in the final stretch with the spectacular kills contained within is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone. You have to suspend your disbelief and accept that Arnold has cheated and turned on God Mode and Infinite Ammo but it’s tongue in cheek beautiful stuff.
From the breakneck speeding opening half where it’s just constantly building and ramping up suspense as Matrix despatches subordinates in magnificent ways to that final raid on Arius’ death fortress loaded with Central American goons for Arnold to blow through, everything contained within stays with you. Even the slow and lacklustre exposition laden middle has the face palming excellence of Matrix’s poor put upon sidekick Cindy the Stewardess (Rae Dawn Chong, of Chong of Cheech & Chong fame’s daughter) firing a Rocket Launcher the wrong way, the silly ditz. The film itself is basic and not clever but it is big, dumb and loud – and that’s a great thing! Simplicity is Commando‘s ace with no message here apart from ‘Here is Arnold. He is a complete badass. Watch him destroy these goons.’ There is a case that if a film like this was released today that it would be considered a comedy and yet that is this film’s get-out clause – the fact that it’s an Arnold piece of escapism as he mercilessly steamrolls goons delivering pun after pun all in superb deadpan mode saves this from becoming a joke and the tongue-in-cheek humour is enhanced 10 fold because of it.
It’s those puns and one liners that make Commando for me. There is a fine line between absolute genius and testicle-kicking horrible and this film plomps it’s backside down on it & drags itself along, keeping a whole leg firmly in both camps. The wonderful Sully exchanges (“You remember Sully I promised to kill you last?” “That’s right Matrix! You did!” “I lied.”) to “Wrong!” to “Let off some steam Bennett”… there’s the usual label of so bad it’s good – well this film manages to pull off so bad it’s excellent! The sublime Bill Duke exchanges with “I eat green berets for breakfast… and I’m very hungry” and quips over an empty gun (“Fuck you asshole!” *Click* “Fuck YOU asshole.”) continue on a fascinating trend of a script that sticks in your mind. The fact that Arnold in his developing years carries this film all by himself is a testament to his box office ability. The sight of him oiled up and shirtless, flexing his physique, all buff and manly turns many heads and that armouring up scene before he carries out the island raid will put your child instantly through puberty no matter the age.
For those dying to see all those amazing additional Arnold kills and one-liners that were left on the cutting room floor, prepare to be pseudo-disappointed. Sure, it’s brilliant to finally see that banned for a long time ‘sawblade to the neck’ kill but in this day and age of Youtube where you can freely go look it up, I’m struggling to really give the thumbs up for long term fans to trade up to this Director’s Cut. With an original runtime of a dead on hour and a half, this version barely scratches 92 minutes with extremely minimal inclusions of additional lines and alternative camera angles. I was expecting a tidy 10 minutes more or so of more blood squibs and more violence to be honest.
In the end, Commando as an action film throws you back to that carefree decade of the 80’s of real life action super heroes with an invincible Arnold bulldozing his way through his madcap world and not batting an eyelid to the insanity, as he unloads a bookfull of puns that would make Bruce Forsyth blush, in a delecious 92 minutes. The ‘Director’s Cut’ tag stings though but then again that extra two minutes IS worth it if you’ve never seen that gloriously violent buzzsaw kill before. If you’re willing to indulge in an Arnold spectacle, the original still holds up as the best.
Considering this film is now 30 years old, and given there are some substandard transfers of movies of similar ilk and age previously, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it looks. When you consider that on the same disc we have both the original theatrical and Director’s Cut version (okay Blu-rays are big, but still…) with extras too with no let downs, it’s a winner. With both normal 1.85:1 and 16:9 widescreen crowds cared for with Full 1080p resolution also, it manages to breathe new life into a film you would not expect benefiting from such a transfer. Particular of interest, the extra shine makes the film’s less talked about effects stand out more. A great transfer makes the bullet flashes as we cut rapidly between Arnold unloading on a hapless Arius cool-looking. Those cardboard cut out men in that island raid sequence look faker than ever though!
I don’t want to call it a disappointment because for the most part the audio works here. I mean, all it has to do is make various bullet shots and groans sound impactful to enhance the image of a goon getting blown away to work… BUT I did notice in the first half especially the sound levels were definitely going up and down. I had to keep up with my remote to balance it out, which was very cumbersome when I’m trying to enjoy my Arnold killing spree. There was some patchy sound mixing which could have done with some enhancement. With everything else given the full Blu-ray treatment, it seems folly to let the audio be let down somewhat. Standard 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as standard.
For those wanting something new and fresh about the world and the cult Commando has produced, you’re left still waiting. The extras are the bare minimum with Director’s Commentary on the Director’s Cut with Mark L. Lester, a theatrical trailer and a smittering of deleted scenes. A 15 minute ‘Making Of’ documentary, titled ‘Pure Action’, sadly offers next to no interesting insight, despite pretty much including everyone relevant cast and crew apart from Arnold. The fact that half of the 15 minute run time is made of film clips is very cheeky as well. Much more interesting is the 7 minute ‘Let Off Some Steam’ doc which talks about the excessive, not taking itself seriously and campy attitude the movie has. The trouble is, all of the above have been on the DVD version of this release before. A lack of new extras coupled with a smidgen of poor ones means you’ll be considering going Commando at Fox yourself.
The Bottom Line:
If you have never ever seen this wonderful Arnold killing spree before, then you owe it to yourself to see Commando. It’s so vastly different to what passes as action escapism today, you will feel like you’ve stepped off into another world. For those long-time hardcore fans, I must admit it’s a struggle to give it a thumbs up. The film’s still amazing obviously and the transfer for such an old movie is near perfect, but apart from the fact that it’s on Blu-ray, there is nothing else new to really tempt you to adding this to your collection with no new extras at all.