Do you remember that feeling where you wanted to be a character in a movie? As we grow up, that feeling goes away. Well let me tell you, I can still feel the yearning to be John Matrix that I felt as a 13-year-old. Sure, Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator made many take notice of Arnold. This is the movie that — to me — put him over the top.
Director Mark Lester told Empire, “It’s the granddaddy of action films as we know them today. And Arnold was the reason it got made.”
Who knew that it was originally a movie all about a soldier turning his back on violence? Well, that wasn’t what ended up on the screen. Instead, we have Arnold gleefully getting revenge on all manner of soldiers, thugs, mercs and habitual linesteppers for around 90 minutes of rip-roaring fun.
Yet when the movie starts, John Matrix is happy. He’s in the woods, feeding deer by hand, hanging out with his daughter Alyssa Milano and carrying trees around by himself. Then, after turning down an offer to come back in, a bunch of no-goodniks come on in and take his daughter. Even worse, his old best friend Bennett (Vernon Wells!) is their leader.
Also: Bennett dresses like, well, no one who has ever lived on this earth before. A chain mail sleeveless shirt would be enough, but then he has leather pants and fingerless gloves. It’s as if the entire design staff of Capcom, Data East, Konami and SNK all looked at the screen and said, “This is the blueprint for every fighting game we will ever make.”
Wells is legitimately unhinged in this movie. In that same Empire article, he said “.. I was so hyped to be in the movie, they could have asked me to jump off the Empire State Building and I probably would have. Making Commando was better than anything you could have smoked.”
Wings Hauser was going to play Bennett, which probably would have been awesome too.
This is a movie where Arnold murders between 81-102 people in twenty minutes. There’s a rocket launcher scene that sends me into a fit of hysteria. The hanging dudes off cliffs by their feet. All the wonderous one-liners. And oh yeah, “Let off some steam, Bennett!” You have no clue how many times that scene was rewound while we all screamed the line to one another.
Arnold made two films at Sherman Oaks and that place should have a gold statue of him that we can all genuflect in front of. This movie is a piece of cinema that no one would have the audacity to make today.
Look, when Dan Heyada is the big bad of your film, you’re doing it right.