Editor’s Note: Thanks to Paul Andolina, whose website is Wrestling with Film, for sending this to us to express his love of Philippine war flicks. This review first ran on October 15, 2018, and we’ve brought it back for our week-long “Philippines War Week” tribute.
Every October since about 2014, I’ve participated in a friendly movie watching competition called the Halloween Horror Movie Marathon Madness. The first couple years I joined in I tried to stick to horror movies as much as possible. However since certain actors and directors are considered Wild Cards during the Madness I can get away with non horror fare. Such is the case with today’s film, Saigon Commandos. I came across this film while searching for movies starring P.J. Soles, who most will recognize from Carpenter’s film Halloween.
Saigon Commandos centers around a Military Police officer named, Stryker, during a drug war, a series of murders and an election happening in Saigon, Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It is based on a book in a series of novels written by Nicholas Cain, who served as an MP in Vietnam. He couldn’t get his memoirs published but was told they would publish his works if he fictionalized them with more violence and sex. The series ran for twelve novels, Saigon Commandos being an adaption of the ninth one.
Released in 1988 and starring Richard Young as Stryker, and P.J. Soles as a journalist, Saigon Commandos is not too easy to find. This is a shame as I found it to be a decent film concerning the Vietnam War that didn’t solely focus on what was going on in the jungles but more on what was happening in Saigon. Corruption is running rampant, heroin flows freely in the city streets, and someone is going around killing people with hollow point rounds. I knew I was in for a treat when it opened with a Vietnamese band singing House of the Rising Sun in a bar/stripclub. At times it felt like it was unintentionally funny especially when an AWOL soldier is shot in the ass by drug dealers. As he is on the examination table in the medic’s office in Camp Pershing, he screams in a manner that has to be heard, I found myself cracking up.
There are quite a few plot points happening at once in this film, with Stryker dealing with an AWOL Specialist who has made it his mission to get vengeance when some of the corrupt politician Trui’s men kill his fiancee when trying to get to Stryker. There is also an investigation into who exactly the hollow point killer is, as well as Trui and his men trying to win the election by fear mongering.
This film has a bit of action and even a small skirmish in the jungles of Vietnam when Stryker is forced to head into the shit to get two of his friends to sign a disposition backing up his alibi when his commanding officer of the military police turns up shot in the head in his bed after a night of Stryker’s heavy drinking.
I had very low expectations for this film and it turned out to be quite fun. If you can manage to track down a copy, I highly recommend it. I bought a German DVD that has both German, and English audio tracks. The picture quality isn’t the greatest but I think it adds to the enjoyment of it.