A silly (but entertaining) 80's action flick, "Commando" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a retired commando (hence the title) named John Matrix, who has seen so much battle that he's been retired in order to protect him from all the villains whose plans he's sabotaged over the years. He now lives in a cabin in the mountains with his young daughter (Alyssa Milano) in an attempt to make a normal life for himself.
However, before long his old commander flies in in order to inform him that his old buddies are being taken out of the picture, possibly by one of his old enemies. A second after his commander leaves, the bad guys move in, stealing his daughter and holding her for ransom. Lead by Arius (Dan Hedaya, who wouldn't exactly be my first choice for a bad guy, but I guess that's neither here-nor-there), the bad guys want John to carry out an assassination plot and give him 11 hours - or else.
However, instead of getting on the plane that would take him to the target destination, he gets off the plane (as it's taking off, in an impressive stunt sequence) and goes about hunting down the bad guys, starting with the one he promised he'd get last.
"Commando" looks mildly dated at this point (and not surprisingly, given that the flick is now 22 years old), but the film still entertains as a mindless (and ridiculous, such as a moment when Matrix uses a nearby construction vehicle in order to get into an Army surplus store) action picture, with some solid action scenes, a fun performance from Arnold (who has some amusing one-liners) and a tight running time of about 90 minutes. Rae Dawn Chong (as a rookie pilot who Matrix kidnaps and ends up helping him) and Vernon Wells (as Bennett, as a villain and former soldier) is also good in a supporting effort.
The theatrical and director's cuts are included on the same disc. The difference in running time is a little under 2 minutes. The director's cut runs a little shy of 92 minutes, while the theatrical cut runs about 90.
VIDEO: "Commando" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film looks surprisingly good here, considering its age. Sharpness and detail aren't outstanding, but the picture does look consistently pretty crisp and clear throughout most of the proceedings, with only the occasional soft looking scene. While there were a few minor specks and marks on the elements, much of the film looked clean and clear. Some slight grain was occasionally scene, but grain was slight when spotted. Colors looked natural and crisp, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: Although the film's sound mix is getting up there in years at this point, it has been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 makeover.
EXTRAS: director Mark Lester offers a commentary for the film, starting the track mentioning that he's excited to be doing the commentary, as it's his favorite of his nearly 30 movies. The commentary does have its gaps of silence (as one could expect, I suppose, after this long), but when Lester does chat, he offers some good tidbits, such as a discussion of how producer Joel Silver went up to the control tower at LAX and asked that the plane they were using be moved to the front of the line on the runway. We also hear more about casting, shooting the film's action sequences and some script changes. Overall, it's not a consistent commentary, but it's a reasonably fine one when Lester does chat.
"Pure Action" is a 14-minute featurette that reunites some of the cast (not Arnold) and crew in order to discuss their feelings on the making of the film, as well as its continued popularity among fans. Writer Steven De Souza discusses his experiences rewriting the picture (it was originally a fairly different film) and director Mark Lester chats about filming the picture with Arnold. Actors Bill Duke, Rae Dawn Chong and villain Vernon Wells also chat about working on the 80's action film with Arnold. "Let off Some Steam" is a new 6-minute piece about the film's ability to not take itself seriously.
Finally, there's 3 quick deleted scenes and a great deal of still galleries.
Final Thoughts: "Commando" remains an enjoyably mindless action fest, with a fun early effort from Arnold. The director's cut DVD offers a slightly longer film, but also offers a better presentation and some nice new supplemental features. Recommended for fans.
The Film B