Flicks like Commando are an endangered species. Shameless red-meat spectacles that have the barest semblance of plot and are really just excuses to feature iconic actors in kick-ass action sequences, this cult classic from the mid-Eighties really makes one long for the day when Hollywood took itself a bit less seriously (hell, screenwriter Steven E. deSouza acknowledges the film's tongue-in-cheek nature is what made it work).
Ah-nuld Schwarznegger, after the triple play of The Terminator and both Conan movies, graduates to top billing with this bloody piece of fluff that fetishizes explosions, guns and brutal deaths to an amusing degree. Schwarznegger stars as retired Special Forces Colonel John Matrix, a man whose bucolic life in the mountains is interrupted by the kidnapping of his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). A former member of his elite strike team, Bennett (Vernon Wells), wants Matrix to assassinate a foreign political leader -- or else. Of course, Matrix soon turns the tables on Bennett and enlists the help of a flight attendant (Rae Dawn Chong) to get his daughter back and exact revenge upon his tormentor. Which means lotsa big-time 'splosions and limbs flying every which way. Good 'ol-fashioned ass-kickin', Schwarznegger style.
And really, although director Mark Lester keeps things moving swiftly forward, the whole film really exists for the climax, which features Matrix eviscerating anyone he comes into contact with, via rocket launcher, grenade, shotgun, machine gun or (most memorably) a section of steam pipe. Commando is goofy, gruesome fun that's perfect for an afternoon with the fellas -- I can't think of a better flick to throw on after a football game and, y'know, "let off some steam."
This "director's cut" is more marketing gimmick than anything -- the film's theatrical cut (which is also included on this disc) runs for about a minute and 10 seconds less than the director's cut. The changes, which are actually subtle extensions and brief bits of violence, are viewable under the theatrical cut special features menu (more on that below). If you loved the original version of Commando, don't worry -- the DVD producers saw fit to include it, but given the miniscule changes in the director's cut, it's arguably superfluous.
There's a bit of grain and the occasional, fleeting scratch or dust mote, but overall, this film, at more than 20 years old, looks very good in this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, particularly considering that both the theatrical and director's cuts are housed on the same disc. The black levels are solid, the copious amounts of blood spilled fairly pop off the screen and the flesh tones are warm and accurate.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has plenty to do throughout the film and keeps the dialogue from being overwhelmed by the numerous explosions and gunshots. It's a nice, clean mix of a vintage film brought tastefully into the modern era. A Dolby 2.0 stereo track is here, as is a French Dolby 2.0 stereo track and a Spanish mono track. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also onboard.
Director Mark Lester, who calls Commando his favorite film out of the 28 he's helmed, contributes a loose, mostly informative commentary track that's playable over either the director's cut or the theatrical cut. The supplements are pretty much identical for both cuts, although the theatrical cut has the "added footage" as a supplement (four scenes from the film, playable separately for an aggregate of about seven minutes altogether -- the new pieces are very subtle alterations, so most of the "added footage" is simply the scene from the theatrical cut with the new bits added/changed; all new footage is presented in anamorphic widescreen).
The "Commando: Pure Action" featurette runs 15 minutes and six seconds, offering a mix of new and vintage interviews, while the seven minute, 17 second "Let Off Some Steam," a trio of deleted scenes playable separately or all together for an aggregate of two minutes, 52 seconds (in anamorphic widescreen) and a massive photo gallery completes the disc.
Flicks like Commando are an endangered species. Shameless red-meat spectacles that have the barest semblance of plot and are really just excuses to feature iconic actors in kick-ass action sequences, this cult classic from the mid-Eighties really makes one long for the day when Hollywood took itself a bit less seriously. Commando is goofy, gruesome fun that's perfect for an afternoon with the fellas -- I can't think of a better movie to throw on after a football game and, y'know, "let off some steam." Recommended.