Arnold Schwarzenegger: John Matrix The absolute apex of action heroes. He is super human. Arnold is absolutely huge in this flick and that is a perfect build for Matrix, who is hardly touched until he battles the turncoat, Bennett.
Vernon Wells: Bennett The ultimate ambiguously gay, chainmail(?) vest and dog collar-wearing, lean-muscled Australian villain! Wells played a very effective villain in The Road Warrior. Four years later (1985), he played an equally entertaining villain, yet the reasons may be different.
Dan Hedaya: Arius Dan Hedaya has had a successful career as a character actor. This time around he sports a Pacino’s Scarface-subtle Latino accent. And, of course, he develops an elaborate plot to kill a South American head of state, which entangles Matrix – the consensus winner of Bad Motherfucker of the Year. Poor choice, no?
Billy Duke: Cooke Billy Duke does not have a lengthy record of BAM movies (but some of greats, with this flick, Predator, & Action Jackson). Yet, he is dynamite in all of them. He has the thick face and deep set eyes that can play either the evil villain (like in this one) or the tough, don’t-eff-with-me good guy (like Predator).
David Patrick Kelly: Sully Also known as the crazy dude who was in The Warriors or the crazy dude who was in The Crow. Sully is the smart-ass villain who creeps around the heroine until she tells him to buzz off right before getting into her car. His response? “You fucking whore!” Hoes always be dissin’ the creepsters. Minutes later he is in a restaurant/bar uttering the line, “This used to be a great place for hunting slash.” Stay classy, Sully!
Charles Meshback: Henriques An evil henchman who dies quickly, but not before dressing in a wonderful Jamaican pimp get-up. He does have three lines, two of which are unintelligible words.
Alyssa Milano: Jenny Matrix I never seen a daughter love her “East German” father more than Jenny loves Johnny. It was also clever how the writers slipped in there that the heavily accented John Matrix was born in East Germany, clearing up why he has a perfectly American-accented daughter. Phew, and I thought there was going to be a plot hole in this arthouse film.
Billy Paxton: Coast Guard Officer Billy comes back for his second bit part in an Arnold film (Terminator). Too bad he does not get destroyed in this one, as it is always lovely to watch Bill Paxton get broken.
Arnold’s Beeping Watch: Itself Matrix has exactly eleven hours to save his daughter. Luckily, he has a watch that counts down the seconds, usually beeping for each second that passes – except for when it doesn’t.
Plot Get the girl, kill the baddies.
Highlights As mentioned above, John Matrix is made of steel wrapped in adamantium and covered in unobtainium. He also has super-human strength, which is nice. He is the ultimate BAM wrecking ball. … After the movie begins with Cooke killing three members of Matrix’ former elite-double-secret-Team-America squad, the opening credits roll (after we get two tickets to the gun show) over a montage of a daddy-daughter who are way too happy to be with each other. Every time I watch it, I expect Arnold to either lose it and snap her neck or start making out with her. The finest parts of the montage are when they are feeding a deer (it is so natural looking) and the “I love you daddy!” construction-paper heart that Jenny leaves on the fridge for him to find. On a side note, is it necessary to establish how much they love each other? Normally, would a father not try to save his daughter, but this is the exception to the rule because he really loves his daughter? … Arnold has no acting chops in this flick. I am not saying he evolved into a Jack Nicolson (like the way Obama evolved his views on gay marriage), but by the time True Lies rolled around, he was a completely competent actor. Hell, even in Predator (a mere two years later), he was able to hold his own (for an action star). Here, Arnold forces his lines (best of which, “I’m gassy,” to the stewardess) like he has no idea of what the words even mean (maybe he didn’t). … After Matrix spends the entire movie tracking down his daughter while more/less single-handedly destroying a small army, his former commander shows up, confirms that he killed everything dead, then asks if he is sure he does not want to rejoin and get his old unit back. It is as if someone just got done getting raped a ton in prison, then asking them if they want to be a catcher in a professional prison-raping league. (Yeah, I think that is about the most apt analogy. Nailed it!) … There is not only a huge amount of action, there is a wide variety of it: BOOM!s, fisticuffs, guns, knifes, axes, etc. Most of it is done by Matrix, who logs a robust 81 kills in this movie. … The Galleria Mall in this flick is the same mall where the two terminators first battle in T2. I recognized this for the first time when rewatching the movie for this list. (How could it have taken that long? I was blind, now can see.) … When Matrix is suiting up with all of his goodies (i.e. guns, grenades, knifes, camouflage) on the beach before the final climatic scene, it is done via montage (a BAM staple). What makes this montage especially entertaining is that this process would have probably taken an hour – for a man time-strapped to save his daughter. … When the baddies ambush Matrix and two army jobbers at his house, Matrix is tipped off to their presence because “they are downwind.” Yup, Matrix smelled the baddies outside, in the open air before he saw them. This is the kind of shit that makes this movie brilliant. If I tried to script a BAM parody, I do not think I could come up with this kind of genius.
Drawbacks There is one glaring flaw in Commando and that is the female lead, Rae Dawn Chong playing Cindy. The makers nailed every other aspect of this flick. Whoever casted the rest of the characters must have been sick and his replacement did not see the note that read, “Role of Cindy: Dumb blonde chick with huge knockers. Thank You.” Instead, they went with a cute/nerdy(?) looking skinny chick who shows no cleavage and whines a lot. Also, why is this chick even with Matrix? Matrix asks as much and she replies, “Helping you get her [Jenny] back!” Huh? All 90 pounds of you? I assume Matrix was thinking he could use her as a human shield or projectile at that point. (This second part is not a drawback, just an observation. If anything it is a plus, as it is perfect BAM-logic.) … There is only one scene with brief nudity. Once again, the female lead should have filled this BAM-quota.
Best Take This movie has a handful of absolute money action sequences. As in other BAMs, it would be easy to choose the climatic scene here, but I will have to go with the BAM-famous mall scene (yet, it was tough to not go with the Arnold-Duke fight). The scene starts with Matrix trying to get Cindy to lure out Sully from a mall restaurant. The frightened Cindy alerts the mall security that Matrix has abducted her. Cue: Mall security trying to apprehend the bigger-than-life Matrix, while Matrix is trying to nab Sully. Yakety Sax could have been playing for much of this scene and it would have blended in flawlessly. In this scene, Matrix yanks out a phone booth from its base, throws mall security around like Muppets, and swings from a mall decoration “like Tarzan!” Splice in there, one of Sully’s cohorts superphously getting shot – which inevitably triggers him to open a briefcase of cash over the side of a mall ledge – and the best mall security guard in the history of cinema (with lines like, “Wanna see me kick some ass?” referring to him v. Arnold, and reporting-in Arnie as “one GI-GAN-TIC MOTH-ER FUCK-ER,” in some weird syllable-by-syllable cartoon voice), and you have yourself an A+++ action sequence. As a bonus, the scene leads to a car case that ends as Matrix runs Sully’s Porsche onto its side, while Matrix’ car runs into a telephone pole at terrific speed (which comically has no effect on him or Cindy). He then grabs Sully, hangs him upside-down off a cliff with one arm (with the aid of comically visible chord), then drops him, quipping, “Sully, remember when I said I’d kill you last? …I lied.” Hiyo!
Justification When I first put this list together, this flick popped in my head as the top BAM. Reviewing and rewatching the other movies in the list only confirms my initial honor. Commando unapologetically knocks you over the head with big, dumb action accompanied by even stupider lines. And it accomplishes all of this with its best and most successful star. This is aided by the fact that the plot is toddler-friendly and no time is wasted on setup. Jenny is kidnapped minutes after the opening credits and we are off! Commando makes Predator (Arnie’s second best BAM) look like it spent hours on character development, as all of that junk is covered and done with by the opening credits (i.e. Jenny and John feeding a deer.). And if this movie needed anymore justification (it doesn’t), the proposed sequel ended up being reworked into the best real action movie of all time, Die Hard. The best BAM spawned the best AM. Amen.