The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Going Commando: The Ultimate Arnold Action Movie

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer


As I was lying in bed last night, sleep eluding me as words do President Bush (Zing!), I tried to think of a worthy candidate for my first attempt at writing an article for CC2K. I had nothing. Nothing seemed right, nothing felt promising. I tried to think of all the bad movies I’d seen to find one to make a contribution to CRAPFEST about, but was still coming up empty. Then I was cold-cocked by the meaty fist of inspiration with a single word: Commando.

In case you can’t read the caption on the side it says: “Somewhere … Somehow … Someone’s Going to Pay!” Sounds like President Bush’s view of the War on Terror (ZING Again!)

First I feel the need to set the stage. Commando came out in the heyday of action movies, when action movies WERE action movies, and action movie stars were demi-gods. I’m talking about the 80’s. My younger brother and I grew up during this time, and we worshipped at the cinematic altars of Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and (of course) Arnold.

(Side note: This was a time before the “crackdown” on children’s’ exposure to violence. Before first-person shooters such as Doom (and all its progeny), before the rise of the Christian conservative right, before the tragedy at Columbine. Perhaps you can identify with me here. My parents were more concerned about our exposure to sex than they ever were about our exposure to violence. So we could watch good guys kill bad guys in all manner of ways, but if a woman appeared topless or there was a sex scene, it was the visual equivalent of “Ear Muffs!”)

Looking back over Arnold’s resume of action movies, I’m convinced that Commando is the ultimate. I’m not saying it’s the best action movie he ever made (I tend to think that status goes to Predator), I’m saying it’s the quintessential Arnold action movie. It has every element of an Arnold action movie, and saturates them all with that crazy nicotine-infused energy drink he endorses over in Japan. I’m talking about explosions, invulnerability of our hero, feats of implausibility, and (obviously) lots of bad guys for him to kill, oh and that element that Arnold makes all his own: one-liners. Put all those things together and you get a movie that’s really quite bad, but so bad it achieves (in my opinion) RvW’s status of “So Bad It’s Good”. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

This movie wastes no time in establishing who the hero is, and who the bad guys are. During the opening sequence we get a juxtaposition of two scenes. In one, some random guy gets fucked up by the bad guys while he’s taking out the trash (I say fucked up because they shoot him like 30 times with an Uzi). In the other we are introduced to Arnold in all his mid-80’s glory. And what better way than to have him carrying a tree? That’s right, when we first meet Arnold he is carrying a fucking tree ON ONE SHOULDER, and in his other hand he’s carrying the chainsaw he cut it down with. I want to make sure you get this image. Arnold is carrying a log that looked 1-2 feet in diameter and 10-12 feet long, and he doesn’t even look to be strained doing it. Now I haven’t seen this movie in a LONG time, but when I was a kid this didn’t look to be a fake prop to me, it looked like the real thing. That right there cemented the idea that plausibility was on hiatus, and wouldn’t be back until the credits rolled.

Here we also meet another major character: Arnold’s daughter, played by Alyssa Milano. We see some shots establishing they have a great father-daughter relationship, but there’s no sign of a mother. In fact, from what I can remember, not only does she not make an appearance, we don’t see even a picture of her or hear her name. I assumed she had died, and that was why Arnold retired from the Army, so he could raise his daughter. Oh yeah, did I mention Arnold was in the military? Were you paying attention to the name of this movie?

Soon an old general-buddy of Arnold’s shows up and warns him he may be in danger. Seems some bad guys have been going around killing his old squad-mates (the guy taking out his trash, et al) and Arnold may be next. He offers Arnold two armed soldiers, which I think Arnold scoffed at, but accepted. Within minutes of the general leaving, the bad guys show up. A split-second before they do, Arnold tries to warn everyone. Too late, the bad guys kill one of the soldiers and wounds the other. After getting to temporary safety, Arnold chides the soldier telling him to stay downwind. Incredulous, the soldier asks, “Downwind? You think I could smell them coming?” To which Arnold replies, “I did.” That’s right folks, if you want to sneak up on Arnold you better take care of that BO and go easy on the cologne, otherwise he’ll SMELL you from at least 100 feet out.

So the bad guys kidnap Alyssa, and Arnold gives chase in an old Ford Bronco with NO engine. Don’t worry, he pushes it to the edge of a slope, then sort-of steers it down the side of a mountain. Plausibility is still gone? Just checking. But upon having captured Arnold, the bad guys reveal their evil plan. The Big Bad is some Central American (or South American, I can’t remember) warlord with a Saddam complex. He wants to assassinate the president of a certain country, and then lead his small army in a coup to set up his own dictatorship. Where does Arnold come in, you ask? Well, it seems this president is VERY well guarded, and the only way to kill him is to get close. Fortunately Arnold and he are old friends (don’t ask me how, I can’t remember if they explain this or not). The Ultimatum: Go and assassinate the president, or they will kill Alyssa Milano in a VERY nasty way. Arnold is at first compliant, but don’t you worry, it’s just a ruse.

There’s one other character of importance we meet here: a man named Bennet. Bennet is a rather chubby man with a ridiculous mustache and an equally ridiculous chain-link wife-beater (that’s 80’s fashion for ya) AND an odd-sounding manner of speaking. I can’t adequately explain why it’s odd, it just is. Watch this movie and you might know what I’m talking about. Anyway, seems Bennet used to be on Arnold’s squad too, but went rogue for some unexplained reason and is now a mercenary, working for the Big Bad, oh and he seems obsessed with killing Arnold (which will come up later).

Where were we? Ah yes, so Arnold is forced to board a plane with one (only one!?) henchman to baby sit him for the plane ride as they go to do the dirty deed. Arnold actually kills him sort of discreetly in their seats, and then covers him up with a hat and a blanket. Then he gets to deliver his first one-liner of the movie when he asks a stewardess not to disturb his friend because, “he’s dead tired.” Hah! Do you get it? DEAD tired? You gotta love this stuff. Right after this, finding they’ve pulled away from the gate, Arnold sneaks down to the lower level of the plane, accesses the landing gear and climbs out onto it. Then he hangs on as the plane TAKES OFF and Arnold patiently waits until they clear the runway. IMMEDIATELY after the runway is a swampy/marshy/wetland area (how convenient), and Arnold let’s go and falls what appears to be 50-100 feet and LANDS, WET BUT UNSCATHED. Now how in the world 4-5 feet of standing water, even with a mud bottom underneath is enough to break his fall such that he has NO injuries whatsoever is beyond me-What? Oh, yeah, I forgot that plausibility left. Never mind then.


Why would those bastards want to try to kidnap THIS?

Arnold follows one of the henchmen who dropped him off at the airport to a shopping mall where he is going to do some kind of illegal deal. Henchman #1 spots Arnold, and a chase through the mall ensues. See, if Arnold is there, then he is NOT on the airplane which means he is NOT going to kill that guy, so henchman #1 has got to call the Big Bad so they can kill Alyssa. I find it very funny thinking about this now, at a time when practically everyone has a cell phone. But this was the 80’s, so he had to find a pay phone to make that call. He actually does, but before he can dial Arnold rips the phone booth from the ground, lifts it over his head and flips it end-over-end. Hey, if the guy can carry a tree then lifting a phone booth is a breeze. Arnold eventually kills henchman #1 by dropping him off a cliff. First he interrogates him by holding him by his ankle WITH ONE ARM. He then gets to deliver another one-liner when asked what happened to the henchman by his kidnappee turned sidekick (don’t ask), he says “I let him go.” There are plenty more deaths and one-liners where that came from.

A motel key leads Arnold and sidekick to henchman #2, whom Arnold quickly dispatches in a rather gruesome sort of way, forgetting he needed him alive to gather information. Oh well, not to worry because after infiltrating a deserted warehouse turned bad guy armory, Arnold deduces the Big Bad and his daughter are on some remote island off the coast. They also find a small seaplane in a nearby harbor they can use to get to said island, but before they head out they need to (in Arnold’s words) “go shopping.”

Now comes perhaps the most ridiculous element of the plot, at least so far. Arnold breaks into a sporting goods store that happens to have a secret room with enough firepower to supply a small army. Arnold raids the room for enough firepower to destroy a small army, which he has every intention of doing to get Alyssa Milano back. Now, in order to break into the store, Arnold decides to go for the EXACT OPPOSITE OF DISCREET and crash through the front of the store IN A BULLDOZER. It seems to me that if time is precious (and it is) and Arnold is about to do something illegal (which he is) then the LAST thing he wants to do is call attention to himself, like the kind that comes with driving a bulldozer through a storefront. By the way, where did he find that bulldozer? Do people just leave these things lying around-wait, what’s that? There’s been an accident? And plausibility didn’t survive? Oh my. Then we shouldn’t be at all concerned that Arnold DOES get arrested and hauled off in a SWAT van, only to be rescued by his sidekick, whose brilliant idea is to shoot the van (with Arnold inside, mind you) with a bazooka. Strangely enough, this works like a charm.

At last we come to the final act, a tour de force of bullets flying and bad guys dying. After landing off shore at Big Bad’s island, Arnold rows to shore, for some reason wearing only a Speedo. I guess he felt it was a nice opportunity to get a little sun? He then suits up and sets off. At first he sneaks around, silently killing a bad guy here and there while he’s setting land mines. You know, just to get warmed up. Then when he lets his cover get blown, I mean, that sort of thing wouldn’t happen unless he wanted it to, he really starts racking up a body count. Then he blows a bunch of shit up with the land mines and a rocket launcher, and proceeds to decimate Big Bad’s small army.

I’d like to point out, since plausibility has passed on, may it rest in peace, that Arnold’s method of shooting is what I like to describe as “spray & pray”. Essentially he points his gun in the general direction of bad guys, shoots from the hip and somehow hits EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Meanwhile the bad guys are shown to actually take the time to AIM, but only come close to actually hitting Arnold. But lest we think Arnold is gifted with a Superman-like invulnerability, he does get injured, albeit mildly. A grenade goes off nearby, giving him what looked to me to be a nasty bruise. I mean it had to sting a little, cause Arnold DID grab his side and wince.

I don’t mean to ignore Alyssa, cause throughout the movie we do cut to her now and then. At first she’s scared, but soon realizes that she’s Arnold’s daughter, so she’s not going to taking any crap lying down. She disassembles the door handle to the room she’s been locked in, and then uses it to whittle away at the boarded up doorway leading outside. Just as Arnold arrives and starts getting his killing-groove on, she manages to have freed a plank large enough to crawl out of. Bennet finds she’s escaped and gives chase.

Oh, and I can’t leave out this next scene. See, after getting bruised by the grenade (just go with it) Arnold finds himself out of ammo, so he takes refuge in a shed. He is surrounded by bad guys, who proceed to shoot roughly a few thousand rounds into it. Hey, when you’re trying to kill Arnold it pays to be excessive. But he’s WAY too smart for them. After they open the shed door to inspect his dead body, Arnold drops from his safe hiding place in the ceiling and proceeds to kill about a half-dozen guys with gardening tools. I can still remember this. First he stabs a guy with a pitch fork, then hacks a guy with an axe, then kills three guys by throwing circular saw blades at them (one has his throat cut, another has it embedded in his chest, and the third has the top of his head cut off) and finally Arnold cuts a man’s arm off with a machete. Side note: I read on that the script called for Arnold to then beat the guy with his own severed arm, telling him to “shut up”, but they left it out because they thought it too “macabre.” Wow, at this point, why not include it?

Ok, so he kills a bunch more bad guys, kills the Big Bad (by shooting him 4 or 5 times with a shotgun, Arnold does NOTHING half way) and we get to the grand finale. Arnold verses Bennet. Bennet has caught Alyssa and uses her to bait Arnold into the open, then he shoots Arnold in the shoulder (it’s just flesh wound) and taunts Arnold to stick his head out so he can “shoot him between the eyes, make it quick.” Arnold responds by taunting Bennet into discarding both his daughter AND his gun to fight him one on one with a knife. Bennet complies (I guess being insane & evil makes you stupid?), and a vicious, no-holds-barred fight ensues. It’s back and forth and eventually they disarm each other for some bare knuckle brawling. Arnold proceeds to beat the snot outta Bennet, so Bennet shows his true bad guy colors by picking up his discarded gun and attempting what he SHOULD have done earlier. Before he shoots he utters something so ridiculous it’s absolutely hilarious, “I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes, I’m going to shoot you between the balls!” Arnold will have none of that, so he does what anyone of us would do in that situation. That’s right; he grabs a nearby pipe, rips it off of the wall, and throws it across the room at Bennet, impaling him. Not only does the pipe impale Bennet, Arnold throws it with enough force to go through him AND through the metal plate covering the furnace behind him, such that now steam blasts through and out the pipe. Arnold then closes with his best one-liner of the movie, “Let off some steam, Bennet.”

And that’s about it. There’s a tiny little bit of exposition afterward, but that’s essentially the movie. Sounds AWESOME, right? I don’t think words do it justice; you’ve just got to see it for yourself. To make it even more entertaining, I advise watching it with friends and turning it into a drinking game. Every time Arnold kills a guy, take one drink. Every time he does something so implausible it stretches the limits of believability, take three drinks. And every time he quips a one-liner, finish your drink. I dare you to try and make it through that last half hour.