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John Matrix, ultimate soldier and one-man army. Matrix, the former leader of a special commando strike force that always got the toughest jobs done, is forced back into action when his young daughter (Alyssa Milano) is kidnapped. To find her, Matrix has to fight his way through an array of punks, killers, one of his former commandos, and a fully equipped private army. With the help of a feisty stewardess (Rae Dawn Chong) and an old friend, Matrix has only a few hours to overcome his greatest challenge: finding his daughter before she's killed.
For more about Commando and the Commando Blu-ray release, see Commando Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 5, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, David Patrick Kelly, Alyssa Milano
Director: Mark L. Lester
» See full cast & crew
Commando Blu-ray Review
The quintessential 1980's action movie looks and sounds great on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 5, 2008
I eat green berets for breakfast, and right now I am very hungry.
What the 1950's were to science fiction (Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers--the list stretches toward Infinity) is what the 1980's were to the action film--the zenith of the genre, offering up a venerable cornucopia of examples of this type of film, mostly characterized by machismo, overly large men wielding humongous weapons, becoming a one-man army and wreaking havoc on anything, everything, and anyone standing in their way. Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became icons known the world over, not for their acting prowess but for their chest sizes, six-pack abs, and the mayhem they wrought the world's most vile of on-screen villains. As a true-blue, red-blooded male action fan, I can easily come up with a short list of contenders for title of "quintessential action film of the 1980s." First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Top Gun, Predator, Cobra, Tango & Cash, and Die Hard come to mind immediately as the best of the best. Films such as Invasion: USA, Missing In Action, and American Ninja all vie for title of most vapid, though a bit of nonsense is definitely a prerequisite for earning the title of "quintessential action film of the 1980's."
For my money, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando is the easy, no doubt, runaway winner of the contest. Released on October 4, 1985, smack-dab in the middle of the decade, it features Arnold Schwarzenegger, the almost undisputed king of action in the decade, of man of enormous stature, both in the literal and figurative sense. His bulging muscles are nearly as big as the guns he wields in Commando. There's no doubt that the 1980s was the decade of "peace through superior firepower," as the United States defeated the Soviet Union in good measure to superiority in the arms race. Commando features big, bulky rocket launchers, an extra large in appearance Kalashnikov style rifle, and a sizable shotgun, just to name a few. It's also completely over-the-top and dumb, and I call it that with all the respect and admiration I can muster. The movie strikes the perfect balance of over the top action, clever dialogue that includes the best group of one-liners ever heard in a single film, and just enough story and acting to make it work. All of it is brought to us with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It's just serious enough for us to care about the story, and just vacuous and loud enough for us to keep a smile on our faces for ninety minutes. Without a doubt, this is it--the movie that defines the 1980's, and as a fan of the decade, the genre, and its star, Commando is one of my all-time favorite movies.
Colonel John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The 6th Day) is a former member of an elite special operations unit now living in near seclusion in the mountains with his daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano, TV's Charmed). Members of that unit, now also retired, are being murdered one by one, and General Franklin Kirby (James Olson, Amityville II: The Possession) flies in to inform Matrix of the situation, and leaves two armed guards to protect him and his daughter. As soon as the chopper leaves, Matrix's home is attacked, his daughter kidnapped, and Matrix captured. He's told he must assassinate a South American president or else Jenny will be killed. Behind the plot is Matrix's former friend and teammate, Bennett (Vernon Wells, The Road Warrior). Frankly, none of this matters one bit. It only serves as a device to allow Matrix to go to work, offing these slime balls one by one and wreak havoc on a military compound to save his daughter. Along the way, Matrix will team up with a reluctant ally, Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong, The Color Purple). As time ticks away, Matrix must find out where Jenny is being held and mount a rescue operation, killing anyone and destroying anything in his way, because somewhere, somehow, someone's going to pay.
As much as I like this movie, I'm the first to admit that it's one of the silliest big-budget movies I've ever seen, but that is what makes it so great. Its mood is most serious, but the filmmakers obviously knew that they weren't making an Oscar-caliber film, and they played up the comedic bits and one-liners, and definitely created a movie tailor-made for action fans. The plot is incredibly simple, so much so that, as I mentioned above, it really doesn't matter. Fans don't watch Commando for plot intricacies or character development (although they mange to far surpass many films in this area anyway, the film I last reviewed, Aliens vs. Predator Requiem serving as a good example of superficial character development). Serious Arnold fans watch this movie to see him shooting, slicing, stabbing, kicking, and punching his way to his daughter, spouting off some of the funniest one-liners I've ever heard, and waiting for some of the creepiest and most sadistic villains ever, namely Bennett, to face off with Matrix. Still, the movie makes sure nobody is left behind, and spells out the uncomplicated plot as plainly as possible. For example, the montage over the credits makes it very obvious that Matrix and his daughter love one another an awful lot, as if they loved each other any less he wouldn't be as gung-ho about saving her. Nevertheless, the movie never gets bogged down in too much nonsensical, worthless plot development, just moving from one action scene and one-liner to another, and for my money, Commando is perhaps the best ninety minutes any red-blooded action fan could hope to spend in front of their television sets.
Commando Blu-ray, Video Quality
While this 1080p, 1.85:1 image found on Commando will never compare to the best transfers I've seen, it nevertheless looks marvelous when taken by itself, compared only to the previous VHS and DVD versions of the movie. Commando is like an old friend, a broken-in baseball glove or a favorite recliner, something that I'm always more than happy to spend time with. It's safe to say that I know this movie fairly well, and the image presented on this Blu-ray is a revelation. I'm simply amazed by how much this movie benefits from a high definition, 1080p transfer. Sure, there are some problems, but Commando will never be five-star material on Blu-ray or any future format for that matter. The source is over twenty years old but aging rather well, but not as refined and polished as movies of more recent vintage. There are some minor speckles on the print, grain is almost always present and spikes in certain scenes, and the image appears a bit soft every now and again, but for the most part, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Detail is much higher than I expected it to be, as was clarity and definition. Colors are rich and clearly defined, though somewhat pastel in appearance, but that's just the way movies looked in the late 1970s and 1980s (Dawn of the Dead comes to mind as a movie with similar-in-appearance colors). Nighttime scenes sport surprisingly good black levels. The 1080p transfer highlights a few blue screen effects as plainly obvious, notably when Matrix and Cindy take off in the sea plane. My meager expectations for this disc were far surpassed, and I'm simply impressed.
Commando Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fox's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track blew me away, and it was like hearing Commando for the first time. Much like the video, this is a revelation, a completely engaging, powerful experience. Like the video, it doesn't live up to the extremely clean, immersive, and realistic bars set by the best tracks I've heard, but this one makes for an absolutely perfect compliment to the feel of the movie, and impressed me as much as any other track out there, all things considered. May of the "problems" are more a result of the source than the disc. Some of the sound effects are pretty dated, like when Cooke drives the car through the showroom window at the beginning, but it's a fun sounding effect anyway, just like the movie. We get the same experience, only about 100x more powerful, when Matrix drives a dozer into the surplus store. James Horner's score is iconic and fantastic, definitely product of the 1980s (a lot of saxophone and synthesizer beats), and an overall entertaining listen. Surround channels work hard too, and there always seems to be something happening, be it a fly-by of a helicopter early in the film, loud, heavy gunfire, or the almost nonstop music. Arnold's punches and kicks pack quite a punch, resonating with hard-hitting, authoritative goodness. It's a cacophony, but it woks very well anyway. Gunshots reverberate and punch you in the gut, rattling the subwoofer and emanating all around the listening area. A scene in chapter 5, where Matrix is chained to a table, sounded a bit awkward, as if a breeze was blowing by, sounded more like undefined noise than wind. A minor quibble, and maybe its there by design, but it sounded a bit awkward anyway. I was most entertained and impressed by the mix, and like the video, the lossless sound mix far, far surpasses the downscaled, very weak in comparison mixes of the VHS and DVD versions I've heard countless times.
Commando Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commando, most unfortunately, arrives on Blu-ray with only a 1080p theatrical trailer for the film, as well as 1080p trailers for Alien vs. Predator, Behind Enemy Lines, Phone Booth, Planet of the Apes, and The Transporter. The disc is also D-Box equipped, a feature that, with a specially-equipped chair, viewers can "feel the movie" as it reacts to the film.
Commando Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While Commando may not be five-star movie material on the same level as The Godfather Part II, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, or Lawrence of Arabia, it earns its stripes by epitomizing a generation when movie fans craved big muscles and big guns laying waste to America's enemies, and who better to do it for us than the "Austrian Oak," a man who will go down in the annals of Hollywood as one of its biggest stars not because of his acting abilities but because of what he represented at his peak, namely America itself. It proved to be the land of opportunity for him, working hard overseas to build his body and eventually coming to the United States to live the American dream, and eventually become one of the country's preeminent political leaders as Governor of California. He was my childhood hero, and he remains to serve as an inspiration to me in a number of ways. Fox has delivered Commando to Blu-ray looking and sounding better than I've ever experienced before. The video quality isn't really up to par with the latest and greatest movies, but considering the source material and the age of the film, the result is is a major improvement over the VHS and DVD versions. The audio is superb, very engaging, and loud. I was tremendously disappointed by the lack of extra material, however, but the movie and A/V quality more than make up for that. While Commando is not Schwarzenegger's best movie, it's his most fun, a decade-defining film that will forever remind us how the action genre should look on the big screen--larger than life. I hope we see this smashing, killer style make a return to Hollywood someday soon. Highly recommended!
Commando: Other Editions
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Commando Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Predator and Commando Get New Blu-ray Date - January 10, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will release the Arnold Schwarzenegger classics 'Predator' and 'Commando' to Blu-ray on April 15th. Both releases will be encoded in 1080p MPEG-2 and accompanied by DTS-HD MA audio. Full extras have yet to be officially ...
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