Hey you, person reading this website: how would you fancy building the Definitive Manpunch Film Collection? No? Ah. That’s a bit of a shame because that’s what we’re doing right now.
In building the Definitive Manpunch Collection, a lot of thought went into what the first film should be. It should be something that sums up the very spirit of the Manpunch genre. Something that has stood the test of time, is a resolute as the heroes that star in each film. There was, at the end of the day, only one choice.
Most people will agree that the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a mainstream name was The Terminator. And I have no problem with that, it’s probably right. But Commando was the film that defined what Arnie would stand for, laid down the template for the films that made him the biggest movie star in the world.
Schwarzenegger stars as John Matrix, a retired special forces soldier who is living peacefully with this daughter. This peace is broken by a visit by his old commanding officer who brings news of the deaths of several members of his old team. Very soon these killers break into his house and kidnap Arnie’s daughter and hold him to ransom; he must go to a South American country he helped to liberate and kill the President so that the deposed dictator can re-take the country. Matrix is put onto a plane with 24 hours to do complete his mission or his daughter dies. Needless to say, Arnie has a few issues with this and quickly turns the tables on his enemies.
That is essentially it. The film points Arnie at the bad guys and off he goes, striding through them like an unstoppable force of nature.
In his previous films, Arnie was the hero but didn’t speak much, mainly due to his accent scaring the producers. In Conan his dialogue was kept to a minimum, as it was in his villainous turn in The Terminator. In Commando, this is not the case. Arnie has reams of dialogue and not least his ironic quip after killing the various bad guys. It is fair to say that no one else had done action films in quite the same way. Each death was setup as a joke which Arnie delivering the punchline in his flat Austrian accent. It also established many of Arnie’s recurring motifs, like “I’ll be back” and this fighting move;
It is for this reason that this film is first in the Manpunch collection. So many films followed in Commando’s wake, so many films with a lone wolf action hero against insurmountable odds. In fact, the proposed sequel to this film ended up being re-written and called Die Hard, a film we will be returning to later.
So this film is a Arnie classic, one of his best that is more over the top than Stallone’s Over The Top. It is pretty much the definitive Manpuncher.
A word on your purchase, however. Be wary of picking this one at cheap as early DVDs of the film were cut by the BBFC to remove some of the violence making it essentially a TV version. The one you want is a copy produced in 2007, which is when the BBFC waived the previous cuts they had made to the film. The running time should be 88 minutes so keep an eye out for that. If you really fancy pushing the boat out, there is a US Director’s Cut which includes a commentary track.