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Arnold: The Glory Years

CommandoIf you recently saw the aptly titled Shoot ‘Em Up and agree with the usually perspicacious New York Times critic A. O. Scott that it is a “Witless, soulless, heartless movie… that mistake[s] noise for bravura and tastelessness for wit,” then Commando is not the movie for you.

But if there’s a place in your heart for loud, dumb action movies that don’t waste your time with stuff like plot, characterizations and the laws of physics, then this Arnold Schwarzenegger classic is for you. You probably already own it. And you’ll probably be excited to learn that a new, unrated 95-minute version is being released on DVD today.

Let me be clear on this: I realize that the phrase “Arnold Schwarzenegger classic” can only be understood as an oxymoron or an exercise in irony. Commando is in no objective sense a “good” movie.

It’s Schwarzenegger’s first post-Terminator starring vehicle, and while it seeks to move him beyond the relentless, implacable killing machine of that movie, it doesn’t try to get him very far past it. It does, however, make sure he’s shirtless as much as possible, just so we can all appreciate how much time he was spending at the gym. (By the looks of it, about 31 hours a day.)

This is the plot: Arnold kills the guys who kidnapped his daughter (Alyssa Milano, in between the first and second seasons of “Who’s the Boss.”) That’s it, folks.

He’s not called on to do much other than look stoic (hardly a stretch) while aiming guns, and deliver an endless stream of inane punchlines. When the writers of “The Simpsons” parody Schwarzenegger, this is the film they’re thinking about. Critics of the day went apoplectic at the grand finale where our hero impales the villain (The Road Warrior’s Vernon Wells) with a steam pipe while sneering, “Let off some steam!”

Loud, dumb, violent, unpretentious exploitation fun.

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