MARK L. LESTER WEEK
Over the past 40 years, Mark L. Lester has produced and directed some of the most freewheelin' car chases, explosive action set pieces and flat-out sensational genre films to emerge from Hollywood. In 1992, he formed American World Pictures, of which he remains president and CEO to this day. On the occasion of his 65th birthday this Saturday, the Pink Smoke will be dedicating the week to a series of articles - each by a different writer - covering different films from Lester's four decades of blood, bullets - lots of bullets - and outrageous bombast. We start with...
COMMANDO by Paul Cooney
Since that fat fuck Orson Welles died and everyone stopped pretending Citizen Kane was great so as to not hurt his feelings, people have been asking the big fucking question: What is the best movie ever made? The answer? Commando.
It's no surprise when you think about it, cuz that movie has everything that makes cinema, and life, great: tawny broads, villains, explosions, exploding villains, bad accents, good accents, sexy cars and Rae Dawn Chong.
This classic opens in a bed, where some jabroni looks as though he just nailed a heavily made-up blonde who is way out of his league...then he hears the garbage truck. Oh shit! He'd better hop out of bed and rush down to the street in his bathrobe quick cuz god forbid the trash should have to wait in the can for a few more days. (Relax asshole, you're rich and it's trash.)
He mutters something weak and stupid about his garbage and the santiation workers respond by shooting him! Whoa! Their supervisor is not going to be happy about that. Are they union?
When we next see that trigger happy trash man he's buying a Cadillac, but instead of paying for it he runs over the dealer and drives right through the showroom window! What's the rush, Bill Duke? Lol! I love it and it's clearly the best opening to any work of art ever. Charles Dickens, go fuck yourself.
Some other stuff happens and then we're next treated to an awesome montage of Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoying some quality time with his rather young girlfriend Alyssa Milano. Hello, what's this? Oh quite right - that's his daughter. He carries a log on his shoulder, they eat ice cream, he teaches her Navy Seal kill holds, they feed deer, they fish, and in a classy gesture of mutual respect it's catch and release only for these two!
Then the shocker comes...back at the house we get a shot of the fridge...there is a little contruction paper drawing that says, "I love you dad!" Holy shit, has Arnold turned pussy?
They sit down for lunch and when Arnold sees a pic of Boy George he quips, "They should call him Girl George." Hilarious! But also disturbing...why does he even know who Boy/Girl George is? Has he gone soft? Is he spending too much time reading US Weekly when he should be hunting predators in Central America?
Suddenly we hear a helicopter...trouble! That's more like it! This domestic bliss pap was bullshit - I want to see that Austrian madman kill somebody. Some Colonel Trautman-wannabe shows up and mutters some nonsense about Arnold's old team being killed off so he's leaving two soldiers to secure the area. Two? Talk about inept leadership! No wonder we lost Vietnam!
Major Douchebag tells Arnold that someone is after him...could be the "Syrians, Russians, South Americans"...wtf? The whole fucking continent of South America is after him? He must have helped some right wing death squads. Bad Arnold! Do you think releasing a few fish with your daughter makes up for the overthrow of democratically elected governments south of the border?
Arnold looks over at the two chumps left behind to protect him, "Are they any good?"
Oh really? Cuz I got a feeling they suck! These supposedly "real good" soldiers stand there and wait to die while Arnold actually smells the bad guys coming! Even his nostrils are trained!
Unfortunately in the subsequent shootout he leaves his daughter to be kidnapped and lets the two soldiers die, largely cuz he was sauntering around unarmed the whole time! You're slipping, Arnold! Too busy screwing the help to properly strap yourself, you salty Austrian dog! Impregnating the maid? Always have protection close at hand, Arnold! That goes for handguns and condoms, you idiot!
He careens down a mountain and almost destroys the car his kidnapped daughter is riding in (I would take a look at that insurance policy, Alyssa!) before being shot by his old comrade turned nemesis - Bennett!
Some other stuff happens and then we see Arnold, otherwise known as Matrix (is that Dutch?) being put on a plane by David Patrick Kelly, the '80s preeminent psycho actor, who cheekily stuffs some cash into Arnold's pocket and tells him to buy some beers in Valverde in order to "give everybody extra time with your daughter."
Oooooh! Not since he fucked with the Warriors has DPK been this sassy! The movie is 15 minutes old and finally we have a hero. That diminuitive cat has some brass cojones, insulting that pompous fuck Matrix to his face!
Matrix and some creepy dude in a Panama hat board the plane with first class tix purchased by DPK. DPK is so classy he purchases first class tix even for his kidnap victims! I like his style.
Unfortunately first class on "Western" airlines looks like shit! Matrix is barely seated when he asks for a blanky and pillow. Aww! That's precious. Going to take a nappy poo on the planey waney while your daughter is being ravaged by mercenaries and a dictator? Shame on you!
But wait! It was a ruse! He elbows Panama in the face and then breaks his neck, afterwards using the blanket and pillow to cover him and telling the stewadess to not disturb him as he's "dead tired." HAHAAHA! Yes!
Too late for Alyssa though since the plane is roaring down the runway. I guess Arnold will have to get comfy and hope the in flight film is Youngblood or One Crazy Summer...but wait! Our man Arnold decides to feign tummy trouble and sneak his way into the cargo hold, and then to the landing gear, and naturally enough once the hard part is over he simply jumps from the wheel of the plane as it takes off.
Boring! I mean how many times have we seen the old "dude jumps from landing gear of plane streaking into the air at several hundred miles per hour" and then have him land in a swamp? How 'bout some original ideas Hollywood!
Of course no one could survive such a plummet without damage, and indeed Arnold gets up out of the water only to discover his jacket is torn, and a little dirty cuz that swamp water is all full of mud and nasties. He takes it off and look out evildoers! Austria power is coming your way!
David Patrick Kelly, after performing his underling duties dutifully and watching the plane Matrix was on take off, takes time out to hit on Rae Dawn Chong in an especially sleazy way. I like this cat's style. He manages to take a character without any redeeming qualities and pure malevolence on his mind at all times and with the power of a gesture or a glance or a line delivered just so, make him sympathetic. I know I was watching this scene thinking, "Hey Rae Dawn, I know he's shorter than you, an obvious scumbag, and likely a criminal, but wouldn't lunch at Applebee's hit the spot right now? I bet he has some great stories! Give him a chance!"
Cut to Alyssa Milano held captive by the collective scum. They talk shit. How does that little dumplin reply? She says she can't wait to watch Daddy smash their faces in! Spunk! I don't know if momma was a softball player or East German weightlifter but she certainly got a lot of moxie from the genes of good old Matrix!
Back to David Patrick Kelly, DPK himself. Wowsers...now he's stalking Rae Dawn Chong, the lovely RDC, after her cold airport lounge rejection. I think she may have even called him a creep. He doesn't take no for an answer! How many crimes does this cat commit before noon? I love it. Double kidnapping, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder, sexual harrassment...a connossieur of menace!
She does look like she could take him in a fight however. How did he get to be leader of the Rogues? The sheer power of his mania?
Wait a minute! After some really creepy and relentless stalking DPK backs off when RDC says "Please!"
That's it? That's all it takes? DPK is going to lose his rapist credentials if he lets a word like "please" stop his assaults. Where is your persistence, young fella?
Ah - later RDC reveals she takes advanced karate! DPK must have realized she was a tough tawny coconut to crack! She may be slim but she can take care of herself! Well played, DPK!
Finally the American dream team personafied links up: the Austrian colossus and the mixed race lovely with the brown skin and last name of Chong. What consortium of n'er do wells could ever stand up against this polyglot power couple?
She asks him, "I suppose you wouldn't tell me if you were going to kill me."
Matrix replies, "I would."
Haha! Suck it Hepburn and Tracy! This is real world dialogue that you and your hoity toidy popinjay screenwriters could never convey to the people!
When Matrix reveals people want him dead RDC replies, "That's understandable, I've known you 5 minutes and I want you dead too."
Zing! Not since a young Vanity wowed us with her scintillating performances in 52 Pick Up and Action Jackson has a tawny actress shown so much moxie. Is she Vanity's little sis?
Perhaps distracted by Rae Dawn's luminosity, Matrix comes up wtih a truly terrible plan after following DPK to a restaurant in a shopping mall. (See the lovely meal you missed out on, Rae Dawn?)
Instead of just sneaking up on DPK he uses complete stranger RDC who is obviously terrified of him as bait. She almost instantly turns traitor and spills the beans to the mall cops, and what mall cops!
What follows is probably the greatest scene in movie history. Dozens of armed mall cops in what must have been the most well-protected shopping complex in the world stream out from everywhere to take on Matrix. If you had been planning on robbing a Gap or a Cinnabon, this would have been a great time to strike cuz it seemed like every mall cop in the land was engaged in attempting to subdue Matrix. Attempting! Too bad for them they only brought muscle and guns to the party cuz Matrix was in full on Psycho Commando mode.
DPK cuts his payoff lunch short when he spots shy and lovely Rae Dawn standing in the doorway. His smooth talk seduction has barely begun when he sees - wtf!, Matrix! Matrix? Yes Matrix! DPH demands a quarter from RDC and when she doesn't immediately comply he rifles her purse and seizes one. Pint-sized man of action! No wonder South American potentates see so much potential in him!
He races to the phone booth to drop dime but Matrix spots him before he can dial. DPK remembers he has a gun and actually shoots point blank at Arnold, but of course guns are useless against Matrix cuz he has a little thing the Nazis liked to call determination. (How did DPK hit Cyrus in The Warriors btw? He's a terrible shot!)
He grabs the phone booth, rips it out of the wall and lifts it over his head...with DPH still inside! That little rat slips out and scurries away when Matrix has to waste more of his precious time fending off hordes of mall cops, who take time out from their futile attempts to subdue the Austrian giant in order to shoot the Panamanian hat wearing diablo DPK had just paid off! Money falls all over the place and RDC gets caught up in the hoopla and attacks a mall cop who was about to shoot Matrix. Way to reject the dark side, Rae Dawn!
Cut to DPK running over Arnold in the parking lot (using a German car no less!), but Matrix hops in RDC's car to give chase...but not before RDC intercepts the speeding car somehow and demands to be let in! Amazing. Equally amazing is that a) Arnold agrees and b) the seat he had ripped out in an earlier scene has miraculously returned.
Fantastic. A car chase that is superior to anything done in the French Connection ensues, resulting in a head on collision with a telephone pole. Now considering Arnold wasn't wearing a seat belt and Rae Dawn wasn't even in a seat both were catapulted through the windshield to their deaths, right?
Wrong! Commando power, assholes! Matrix probably adjusted the radio just before impact and used sound wave frequencies to soften the blow and garner some push back. It's high tech shit I probably shouldn't even be divulging cause I don't want to help Al Qaeda.
Matrix grabs DPK and dangles him over a cliff after some rather ballsy repartee. Is this the greatest exchange in movie history?
"Sully, remember when I said I was going to kill you last?"
"That's right, Matrix! You did!"
Fuck yes. Hold on a second...yes I just reread everything that hack Shakespeare ever shat out, and no, he never came up with a quattrain or sonnet to match that beaut.
After dropping Sully off a cliff Matrix saunters over to the relaxing RDC who asks, "What did you do with Sully?"
(Umm...it happened about 10 feet away from you...like literally seconds ago...we even had this cool badass exchange...I made a really funny line...what the fuck were you watching, the moon?)
Matrix replies, "I let him go." Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh shit that is hilarious!
How could this movie get better? Take the action to a sleazy motel? Yes!
Matrix gets RDC ready for her part as "tart DPK fucked before getting down to business" by ripping her blouse a little. Just a hint of sleaze! She doesn't have much cleavage to speak of but she really does a great job with the role regardless.
Bill Duke comes a knockin' and that is one scary mofo you don't want at yo doh! He asks, "Who are you?"
Rae Dawn the coquette: "Room service."
Yes! How many awesome lines can one movie contain? You've already surpassed your allotted limit Commando, but keep 'em comin!
Duke waltzes into the room expecting to see DPK but instead meets Matrix's fist! Brawl! Duke rises and says, "I'm a green beret" or some other lame ass bullshit.
Matrix sneers cuz that was weak and says, "I eat Green Berets for breakfast!" (It's nighttime Matrix...say "dinner"...whatever.)
RDC comments on the macho bullshit filling the room and the two he-men fight and fight and fight in a rumbling tumbling all-out calvacade of fisticuffs that even busts through a door into the next room! The couple who were in the process of coupling shriek, but shit comes to a close when Duke is impaled on a broken chair leg. Loser McDoozer. Was it the greatest tussle since the real Duke and Victor McLauglin squared off in The Quiet Man? Yes it was.
Thankfully the authorities don't show up, likely regarding a little shootout and property damage as par for the course at some shithole hot sheet palace. Matrix ditches the dinky German sports car for some American steel...a big fat Cadillac courtesy of our dead friend Bill Duke! (If that has been reported stolen there is a danger of being pulled over, but whatevs.)
RDC reveals she is going for her pilot's license. I'm officially in love! Karate lessons, a full-fledged stewardess and an aspiring pilot? Could she be any more perfect? What's this? Gattaca and Valmont are two of her favorite movies? OMG! Me too!
The dynamic duo go some place and Matrix kicks the shit out of Branscombe Richmond, who gets dispatched without even uttering a line! What an indignity for an acting legend of his stature. At least let him mutter something like "Balls!" before he gets whacked.
(Another quibble I have with the film at this point...Arnold is showing a tremendous amount of cleavage. Could we at least have Rae Dawn rip her skirt? I know you can't ask her little buds of breasts to match those thunderous Austrian pecs but I'm sure her thighs are slender and nice!)
In the most ridiculous scene so far, Arnold uses a protractor. Are you shitting me? Conan knows math?
Rae Dawn is really holding up well in what must be an exceptional night in her life. I can't say the same for her hair though! It is really getting out of control but she remains adorable. She paved the way for the Tisha Campbells of the world. Where is her plaque, America? She and Vanity belong atop an even more hallowed Mount Rushmore, one that doesn't glorify imperialists and slave holders but instead celebrates the real heroes: tawny girls with perky tits.
Matrix bulldozes a mannequin and we enter into the world's awesomemest weapons store, which also suffers from the world's worst security system. Arnold stocks up, including delving into the secret stash of good shit and frogmen supplies! Awesome! I can't wait for the third act!
RDC takes a cartload of weapons to the car in the movie's cutest scene, but then the stupid cops show up and dare to arrest Matrix! Assholes, his daughter is being kidnapped! The bureaucrats in Washington aren't going to do anything about it!
Well fuck - it looks like this movie is coming to a depressing end, Matrix stuck in San Quentin while Alyssa Milano killed before she gets a chance to be terrorized by Marky Mark and have her heart broken by Party of Five's Scott Wolf.
But no! RDC flirts with the cops! Aha...hmmm it's kind of pointless actually since they were stopped at a red light. Then she lets them drive off. Well that plan didn't work at all...
Oh shit - she's got a rocket launcher! Of course! She's going to kill Matrix rather than let him suffer the indignity of going to prison and the pain of knowing he failed! Bravo, Rae Dawn! A gutsy call to make but I can see the karate lessons are paying off and instilling in her a will of steel in addition to chops of iron!
What's this? She shoots it backwards! Boom! Well, no civilians died so no big deal. The cops are a little shocked by that turn of events cuz it's not everyday a cute chick shoots at you with a rocket launcher. RDC is a quick learner and spins the weapon around. Success! Second time's the charm, the paddy wagon is hit and naturally Matrix escapes unharmed. Totally awesome.
Why wasn't he handcuffed? Cuz they don't have cuffs big enough for Matrix, that's why asshole! Now shut the fuck up!
Matrix is back in action and in the Caddy he asks Rae Dawn: "How did you do that?"
"I read the instructions." What coolness under pressure! America has a new sweetheart!
Cut to Nick Tortelli and that evil bastard Bennett, holding Alyssa Milano hostage. I mean it's like if Hitler and Stalin got together to kidnap Shirley Temple! That would have been worse of course cuz Matrix and Rae Dawn wouldn't have been around to save that curly-haired treasure!
Where is Tony Danza in all this? The tension is at its highest when RDC turns to Matrix and quips, "You have a lot of hostility." Suddenly I'm relieved! If RDC can be so glib, I have faith that everything is going to be alright!
Matrix and RDC make for the marina where a sea plane awaits, or what Rae Dawn dubs with displeasure "a canoe with wings!"
Matrix rejoins, "Start paddling!" I love it!
RDC is not amused. "This plane is older than I am!" Mmm she is young isn't she? Has she met Vanity? She even squeals adorably when it looks like the seaplane is going to smash into a boat, but of course Arnold uses his awesome brawn to lift the plane to the safety of the night sky! Suck it, bad guys!
General Kirby, that turd, is asked what he expects now that Matrix is on the loose. He logically replies, "World War 3."
Hells yes. And then we see Bill Paxton playing a radar operator! He tries to give RDC some shit about air space or some nonsense but she uses her karate skills to evade detection and Paxton admits defeat. You'll be terminated soon enough, douchebag! That's what you get for fucking with Gary and Wyatt in Weird Science!
Cut to Bennett, the (Australian?) badass, strutting around looking very saucy in leather and chains with his hands on his hips. What mischief do those hands clad in fingerless gloves get up to? He tells Nick Tortelli with a sneer that his "pissant" soldiers make him laugh, and that he and Matrix could kill them all.
Someone loves Matrix! Crush-e-poo!
Nick Tortelli says, "You're afraid of Matrix," and Bennett says, "Of course. I'm smart."
He sure fucking is! Brawns and brains in that sassy Aussie package!
Bennett's portliness is in stark contrast to the cut Conanesque physique of that Austrian barbarian Arnold, who strips down and paints himself as RDC looks on approvingly. Shit starts to go down as Matrix blows up the barracks!
Bennett hears it and instantly knows. "Welcome back John. So glad you could make it." Does he have an erection? We can only assume cuz in a rare directorial misstep for the great Mark L. Lester we are not given a clear shot of his crotch as he wistfully acknowledges the return of his ex-comrade in arms.
He goes off to kill Milano but discovers that scamp has broken free and is on the loose, prompting him to exclaim "little bitch!" Watch your temper, Bennett!
In the most comical scene of the film one of the pissant troopers throws a grenade at Arnold in an attempt to kill him. One grenade? What a fucking waste of time! Like trying to kill Zeus with a pea shooter!
Matrix kills about 50 dudes single handed and it's fucking awesome start to finish, he even uses some garden tools at one point and takes time to shoot up some flowers in a flagrant gesture of disrespect.
Bennett spends the entire battle hunting a 12-year-old girl. I don't want to question the tactical decisions of a super soldier like Bennett, but the pissant soldiers who were being gunned down could have used your help!
Jesus Christ, Matrix is taking time out from shooting up rose buds to blast statues and assorted works of art! Show some mercy, Matrix!
With all the soldiers and flowers and statues and Nick Tortelli shot up finally we get what we've been waiting for...Matrix vs. Bennett...and in a shocker, Bennett puts a bullett in Arnold's arm!
He smiles and asks, "How's your arm, John?"
Oh that's just bullshit! He really doesn't care! He's the one who just shot him, but now he's pretending to care about Matrix's well being? His arm hurts, you meanie! You shot him!
It's a shocking ending...our hero Matix down and out with his daughter about to be killed before his eyes...but wait...Matrix has one more weapon! Psychology! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!
He challenges Bennett's manhood, "You can beat me."
Does Bennett think he's being invited to some BDSM with Arnold? Most likely. In any case they get the party started and Bennett drops the gun and whips out a knife, slashing Matrix!
"You're getting old, John." That's cute - they may be mortal enemies but they're on a first name basis. And aren't they the same age? If Matrix is getting old, Bennett is no spring chicken!
Milano watches the whole battle from the rafters...but I'm sure she sees just as much violence on television so this is no big shit. Even though she was kidnapped and threatened at knifepoint she's the luckiest person on the face of the earth cuz she gets to see the greatest fight in the history of the planet close up! Punches, knees, pipe hits, door smacks, fire is involved and at one point Bennett is even electrocuted.
Of course a giant like Bennett not only survives the electrocution, it actually gives him a jolt of ass kicking energy! (He did scream like a little girl at one point but I'm going to give him a pass.)
Finally Bennett figures he's got better shit to do than dick around with Matrix all night so he resorts to the gun again but Arnold pulls a pipe from a wall and throws it through Bennett's burly chest!
"Let off some steam!" Holy shit that's hilarious! Bennett has steam escaping the pipe embedded in his chest! How do you do it, Arnold??
Alyssa is overjoyed and doesn't even flinch at the sight of Bennett's body, giving her daddykins a big huggy poo for victory! That useless a-hole General Kirby finally shows up and asks if Matrix has "left anything for us?"
"Just bodies." Oh shit Matrix, you are so awesome! Sure he was shot and slashed and hit with grenade shrapnel, but if you notice all of his wounds have stopped bleeding without any medical care at all, just sheer will power and the love of little Milano!
General Kirby tries to get cute and say Arnold is going to break his promise to his daughter and fight again, but Arnold shoots him a glance that would kill enlisted men and says, "No chance."
Oh no! Does this mean a sequel is out of the question?
Rae Dawn, stubbornly still wearing her stewardess uniform when it's clearly bikini time, stands by the seaplane and waits to begin her new life as fucktoy for Matrix and stepmom for Milano. Watch the help, Rae Dawn! For the love of god keep your eye on the help! The second that Guatemalan maid makes goo goo eyes at Arnold you karate chop her into the pantry and boot her ass back across the border!
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