Commando (1985 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Produced by Joel Silver
Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza
Story by Steven E. de Souza
Joseph Loeb III
Matthew Weisman
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Glenn Farr
Mark Goldblatt
John F. Link
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 4, 1985 (1985-10-04)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $57.5 million[2]

Commando is a 1985 American action film directed by Mark L. Lester, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rae Dawn Chong. The film was released in the United States on October 4, 1985. The film was shot in Los Angeles, California.

The film was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects but lost to James Cameron's Aliens. The film's score was provided by James Horner. A critical success and commercial hit, Commando was the 7th highest grossing R rated movie of 1985 worldwide, and the 25th highest grossing overall.[3]


Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix, firing an M202A1 FLASH rocket launcher.

Retired Delta Force operative Colonel John Matrix is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. The mercenaries, among them Bennett, an ex-member of Matrix's team fired for overt brutality in service, attack Matrix’s secluded mountain home and kidnap Matrix’s young daughter Jenny. While trying to intercept them, Matrix is also overpowered by the mercenaries.

It is revealed that Matrix is needed to carry out a political assassination for a South American former dictator named Arius, who wishes to lead a military coup in his home country of Val Verde. Arius, who was deposed by Matrix in the course of one of his missions, has chosen the colonel because the current president trusts him implicitly. With Jenny's life on the line, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand.

After boarding a plane to Val Verde, Matrix manages to kill his guard, Henriques, and jumps from the plane just as it is taking off. With approximately 11 hours' time (the period of the flight), he sets out after another of Arius' men, Sully. He then enlists the aid of an off-duty flight attendant named Cindy, and instructs her to follow Sully to a shopping mall. Cindy first assumes that Matrix is a maniac, but after seeing him desperately trying to get his hands on Sully, she has a change of heart and henceforth assists him in his endeavour. After a lengthy car chase, Matrix catches up with Sully whom he drops off a cliff to his death. Taking a motel key from Sully's jacket, Matrix tracks down and kills Cooke, a former Green Beret in Arius' employ, and learns where Jenny is being held after searching Cooke's car.

Matrix breaks into a surplus store to equip himself with military weapons, but the police arrive and Matrix is arrested. Cindy helps him escape with an RPG and, after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina controlled by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of Arius' island hideout. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius’ villa, where he embarks on a killing spree. Matrix stabs a few soldiers, dispatches tens of Arius' men with his machine gun, fights a few of them from inside a shed using nothing more than a few gardening tools, grabs one of the dead soldiers' weapons and proceeds to the main building, shooting every single man he encounters on the way. Matrix then faces Arius man-to-man, and even though Arius has the high ground, Matrix utilizes a military trick maneuver and shoots him dead.

Matrix locates Jenny in the basement of the villa, where she has fled, and has the final showdown with Bennett. After a fierce struggle, Matrix finally kills Bennett, impaling him with a steam pipe (after which Matrix utters his infamous "let off some steam" line). However, Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the Special Forces Unit, but Matrix declines and departs the island aboard the seaplane with Jenny and Cindy.




Screenwriter Jeph Loeb states that the film was originally conceived as a vehicle for Gene Simmons, who passed, and later scripted with Nick Nolte in mind to play the lead as an out-of-condition former commando struggling with the demands of his mission. Walter Hill was originally involved in the development process.[4]

The original concept was for an Israeli special forces–Mossad agent, who is sick of the continual death and destruction in the Middle East, leaves Israel and emigrates to the United States, where he is forced out of his self-imposed retirement after his daughter is kidnapped. This was modified and further adapted when Schwarzenegger was cast; some of the original dialogue can be heard in the deleted scenes when Matrix says he regrets his past actions.


Principal photography commenced on April 22, 1985 and lasted for 45 days.[5] The film was shot on location in California. The unnamed island off the coast of Santa Barbara, to which Matrix flies to rescue his daughter, was filmed on the Pacific coast at San Simeon. The barracks that are "attacked" are actually beach properties belonging to the Hearst Castle Estate. The house that Matrix storms at the film's climax was actually the former main residence of the Harold Lloyd Estate in the Benedict Canyon district of Beverly Hills. The car chase scene between Sully and Matrix starts on Ventura Blvd and moves into the hills on Benedict Canyon.



Diamond Toymakers released a line of action figures in 1986 in an attempt to cash in on the success of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Matrix now leads an elite special forces unit (which replaced his old deceased unit from the original film) called C-Team, made up of Spex, Blaster, and Chopper, against the forces of F.E.A.R., led by Psycho (who is based on the character of Bennett) and consisting of Lead-Head, Stalker, and Sawbones. There was an assortment of 4" figures, containing all of the above, a series of 8" figures, consisting of Matrix, Spex, Blaster, Psycho, Lead-Head, and Stalker. Chopper and Sawbones are absent. Finally, there was an 18" John Matrix that came with a pistol, an M16, and a grenade.

Home media[edit]

The first DVD of Commando was released in region 1 in the United States on May 25, 1999. Common with early DVD releases, the disc featured a non-anamorphic video transfer, a basic 2.0 surround track, and only the US theatrical trailer as an extra. DVDs released in other regions soon followed, some with anamorphic transfers, but the 2001 United Kingdom region 2 DVD was censored by the BBFC, with 12 seconds of cuts to an arm severing and closeups of the impaled Bennett. These cuts were brought over from the 1985 original theatrical release. However, a German master was used for the UK DVD, meaning the film was cut even more than it should have been, leading to 56 seconds of cuts instead of the BBFC's 12 seconds. If the film had been resubmitted to the BBFC, it would be passed uncut under the BBFC's new, more liberal rules. This has proven to be the case as the BBFC's website indicates that both versions of the film (the U.S. theatrical cut and the unrated edition) for the DVD were passed on June 11, 2007. With the unrated edition released, the film is in its entirety, a first for the UK.

On June 5, 2007, 20th Century Fox officially announced that a completely unedited and unrated director's cut of the film would be released on region 1 DVD on September 18, 2007. Through seamless branching, this disc not only features an unrated cut (which was claimed to run at 95 minutes, but is only 91 minutes, with 92 seconds of extra footage), but as a bonus, also contains the original 90 minute, R-rated US theatrical version. Aside from this, the DVD is a special edition, featuring an audio commentary from director Mark L. Lester (only on the theatrical cut), additional deleted scenes, a Pure Action featurette, a Let Off Some Steam featurette, and four photo galleries with over 150 photos. The transfer is anamorphically enhanced and features a 5.1 audio mix.

In April 2008, the 90 minute theatrical version of the film was released to consumers on the high definition Blu-ray disc format.


Box office[edit]

Commando was a box office success grossing over $220 million against a $10 million budget.

Critical response[edit]

The film maintains a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes (based on 32 reviews), indicating generally positive reviews. Reviews from Kevin N. Laforest, Scott Weinberg, Dave Kehr and Luke Thomson acknowledge the film's tongue-in-cheek humor as well as its status as a cult classic.[6]


Soundtrack album by James Horner
Released December, 2003
Genre Soundtrack
Length 43:21
Label Varèse Sarabande
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2/5 stars link

A soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande on December 2, 2003 as part of the label's CD Club and was limited to 3000 copies.[7] The score, composed by James Horner, is notable for its prominent use of steel drums.

A song titled "We Fight for Love", featured in the film and recorded by the Power Station, wasn't included in the official soundtrack. The song featured founder Robert Palmer's replacement, Michael Des Barres, and was the band's only song with Des Barres singing lead. It would appear on the 2006 remaster of The Power Station.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Prologue/Main Title" – 3:58
  2. "Ambush and Kidnapping" – 2:35
  3. "Captured" – 2:14
  4. "Surprise" – 8:19
  5. "Sully Runs" – 4:34
  6. "Moving Jenny" – 3:44
  7. "Matrix Breaks In" – 3:30
  8. "Infiltration, Showdown and Finale" – 14:32

La-La Land Records released a limited edition of James Horner's score in August 2011. The release features approximately 62 minutes of music across 24 tracks.

Soundtrack album by James Horner
Released August, 2011
Genre Soundtrack
Length 61:48
Label La-La Land Records


In 2008, a Russian remake (День Д)[8] was made. It was produced and directed by Mikhail Porechenkov (who stars as John Matrix's equivalent) and also features Barbara Porechenkova, Mikhail Trukhin, Alexandra Ursulyak, and Bob Schrijber.[9]

In 2010, it was announced that Fox would begin filming a remake of the film with David Ayer in negotiations to direct.[10] Sam Worthington was attached to play the new lead role, which would reportedly have a more realistic approach.[11]


  1. ^ "Movie Commando – Box Office Data, News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Commando (1985)". Box Office Mojo. 1985-12-10. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  4. ^ Welcome to Wordballoon: The Loeb report Part 2
  5. ^ Variety magazine. April 18, 1985.
  6. ^ "Commando': A Bloody Mess. Movie Reviews". Morning Call. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  7. ^ Varèse Sarabande Product Details
  8. ^ "'День Д' (Day-D) Official Website (translated)". 
  9. ^ Mack, Andrew. "It's Russian COMMANDO! Trailer for Mihail Porechenkov's 'День Д' aka. Day". Twitch. 
  10. ^ Markovitz, Adam. "Commando remake in the works: Who should take Arnold Schwarzenegger's role?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  11. ^ Commando Remake Attaches Sam Worthington. "'Commando' Remake Attaches Sam Worthington". News in Film. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 

External links[edit]