“Let Off Some Steam, Bennett”
Tonight, I performed in The Kerfuffle at ImprovBoston. The theme was “Crime and Punishment” this month. Below is what I wrote. It’s about 85% accurate to what I actually said onstage. Assume that I swore a lot more onstage.
What you’re hearing is the soundtrack to the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando. For those of you haven’t seen it, a word of warning. I’m about to talk about Commando for at least 5 or 6 minutes [it ended up being at least 12]. I don’t want to hear any protests about spoilers. You’ve had 27 years. I won’t be held responsible. So go to the bar now, or tacitly acknowledge that you’ve waived your right to bitch at me for this.
OK! I LOVE THE MOVIE COMMANDO. You love your mother? That’s how I love Commando.
Commando teaches us two essential rules about American justice:
1) If a bad guy is really bad, the hero can do ANYTHING to get him.
2) The difference between a good guy and a hero is that a hero always says something clever when he kills somebody.
Here’s Commando, in short. Retired super-soldier John Matrix lives in a remote mountain cabin with his daughter Jenny, played by Alyssa Milano. There’s no explanation for why he is a single father, but you can bet Jenny’s mom died firing an M-16 at drug traffickers while swinging from the landing skid of a helicopter.
Their solitude is interrupted by the arrival of two-star General Franklin Kirby, who has the bearing of a PTA dad and the helplessness of koala cub. The General reports that someone’s been killing Matrix’s men. (Time out. We see these murders, and one of them is as hilarious as the end of a human life can be. I don’t want to spoil everything, but if you want to see the best way to not guarantee your target’s death at a car dealership, just watch the opening minutes of Commando. OK, back to it.)
Moments after Kirby departs, John Matrix SMELLS attackers arriving from the woods, and pushes Jenny to cover. HE FUCKING SMELLS THEM COMING. From this moment, the movie becomes a nearly continuous 85 minute montage of gunfire, punching, intentional car wrecks, gunfire, barehanded murder, bad dialogue, gunfire, knife fights, explosions, and gunfire.
The bad guys kidnap Jenny. They say they’ll kill her unless Matrix assassinates the duly elected leader of the Caribbean nation of Val Verde. Chief among the kidnappers is his former protege, Bennett. Bennett was kicked out of the unit for being too violent. Bennett licks knives. Bennett wears a CHAIN MAIL SWEATERVEST.
He doesn’t do what they ask. No, instead, set to the menacing 80s soundtrack of steel drums and romance saxophone, Matrix goes apeshit, embarking on a heroic murder spree that stops for only two things: Stealing and making clever quips about his murders.
Stealing. John Matrix steals cars, he steals weapons, he even steals a flight attendant and then steals her free will, as her Stockholm Syndrome reaches unprecedented levels. For NO GOOD REASON, he drives a bulldozer through the front of an army surplus store, rather than just break in through a window. Remember rule of Justice #1? The hero can do ANYTHING.
Making clever quips about his murders. Josh, can we see clip 1? [clip of the murder on the airplane, ending in “Please don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.”] This is also the last time John Matrix sits down, with the exception of steering cars, planes, and boats into danger.
I want to show you my two favorite moments in all of Commando. They have something in common. Josh, can we see Clip 2? [clip of sawblade kills, Bennett kill]
OK. So, reasonable minds have questioned whether even Arnold Schwarzenegger has the cartoonish armstrength necessary for such a sawblade decapitation, or to hurl a broken piece of pipe through a man’s chain mail sweater and torso, and into the body of a large piece of industrial equipment. Perhaps, they say, if his arm were surgically replaced with the leg of a racehorse?
I’ve reached out to a local scientist, and he’s researched the matter for us. I’d like to introduce Boston College-trained physicist William Luera to share his findings. First, Mr. Luera, are you an employee or paid consultant of 20th Century Fox?
“I am not”
Have you received money from a manufacturer of sawblades or industrial tubing?
“I have not.”
Please describe your credentials.
“I am a Jesuit-trained physicist, and avid viewer of fine films.”
OK. Please present your findings.
“First, I conducted bench tests of the weapons involved. The saw blade measured an 8.5 on the Stallone/Van Damme killtools index. Experiments on the aluminum tube were inconclusive, but the near-fatal injuries to three lab interns say plenty about its efficacy as an instrument of war.”
“Next, we ran a computer simulation of Schwarzenegger’s arm movement, projecting successful kill rates based on reasonable variables in his rage, injury level, and Gibson/Norris vengeance index. Super soldiers are routinely given chemical and dietary supplements such as radioactive steroids and bull semen, so we assumed these enhancements in our calculations. In 68% of scenarios, both kills were successful.”
So you’re telling me that more than 2 out of 3 times, John Matrix could have made these kills?
“As a scientist, I look forward to additional study, but as a Commando fan, I think we can rest assured that the film makers are not pulling one over on us. It’s as credible as a documentary.”
Thank you, William! There you have it. Scientific validation. I find it troubling that Commando isn’t shown in classrooms. It’s good for teaching science, literature, civics, even art. You should see the sculpture garden he decimates.
Commando is available wherever fine feature films are sold and rented.