The Commando opens with a squad of DEA agents led by James Baker ( Michael Jai White, Assault on VA-33, Black Friday) raiding a Mexican cartel’s drug lab. They take out the bad guys in a hail of CGI gunfire and blood spray. It didn’t all go smoothly however, Baker managed to accidentally kill three hostages by shooting them through a cement wall. As a result, he gets sent home to deal with PTSD-induced hallucinations and nightmares.
Meanwhile, Johnny (Mickey Rourke, Skin Traffik, Sin City) is getting out of prison, but not before showing how badass he is by taking down three guys looking to shank him before he can leave.
What is the connection between these two events? Was Baker the one who put him behind bars? No, that would make too much sense. He just happens to have bought the house Johnny stashed several million dollars in stolen cash and a ring belonging to his dead wife in. And now that he’s out, he’s coming to get it.
I knew The Commando was in trouble almost from the start. The opening raid is one of those where the good guys are covered head to toe in body armour and have the best weapons and tactical gear available. But we’re supposed to find it thrilling that they wipe out a bunch of guys in street clothes and suffer no casualties. Since when did shooting fish in a barrel become exciting?
Eventually, James and his wife Lisa (Aris Mejias, The Vessel) head off for a quiet weekend together, leaving their two daughters home alone. Which of course means a party during which Johnny’s goons stage a home invasion. The problem is, they leave at the film’s forty-minute mark and the gang doesn’t make its move for nearly twenty more minutes. Unfortunately, that means twenty minutes of people sitting in cars talking and some horrible teen party antics.
Director Asif Akbar (Astro, Morbid Stories) who co-wrote The Commando with Al Bravo (Reality Terror Night) and Koji Steven Sakai (The People I’ve Slept With, #1 Serial Killer) shot The Commando in eleven days. Maybe the short schedule explains why so much of the film looks rushed and sloppy as if they just kept using the first take, no matter what it looked like.
That includes the film’s fight scenes which range from bad to abysmal. The jail yard brawl relies on a shaky camera to hide the fact that Rourke can’t move fast and the guys he’s fighting are doing all the work. I know MMA fighters are used to fighting for real, not for the camera like pro wrestlers, but Donald Cerrone’s matchup with Michael Jai White, or possibly his stunt double Jasper Joyner is shockingly bad. I don’t know if the blame goes to Akbar or fight coordinator Kieran Gallagher (The Amityville Moon, Black Water) but it’s easy to tell their strikes aren’t coming close to landing. Along with the obvious camera trickery, it’s embarrassing for all concerned.
Of The Commando’s four name actors, Michael Jai White spends the most time on screen, appearing throughout the film. Rourke is around at the beginning and end. Jeff Fahey (The Long Night, The Hollow) has a handful of mostly pointless scenes as a corrupt sheriff but still manages to be on screen more than Brendan Fehr (Final Destination, Wander) who plays Sebastian, one of Baker’s buddies who picks the wrong time to check up on the girls.
When one of a film’s supposed highlights is a high schooler getting shot while taking a leak and peeing all over his killer you know you have problems. Sadly that’s the case with The Commando. It manages to repeatedly botch its actions scenes on the way to one of the limpest finales I’ve seen in a film with a budget above five figures. The only way they could have made this film worse was by adding Bruce Willis to the cast.
The Commando will be available in the US theatrically, On-Demand and on Digital on January 7th from Saban Films. Paramount Home Entertainment will release it on DVD and Blu-Ray at a later date. It arrives on Digital platforms in the UK on January 10th.