FFPC3 - Commando

Intro by John Roderick

What is the purpose of Commando? What is the reason for it? From a strictly financial standpoint it was a sound investment for whatever Gordon Gekko greenlit this budget. It produced an almost $60 million return on a paltry $10 million investment in blanks and jellied gasoline. That bought a lot of cocaine for the Brentwood Porsche Targa drivers of 1985, but what does it bring us?

”Excitement, surely!” would say the pork-choppers, the excitement you can only get watching dozens and dozens of men in fatigues who are just working for a living, getting machine-gunned to death and screaming their final words in Spanish. These poor guys, they clearly have no ideology, you can tell by the way they get machine-gunned! They are just sending money home to their abuelas, they just answered an ad in the Pennysaver.

Well, what else does Commando provide? Well, humor, I guess, if you think Arnold is funny. Mostly, we luxuriate in vengeance, savoring each tasty morsel of get-back. They kidnapped his little girl, which feels kind of like someone stealing your yogurt from the company fridge: ”Murder them!” Some ridiculous bad guy has a nefarious plan for world domination, which is just like your brother in law insulting your grilling talents in front of the guys from church. ”Butcher them!”

Our fantasies of retributive justice are massaged like the prostates of ageing bachelors at those yearly checkups. The vengeance-movie is a genre to itself: Bronson, Eastwood, Norris, Liam Neeson protecting their daughters or somebody’s daughters by killing a bunch of sons. ”Have fun on this thrill ride!” - ”Yes, it is instant karma!” To punish people, to violence them.

Two thirds of this movie is comprised entirely of one half naked man mowing people down with a trunk full of various rifles. This 1980s trend was just like Members Only jackets in that it played absolutely no role in the subsequent nationwide epidemic of men mowing down people with a trunk full of various rifles, because a) most of those riflemen left their shirts on and b) studies that no one can remember exactly where they saw emphatically show that there is no connection, and to even suggest it is to be part of a conservative liberal socialist fascist conspiracy to restrict free speech and threaten ethics in gaming journalism.

Look, I don't want to be that guy, but of course I'm precisely that guy. I can't help being that guy even when I put on a nice shirt and try to have fun. This is a question very near and dear to this show: ”Where are the lines between war movies as swashbuckling adventure meant to get us to enlist in the Navy, war movies as tragic morality plays meant to dissuade us from waging war, war movies as black comedies meant to sardonically comment on war, and war movies as consequence-free violence-orgies meant to elevate combat to the level of a community theater ballet?”

So why Commando? There is only one reason for it to exist, and that is to get heart-palpitating excitement from watching people die. Cartoon people! Cartoon death! But that's it! And at risk of further infuriating the subset of people still adamant that there is no connection between the art we consume and the values we express, this is what death looks like to us now. We see far more cartoonish death than actual death in our lives, even if you only go see romantic comedies with Sandra Bullock, such that it becomes our primary experience of it. You shoot someone, he throws his hands up and wiggles as the bullets go through him, and then he falls and becomes invisible. We never see or hear him again. He was nothing. He left nothing behind.

Our emotional experience of violent death has become completely detached. It is everywhere across all media, except juggling, it is unexamined, unremarked upon, accepted, and embraced, except for in those weird rare anomalous uncountable isolated and edge-case instances where it happens for real, and we offer our thoughts and prayers. ”John, I'm not going to shoot you between the eyes, I'm going to shoot you between the balls!” Today on Friendly Fire the 1985 film Commando.

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