Offering a detailed analysis of the sequel that never was
A man emerges from the smoke like a Wagnerian myth made flesh; a tall, muscled warrior in modern combat gear, covered with greasepaint and blood. He has the heart of a lion. His name is JOHN MATRIX, and he carries his daughter JENNY.
The above description may sound familiar. It is an excerpt from a screenplay by Steven E. de Souza that never saw the light of day, despite a revision by none other than future ‘Shawshank’ director Frank Darabont. Those who are familiar with Arnie’s improbable tactical genius will recognise the above excerpt as part of a scene from 1985‘s Commando, here reused in the form of a brief prologue which acts as a reminder of past events. The ‘Wagnerian myth made flesh’ (just take a moment to process that metaphor) is of course Arnold Schwarzenegger, or, more accurately, retired United States Special Forces Colonel, John Matrix, arguably the most vacuous human being to ever attain such rank. Pushed by General Franklin Kirby to return to the field after breaking every law imaginable with a reckless abandon that would be beneath even the lowliest soldier, Matrix sends his former mentor a look of smouldering impudence (or as close as Arnie could get to such a direction) and firmly replies ‘No chance!’
At the time, you would have been forgiven for assuming the prerequisite second instalment was inevitable, regardless of Matrix’s seemingly definitive answer. The 80s saw an explosion in the numbered sequel, which proved a cost-effective way to keep the lolly rolling in for producers looking to slash marketing costs. By 1985, Arnie had already shot to superstardom following an inspired bit of casting by James Cameron, who would hand-pick the ‘Austrian oak’ to portray the iconic T-800 in sci-fi sleeper hit The Terminator, utilising the budding movie star’s massive frame and robotic demeanour to devastating effect. A year later he would star in Commando, a musclebound blockbuster with its tongue firmly in its cheek. The movie would represent the actor’s first dialogue-heavy role — much of it wisely ditched for the eventual theatrical cut — and was the first to pick up on Arnie’s inimitable ability to ream-off the kind of eyebrow-raising quips that would later propel him to the top of the Hollywood mountain. Following star turns in such movies as Predator and The Running Man, the chances of a Commando sequel were high. With Arnie’s stock soaring, it seemed like a no-brainer.
For those of you who are familiar with Commando — and I mean familiar on a scholastic level — the fact that a sequel never materialised is nothing short of a tragedy. The movie has developed a huge cult following over the years, not just because of those aforementioned one-liners and Arnie’s bumbling, yet irresistible attempts to carry a picture of this magnitude, but also because of its ludicrous descent into the hypermasculine, a whole plethora of colossal editing fails and plot contrivances, and, most notably, the flagrantly homoerotic relationship between Matrix and Freddy Mercury lookalike Bennett (Vernon Wells), a former ally who takes great pleasure in turning the screw after helping mastermind the kidnapping of his foe’s long-suffering daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano).
I’ve seen Commando countless times. As a youngster, my perspective of the movie was much different, as was my understanding of the industry as a whole. Back then, Schwarzenegger was the best actor in the world and Commando was my absolute favourite movie. At college and university I loved the movie just as much, if not more, and for very different reasons. Watching Commando with an equally amused friend (shout-out to Ross McFarlane), I began to realise that some movies are so knowingly ridiculous they are actually very special, and the two of us would watch it ad nauseum, finding something freshly spurious with each eagerly anticipated revisit. I mean, how could something so absurd be so entertaining? It was a very special and particular art form.
In regard to a sequel, that in itself may have presented a problem. Usually, when a sequel to a much loved movie is announced, people are dubious as to whether it will be able to hold up. There have been exceptions throughout the years, but mostly sequels prove underwhelming at best, lacking the originality of their predecessors or simply knocking out something half-assed, safe in the knowledge that such complacency will have no bearing on the overall goal of the studio. Such a high-profile sequel will inevitably sell tickets based on the success of the first instalment, and even if a critical panning confirms what fans had feared all along, curiosity will invariably win out. But what would one expect from a sequel to a movie that has made its name off being exquisitely excessive? Commando‘s sheer audacity as a mainstream action vehicle would be hard to replicate. Today, the action genre has become so self-aware that such movies are manufactured with an efficiency that makes them transparently premeditated and devoid of charm, and though Commando was clearly made with a knowing wink, production was guilty of some monumental clangers along the way. To a degree, the movie’s often startling ineptitude seems organic, and the screenplay is pure gold.
Speaking of the process, screenwriter de Souza would tell Bristol Bad Film Club, “Not only are the one liners written by me in the screenplay, but as often happens with these films, we discover in test screenings that the humour plays so well, that we have to add more jokes. So on both of those movies and in most of my films, after we’re done filming, we go into the editing room to see if we can add more humour. In fact, if you look at those movies carefully, you’ll see that some of those choice wisecracks are made with Arnold or Bruce’s face slightly off-camera because we found another opportunity for them to record a line in post-production.”
For a while, there was a rumour circulating that the proposed Commando II would later go on to become John McTiernan’s genre-defining Die Hard, a rumour that is not as groundless as it may appear. After all, Die Hard was co-penned by de Souza, one of the preeminent genre writers of the era, and Arnie was originally considered for the lead after headlining McTiernan’s previous blockbuster Predator. Luckily, McTiernan settled on a relative unknown named Bruce Willis, resulting in arguably the greatest action movie ever put to celluloid. Willis was the antithesis of the markedly superhuman Arnie, his cynical charm and dry, proletarian wit forging a relatable character who would change the face of action cinema, eschewing macho invincibility for personality and catharsis. So strong were the rumours that this curious and highly entertaining titbit would become carved in stone, but writer de Souza would refute those claims outright, stating, “I don’t know how this story started on the Internet – it’s completely wrong. Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever by the author Roderick Thorpe, which is a sequel to his early book The Detective.”
Still, de Souza would go on to draw comparisons to Die Hard when discussing the basic premise of Commando II and the way in which he approached the evolution of the Matrix character. “As for Commando, I did write a sequel for that,” he would explain, “… Frank Darabont even did some revisions on it. In that movie, I would look at how experiences change people, such as how in Die Hard 2, people reference how famous John McClane is after the events of the first film. So for Commando II, we figured that Arnold, after blowing up half of Los Angeles, achieves some notoriety, retires from the army and, by the time the sequel occurs, is running a security firm.
So, there clearly was logic to a sequel whose antecedent saw our hero jump hundreds of feet from a plane into a shallow puddle and take out an entire army single-handed with only a smattering of rosebushes for cover. The proposed plot is somewhat logical too, and, as far as I can gather, bears something of a resemblance to Die Hard that may have resulted in one of action cinema’s most widely swallowed fables. As de Souza would explain, “The plot would have seen [Matrix] hired by a big corporation to oversee their security to protect their executives from being kidnapped, to stop people breaking into their building and to make sure their computers are secure. So he sets it up and hires the most dangerous people to be guards in the building and then lo and behold – he discovers the people he’s working for are in the illegal arms business and the big corporation is simply a front. The end of the movie would see Jenny and Cindy, who is now a lawyer, trapped in the building, and Arnold now has to defeat all the people he hired – all the meanest, toughest guards – as well as the security systems, the guard dogs, everything!”
Granted, Commando II saw Matrix trying to enter a building rather than escape it, but Arnie’s one-man army and building-bound gauntlet has shades of John McClane’s most celebrated feat, putting Arnie in a position similar to that of a role he was once considered for. The movie’s Bennett-shaped hole would have taken some filling, but based on the ineptitude of Matrix’s first mission, his attempts at pulling a John McClane has the potential for comedy gold. We’ve already witnessed what Arnie is capable of when faced with a pack of rampant guards dogs (see True Lies) and the inevitable MacGyver-esque turns of resourcefulness would have been a sight to behold at the fingertips of modern cinema’s lunkheaded universal treasure. As for the dialogue, one can only imagine! If only there was a copy of that screenplay floating around somewhere on the internet. Maybe then we could open a Pandora’s box of inane one-liners that belong to Arnie’s rich and storied repertoire…
Good news VHS Revival readers, there is!
In fact, I’ve taken the time to read all 124 pages of it, and have decided to share some of the best bits with you. First of all, the subject of who will replace the legendary Bennett as Arnie’s newest adversary. The answer (at least for now) is Colombian arms dealer Nestor Pedrosa, who is freed in what ANCHORWOMAN describes as, “the most daring and violent prison break in U.S. history.,” and, the inevitable hyperbole aside, she wasn’t kidding. The opening prison break is something akin to Commando‘s infamous, gung-ho finale, with helicopters and explosions galore. The below excerpt sums the scene up perfectly:
THE PRISON YARD
is turned into a maelstrom of fleeing and dying men, bullets grinding up everything in sight. The Warden hurls himself to the ground as a guard right next to him is blown off his feet.
throws his shackled hands around the cowering Warden’s neck and drags him choking to his feet, using him as a shield.
The door gunner is suddenly hit, torn apart by bullets. He flops lifelessly in his safety harness like a shattered puppet.
ANGLE ON GUARD TOWER
reveals a guard BLASTING AWAY on the tower machine gun.
pivots neatly around in a dead perfect hover and FIRES A MISSILE. A WHITE HOT STREAK shoots through the air and —
THE GUARD TOWER
simply vanishes in a huge concussive FIREBALL, catapulting the flaming body of the guard through the air.
A nice set-up for a character with lots of potential, but before that narrative evolves, we should tackle the subject of John’s evolving relationship with a now teenage Jenny. In Commando, Jenny was kidnapped and left to the devices of Latin American dictator Arias and his pack of chain mail cronies. Sure, the doting father would ultimately rescue her, but the dozens of dead bodies she was forced to walk through on her way to safety should be enough to sully their relationship irrevocably, even if she did let out a little cheerleader celebration upon seeing Matrix’s gay adversary impaled with a rather phallic length of lead piping.
Of course, Commando II doesn’t open with Jenny spilling her guts to a state-provided shrink, nor does it replicate the kind of obviously staged, saccharine montage that saw she and Matrix sharing ice cream and petting a supposedly wild deer that was obviously chained to a bush. Jenny is now an adolescent, and memories of severed arms and scalped soldiers have been repressed beneath the growing scent of potential romance, an inevitability of nature quickly broached in a scene featuring Jenny and a transparently surreptitious heartthrob named Brad. Of course, no boy could ever come between Jenny and her mass-murdering figure of paternity, who as well as being able to smell helicopters approaching from a mile away, also has a nasal capacity for bullshit, as highlighted in the excerpt below:
ANGLE SHIFTS to reveal JENNY MATRIX browsing the video rental shelf, a Walkman on her ears. Now in high school, she’s grown into quite a lovely young lady. She moves down the row, bent low, frowning in concentration as she tries to make a choice.
She almost bumps into a figure blocking her way. She looks up and sees:
grinning down at her. Eyes of blue, shades of Vuarnet, a high school senior guaranteed to cause palpitations in even the stoniest of female teen hearts.
Jenny straightens up, flustered but covering nicely. She removes the Walkman and gives him a shy, beautiful smile.
Oh. Hi Brad
You’re looking real good, Jenny.
He pauses, allowing her a moment to just bask in his presence.
Listen, some of us seniors are getting together for a little party tonight. You interested?
Jenny blinks. This is too good to be true.
Me? You’re asking me?
(flashes that grin)
You got something against seniors?
So how about it?
She wrestles with this, shooting a glance across the store at her father. He’s engrossed browsing the music cassettes.
I’d have to ask my dad. We were gonna watch a movie at home tonight.
You spend Saturday night at home with your old man? That’s a little Leave it to Beaver, isn’t it?
is delighted to find a certain music cassette. He looks around for Jenny and notices the slick dude chatting her up. His smile fades to a frown.
JENNY AND BRAD
Look, just shine the old man and come party with the Bradster
He moves closer, crowding her space, fingering a U2 button on her jacket lapel.
Daddy’s little girl has to grow up sometime, you catch what I’m saying?
Jenny shakes her head, unsure — growing more uncomfortable.
C’mon, if you’re gonna learn to party, learn with the best, am I right?
He opens his jacket, directing her attention down.
BRAD’S JACKET LINING
is an elaborate pharmaceutical warehouse. Coke, crack, weed, ups, downs — you name it, the Bradster’s got it.
(Her heart sinks)
Oh my God. Is that what I think it is?
It ain’t my Care Bear collection. I got shit in here Nancy Reagan never even dreamed of.
(leans in, sotto)
You fly with me, you fly for free. You fly solo, you pay. How about it, baby? Beats watching “Bambi”.
I don’t think so.
She tries to push past him, flushed and angry, but he crowds her against the shelf.
What’s your problem?
Just let me go.
Or what? You gonna holler for Daddy?
I bet he even looks like Ward Cleaver.
Suddenly a giant hand enters the frame and grabs Brad by the back of the neck.
TIGHT ON BRAD
as the giant hand turns him slowly around and he finds himself gazing up into the very pissed off face of Colonel John Matrix. Brad’s eyes bug out of the tops of his cool shades.
In fact, when I wear a sweater, you can barely tell us apart.
Matrix drags Brad from the Music Emporium by his ear, scattering shoppers right and left. Jenny trails behind. Brad is hollering, arms windmilling:
Get him off’a me! He’s crazy!
TWO SECURITY GUARDS (whom we recognise from Commando I) race up the stairs, see Matrix, and skid to a sudden stop.
Oh shit! It’s him again!
Better call SWAT. Godzilla’s back.
Matrix sees them and hustles Brad over. The guards cower at Matrix’ approach.
I want this scum arrested.
Trying to push drugs to my daughter!
Brad wrestles out of Matrix’ grasp, emboldened now that the guards are here.
It’s your word against mine, asshole, and your word doesn’t mean shit! I should know, my old man’s a lawyer! These peons can’t touch me! Not without probable cause.
(squints at the guards)
I’m afraid he’s right.
Matrix glowers at Brad. Brad gives him a nasty smirk.
Matrix grabs Brad and lifts him into the air. He spins him upside down and starts shaking him by the ankles like a bag of laundry. Brad screams and flails helplessly as drugs of all description come cascading out of his clothes and onto the floor. The pile grows and grows.
Subtle, no? But who would want it any other way? This proves quite the entrance for our hulking protector, and earlier worries about Commando II failing to live up to the obscure genius of its predecessor seem to dissipate with every page. For those of you who know the original Commando like the backs of your hands, you will also be delighted by the bracketed (whom we recognise from Commando I), which refers to the legions of mall security who Matrix was able to fight off single-handed. Presumably, the screenplay is referring to the black guy who called a code red upon seeing the size of the perpetrator in question and mouthed the immortal line “he’s one gi-gan-tic moth-er-fu*ker!” One can only assume (and hope) that the actor in question wouldn’t have been otherwise engaged if the project had reached the casting stage. Presumably it would have been left to him to utter the line “Better call SWAT. Godzilla’s back!” Priceless stuff.
A teenage Jenny is mortified to be embarrassed in such a way, but she soon thaws during a ride home that sees Matrix procure one of those “subversive” songs he was so fond of “when Rock and Roll first came to East Germany,” namely “Gimme Some Lovin'” by Spencer Davies Group (can’t you just picture Matrix nodding along to it through his clunky, foam-eared Walkman?). All is fine and dandy until things take a turn for the worse when Kirby, accompanied by former Matrix war buddy Paco Lopez, once again interrupts the idyllic life of the Matrix family with yet another impromptu helicopter siege that, much to the chagrin of an understandably icy Jenny, crushes the begonias she and Matrix spent all summer growing (not quite the montage from the first movie, but you get the picture). Matrix isn’t interested in Kirby’s ‘come home’ pitch. The two shake hands. The next day Kirby is reported dead.
Riled by the fact that he let a cherished comrade die, Matrix then goes in search of Mr McCarren of McCarren Defence Industries, the largest defence contractor in the world and the man who he holds responsible for Kirby’s death. Having failed to land a one-on-one with the high-profile American patriot, Matrix proves his theory that McCarren’s security “sucks” by single-handedly breaching his complex and kicking the living shit out of a team of innocent guards, reducing sections of McCarren’s stronghold to a pile of rubble along the way — a surefire way to get the head of security job he will ultimately land. Why they failed to call the cops and finally put this nut job away for good is beyond me. One such interaction with a guard who just wants a quiet day at the office is excerpted below:
Do you have good workman’s comp here?
Huh? Well, yeah, I guess–
Matrix slams him against the building, knocking him cold.
This is during Matrix’s “incredible tour-de-force of choreography”, one that sees him leap into a dumpster and play pinball with a rabble of oncoming cars. Buoyed by the familiar scent of destruction, he then cuts off the power and leaps and crawls from department to department, basically pulling off a John McClane of his own in little more than a couple of pages. Not only that, he seems to be getting a kick out of the whole ordeal while his worried daughter languishes at home, “laughing like a mischievous kid” as he cracks heads and jeopardises mountains of top secret documents. Quite the audition!
By this point, McCarren is understandably concerned by the stranger or strangers bringing down the tightest security operation in America. But this is Matrix we’re dealing with, and it doesn’t take long for his wooden charms to win McCarren over. The climax of the scene is written as follows:
McCarren enters the office and —
INT – McCARREN’S OFFICE
— is astonished to find John Matrix kicked back with his feet up on the desk, helping himself to McCarren’s stash of expensive cigars.
Not “them” — just little old me.
Weapons snap up in Matrix’ direction. Matrix puffs a cigar to life and puffs a smoke ring to the ceiling.
I breached your complex ten minutes ago. Long enough to steal important documents and transmit them to your competitors, or to unfriendly nations, anywhere in the world.
Bullshit! Now listen, you lunatic —
Matrix holds up a finger, asking for silence. He peers at his watch, silently counting down the last few seconds until…
McCarren’s PHONE RINGS. Matrix smiles at McCarren.
It’s for you.
Glaring, McCarren snatches up the phone and hears:
ROBOT VOICE (filtered)
Incoming transmission…Incoming transmission…
Puzzled now, McCarren turns to his fax machine and and switches it on. A page WHIRS out and McCarren grabs it.
INSERT -THE FAX PAGE
A facsimile of the “TOP SECRET” cover sheet, along with Matrix’ handwritten addition: “Like I said, your security sucks.”
considers this carefully — very carefully.
Mr. Matrix, I don’t know whether to have you shot…prosecuted…or put on payroll.
(glances at his watch)
You already owe me for eleven minutes.
Beat. McCarren smiles.
I’d like you all to say hello to John Matrix…
(pointed glance at Gunther)
…our new security consultant.
Classic Commando. Implausible, dubious and wracked with plot holes and general illogicality. For McCarren, a corporate mogul supposedly at the top of his game, Matrix’s breach is embarrassing, disrespectful and grossly misguided. Not only did Arnie’s man mountain destroy McCarren’s building and jeopardise international security, he did it in the most supercilious way possible, embarrassing right-hand man Gunther and injuring half the workforce, and because of this Matrix becomes his head of security?! Am I missing something here?
In no time at all temporary consultant Matrix is installing his own initiatives, the kind that will be duplicated at McCarren’s plants worldwide, while this relative stranger is tasked with bringing the rest of his long-serving staff “up to snuff”. I mean, what will that do for worker morale? Incredibly, they all take to Matrix after he decimates a target range to “a snatch of Morricone’s theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” — all except Gunther, the fool who challenged him in front of a conspicuous by his presence Paco Lopez. If you haven’t smelt the foul stench of treachery by now, you’re as dumb as the big man himself.
The seeds of that treachery are soon sown as Arnie is jailed at the airport when a wooden crate, supposedly containing McCarren electronics for export, falls and explodes to reveal “hundreds of plastic bags of white powder”. Enter Arnie’s love interest Melinda Taft (what happened to Rae Dawn Chong’s Cindy? Perhaps she saw the writing on the wall), a no-nonsense officer of the court who impresses Arnie by shutting the mouths of the precinct grunts harassing Matrix. This is a shot at redemption for Arnie, whose inability to spark even a semblance of sexual chemistry with Chong in the previous movie only added to the whole Matrix/Bennett axis. Melinda is a McCarren associate seen earlier in the movie, and she initially seems made for Matrix, almost running over a group of reporters who are left “barely escaping with their lives”.
Since Matrix went to the airport as a stand-in for Trent, a security underling with a hot date, a nightclub is the ex-soldier’s first port of call after his release as he looks to get to the bottom of an increasingly murky ethical soup. A no-nonsense Melinda is unhappy with the detour, which leads to John’s first attempt at flirtation.
EXT – CLUB LITHO DISCO – NIGHT
Melinda pulls her Mercedes to the curb. She and Matrix get out, braving the trendy crowd of West Siders hoping to get in.
If I knew you were going to take me dancing, I’d have worn my nice dress.
He ignores her sarcasm, looks her up and down.
You look very nice.
After embarrassing the doorman of the exclusive club and allowing everyone on the sidewalk entrance with a confetti of handily acquired tickets, Matrix is on the warpath, and is easily able to locate his suddenly sleazy associate Trent thanks to an employee tracking system he had installed. From his description, Trent is something akin to David Patrick Kelly’s Sully, Commando‘s second most memorable villain, the very same who would inspire the infamous quip, “Remember when I said I was going to kill you last? I lied!”
Much like the mall scene from the first movie, Trent is able to escape Sully style thanks to a monumental fracas with a gang of overly confident security guards, leading Melinda to quip, “Memo: try to meet some sensitive men,” presumably the non mass murdering variety. This time, however, Matrix’s target is not so slippery and is forced to stand his ground with a club shoot-out that immediately puts Melinda’s life in danger. Like Cindy, it looks like she’ll have to learn her lesson the hard way. But how to top Sully’s death plummet over the Hollywood Hills? This time the skirmish leads the two combatants to the roof of the club where Matrix evades the rest of Trent’s clip and leaves him teetering by the tie over the edge of the building. I’ll let the screenplay take it from here:
Matrix! Don’t do anything crazy!
Like what? Drop you? Turn you into a puddle of grease on the pavement?
(tie slips an inch)
Why would I want to do that? Just because you’re the leak in McCarren’s organisation?
(tie slips another inch)
You’re responsible for the massacre in Costa Rica. Good men died because of you! General Kirby came home in a bag–
(tightens the tie, choking Trent with each word)
What were those lives worth, Trent? How many pieces of silver did the drug lords pay you for each pound of flesh?
No, Matrix, you got it all wrong!
Then set me straight. But do it quick — my palm’s getting sweaty.
His palm is getting sweaty — the tie slips another inch.
Suddenly, we hear a SOFT RIPPING SOUND — Trent’s tie is splitting, the fabric tearing. He goes goggle-eyed with terror.
For Christ’s sake, Matrix! He’ll kill me if I talk!
Somebody scares you more than me? Who?
Another RIP — the tear is growing, widening…
Matrix reacts. Astonishment. Disbelief.
McCarren? He’s a patriot!
It’s true, I swear! There is no leak! McCarren arranged the ambush in Costa Rica!
Riiiiiiip! Trent gazes in horror at his ever-disintegrating tie. A soft while escapes his throat.
Matrix, please. Save me. Don’t let me fall. Pull me up. For the love of God, pull me up!
Matrix considers it. He glances over at —
smiling pleasantly at him from the billboard, urging him to “Just Say No”.
takes Nancy’s advice, turns back to Trent, and Just Says:
He releases the tie, Trent topples backward, arms flailing, and vanishes over the edge.
falling through empty space, SCREAMING all the way down.
He hits an awning, RIPS through it, CRASHES into a trash-filled dumpster. Garbage ERUPTS, geysering into the air.
We hear a soft GROAN. The garbage shifts, revealing Trent very much alive, covered with much and coffee grounds.
ON THE ROOF
Matrix peers down, impressed:
First thing’s first: the above reference to Reaganite America’s war on drugs is not the first or the last to feature in Commando II. In fact, Matrix is loosely motivated by Nancy Reagan’s famous ad campaign and Republican politics throughout, and some scenes, like this one, play out with the kind of spuriously motivated renegade violence found in the likes of Death Wish 3. In spite of the fact that Trent has his pathetic life spared, the above scene is so reminiscent of the one leading to Sully’s death in the first movie that it leaps right off the page. The gag, though smarter that the aforementioned “I lied” quip, doesn’t have quite the same charm, but you can see what the screenwriter was going for — more of the same — and it works wonderfully. When it comes to overblown, wink wink action, there’s no one quite like de Souza.
There are also some classic chasms in logicality here, the kind that made the genre so indelible back in its ’80s pomp. It comes as no surprise that McCarren is dirty. More surprising, shocking even, is the fact that McCarren appointed Matrix as his head of international security while such a bold and obvious drug smuggling operation is going on right under his nose. I mean, I’ve heard the expression ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’, but it would have been much easier to have Matrix wallow in the slammer for Breaking and Entering, Destruction of Property, GBH, ABH and the plethora of other crimes he committed while trespassing on McCarren territory. Surely a man of his stature has some pull with the authorities. I mean, who is this idiot and how has he been able to survive in the game for so long?
All of this is explained away by McCarren as a “tactical error”. The man has power, and isn’t afraid of John. He explains to Matrix that, much like Bennett in the original Commando, he doesn’t “need a gun or a knife”. He can have Matrix and his family wiped out with one phone call, and implores John to plead guilty to the drug charge and swallow a reduced sentence in “one of those country club prisons. “Of course, a patriot like Matrix doesn’t go in for those shenanigans and McCarren takes Melinda’s earlier advice and sacks the “stark raving bugfuck” who made such a bad impression on him earlier — that’s until she realises she left her voice recorder recording the whole time. Could one of the most effective lawyers currently operating in the city really have been naive enough to swallow McCarren’s lies when her primary purpose is to protect his interests? It seems so.
This all comes as good news to Matrix, having been set-up as Trent’s killer thanks to a timely call to the cops and a corpse with its throat slit found in the back of his jeep as he arrives back home. Naturally, Jenny bursts into a stormy night to see what the commotion is. You’ll never guess what happens next:
spins toward her —
Jenny! Go back!
also spin, taken by surprise, blinded by rain — A SHOT IS FIRED!
takes the hit and recoils. arms flying up as she hurls back to land in a crumpled heap in the mud.
A stunned, endless moment…eternities passing in the space of mere heartbeats…
Jesus Christ, it’s just a kid!
I thought I saw a gun!
Matrix lets loose with an earthshaking cry of anguish —
Matrix, who is out on bail thanks to a little Melinda magic, immediately finds out that Jenny is critical and in a coma. That magic soon wears off thanks to the corrupt judge Boyle, who is so deep in McCarren’s pocket that he pulls Matrix’s bail from under him and even sentences the defence to 60 days in county pending disbarment on grounds of improper conduct. Recognising the approaching bailiffs as two of McCarren’s goons sent to assassinate Melinda (try explaining that one, judge), Matrix reaches for a nearby gun, a move that leads to the only example of court-bound genocide I am personally aware of and a quite incredible escape reminiscent of a McBain movie.
INT – COURTROOM
Matrix has Boyle in a stranglehold, all weapons on him. He’s cut off, no hope of getting to the exit. He glances at a window nearby — thick glass inset with heavy gauge steel mesh.
Give it up , Matrix. You’d need a battering ram to get through that.
EXT – WINDOW
Judge Willis Boyle (aka “The Human Battering Ram”) is thrown through the window with incredible force, hitting the terra cotta tile roof in a storm of glass and twisted metal.
Matrix dives out the window after him, bullets TEARING chunks from the window frame — he hits the tile roof, rolls to his feet, keeps running.
Okay, so that scene tops pretty much any from the first movie for sheer implausibility. Kudos.
I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrongly accused or not, you can’t kill people in cold blood in a courtroom filled with citizens and use the judge, no matter how corrupt, as a human battering ram to aid your escape. Picture Arnie bumbling his way through this scene — you can almost taste the Stilton. Just imagine the furious fingers of the court reporter as cinema’s most lovable dunderhead rises to levels of extreme action never before glimpsed, and that’s just the beginning.
From there Matrix leaps across rooftops, survives a deadly water slide of some description, leaps onto the bonnet of the car holding Melinda prisoner and puts his fist through the window, grabbing one of McCarren’s goons and pulling him out into the busy traffic for a bout of fisticuffs that leads to the usual “macho bullshit”.
MATRIX AND BURROUGHS
go at it, a brutal flurry of martial arts moves that almost sends each man into the path of wildly swerving cars.
Burroughs gets his gun out of its holster — but Matrix grabs his wrist, keeping the gun at bay. Both men have each other in a hold, grunting and straining for advantage, trying to beat the other guy’s leverage. Burroughs grins through bloody teeth.
Ever have a .44 enema, Matrix? I’m gonna stick this gun up your ass and pull the trigger.
Matrix flicks his eyes up and sees:
A CITY BUS
ROARING up the street toward them.
gives Burroughs a grim smile.
Lend me a hand, will you?
Matrix snatches the handcuffs off Burroughs’ uniform belt, CLICKS it shut around his gun hand — and with a smooth pivot, locks the handcuff onto the bus as it hurtles past! Burroughs slams off the side of the bus and is spun around.
stands gazing numbly after the bus — then raises his arm into view, gazing in horror at the ragged stump where his hand used to be!
What, no applause?
The above melee results in in an impasse between Matrix and McCarren. On the one hand, Matrix has managed to retrieve the taped evidence that will ultimately clear his name (for one crime at least), but Gunther managed to get away with the relative stranger Matrix will now risk everything for: Melinda, but not before risking the very same for a quick visit with the still critical Jenny in a hospital described as “pretty much deserted at this time of night”. That’s right, even after John’s audacious crime spree he is able to sneak into the hospital, locate the correct ward and slip into Jenny’s room undetected. The precinct couldn’t even spare a single patrolman. What results is the most hypocritical speech in the entire movie as Matrix offers empty apologies for once again ruining his only daughter’s life, but he does manage to get Arnie’s most famous line in. I’ll let you consume it for yourself in all of its absurd glory:
INT – JENNY’S ROOM
Dimly lit, she lies unconscious, her breathing shallow, wires and tubes hooking her up to machines. Long beat…
A shadow looms over her fragile form.
stands over her, his fatherly heart breaking. He sits down, and is silent for a time. PUSH IN SLOWLY as he speaks:
We thought this would be a good place to raise a child…your mother and I. So we came to this country.
Jenny…you find it so easy to forgive. I find it so difficult. You are the best and gentlest part of me. If you die, I will have no gentleness left…
…and then God help them. God help them all!
We realise that Matrix — so immovable, so fierce — is holding back tears. He takes her small hand tenderly in his.
I promised you I’d never go back to war. But a war has come to me.
I have to break my promise. Please forgive me.
Matrix leans over her, gives her a gentle kiss, and whispers fiercely in her ear:
I’ll be back.
Wow! Not only would we have heard Arnie once again repeat the immortal lines that helped make him a global superstar, we also would have gotten a glimpse (likely through trembling fingers) of the big lug’s attempts at onscreen tears. Unless, of course, they took a leaf out of Commando’s book and resorted to an off screen voice over à la “Oh, you bastards!” when Matrix first glimpsed his daughter tied and gagged and in the custody of Bennett and his fellow cronies. Dollars to doughnuts it would have been the latter.
On the subject of bound and gagged, that’s how Matrix finds Melinda via a monitor when he’s led into McCarren Industries and told by those guards who now see Matrix like a father figure exactly what McCarren has instructed them to do: stay put and shoot to kill. McCarren’s closest goons are not so helpful, and have no intention of allowing Matrix and Melinda to leave the premises alive. But would Matrix really be stupid enough to hand over the tape recording without some kind of back-up plan? Of course not. In fact, the tape is just a distraction to aid Matrix’s next act of renegade violence. In a nod to Escape From New York‘s iconic payoff, the voice recording has been replaced by the very tape Matrix found in the Music Emporium, the one that sparked his communist rebellion back in East Germany all those years ago: “Gimme Some Lovin'” by Spencer Davies Group. Today’s lesson? Regardless of the amount of misery and destruction in your life, you should always maintain your sense of humour.
From there it is up to Matrix to infiltrate the security set-up that he masterminded, one with all manner of booby traps, lethal gas omissions and motion-censored lasers — a “a gauntlet of death from one end to the other”, and one straight out of the late 1980s. On the evidence of things, there is no way Matrix will be able to reach McCarren. Unless, of course, he is able to find an alternative path, or, better still, construct a makeshift laser-reflecting vehicle out of bathroom wall mirrors and an abandoned janitor’s cart. Another goon bites the dust, MacGyver style. Thanks to the release of lethal gas, Matrix is then forced into a “superhuman test of endurance” that sees him hold his breath and charge up flight after flight of stairs through a “fine gas mist”, as McCarren heads for his rooftop helicopter, but first there’s the matter of Gunther:
By the time he reaches the door marked “5th Floor” his face is turning purple and his cheeks are puffed out like Dizzy Gillespie performing a particularly exotic riff. He FIRES the grenade launcher without breaking stride and hurls himself through the EXPLODING DOOR —
INT – FIFTH FLOOR HALLWAY
— into the hallway to land in a wild sprawl of hurtling debris and choking dust. A part of the ceiling actually collapses on him, burying him even further. We hear a SOFT GROAN…the debris shifts slightly…Matrix raises his head from the rubble, dazed and weak…
steps into view, staring down at Matrix. He cocks his assault rifle, raises it slowly, takes careful aim.
(relishing the moment)
Say goodbye, Matrix.
MATRIX pokes the LAWS rocket from the debris —
— and pulls the trigger! WHOOOOSH!
has no time to react (except for widening eyes) before the rocket catches him full in the chest and rips him off his feet, propelling him back, a SIZZLING HUMAN COMET travelling the entire length of the hallway, SCREAMING all the way, blasting through an office door and hitting the building’s outer wall —
Piece of cake. But this is just the beginning. From there, Matrix leaps off the rooftop of McCarren Industries and grabs onto the escaping helicopter, a series of chin-ups preventing a second helicopter’s attempts to knock him to his death. Spying Melinda with a gun to her head, he then grabs McCarren’s pistol-wielding hand and yanks him out of the helicopter, his body mangled in the propellers of a second chopper flying below. Boarding the helicopter, he activates a belt of grenades attached to the pilot and kicks him out of the moving vehicle. BOOM!
From there, Matrix — who it turns out cannot fly a helicopter — does his best to avoid a series of skyscrapers and makes poor Melinda leap out into a nearby river, where she is promptly picked up by some of McCarren’s goons and back in bad guy custody before he emerges from the flaming wreckage. This ranks up there with John’s worst tactical guffaws, but with McCarren out of the picture, surely it will be a walk in the park…
No such luck. There’s a second traitor. In fact, there’s a third if you count the ludicrously transparent Paco Lopez, who, it turns out, is responsible for delivering McCarren’s next narcotics shipment. As a former Matrix underling, you know he won’t be too much of an obstacle in retrieving Melinda for a second time. So who is this third mysterious traitor? It’s probably better if you find out for yourselves:
Matrix dangles wildly off the skid as the Jet Ranger banks tightly in one direction, then another, trying to shake him loose. It’s the world’s hairiest trapeze act — ’cause this trapeze ain’t nailed down, it’s tear-assing all over the sky.
Downtown Los Angeles whirls crazily below us — I’m talking a tour de force of motion and vertigo guaranteed to make half the audience reach for the Dramamine. Matrix is too busy hanging on for dear life to do much of anything but go along for the ride.
The Hueys bank in, skimming from side to side, chasing the Jet Ranger all over the sky, staying tight on its tail — a full-throttle roller coaster ride without the rails.
maneuvers in, pulling alongside the Jet Ranger. A HELMETED FIGURE (we can’t see his face behind the polarized visor) leans into view on the passenger side of the cockpit and peers at Matrix. He raises a microphone and thumbs a toggle — his words BLARE FROM THE P.A. SPEAKERS like the Voice of God:
VOICE (over P.A.)
JOHN! JOHN MATRIX!
gazes across at the figure, frowning. There’s something about that figire…that voice…something oddly familiar…
VOICE (over P.A.)
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW DISAPPOINTED I AM TO SEE YOU HERE, JOHN
And suddenly it hits Matrix like a bolt of lightening. He knows who that figure is —
slides his helmet visor back — it’s General Kirby. In the flesh, very much alive.
KIRBY (over P.A.)
I WANTED YOU BACK IN THE FIGHT, JOHN — BUT I WANTED YOU ON MY SIDE. I HOPE YOU APPRECIATE THE AWKWARD POSITION YOU’VE PUT ME IN.
is glowering in utter rage and betrayal — if looks could kill, the Huey would be knocked right out of the sky.
KIRBY (over P.A.)
IT STILL ISN’T TOO LATE. I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU — BUT YOU HAVE TO AGREE TO REJOIN THE UNIT AND PUT YOURSELF ENTIRELY UNDER MY COMMAND. I WANT A SOLEMN OATH OF LOYALTY, JOHN. ON YOUR HONOR.
HELICOPTERS — ARIEL SHOT OVER L.A.
Matrix dangling from the Jet Ranger, the Hueys pacing.
KIRBY (over P.A.)
YOU’RE NOT IN MUCH OF A BARGAINING POSITION. DO YOU AGREE TO MY TERMS? GIVE ME A SIGN, JOHN. ANY SIGN AT ALL.
gives him a sign alright — the middle finger extended in the age-old salute.
Quite the revelation, and a real kick in the guts for John, but what on Earth was Kirby, a celebrated veteran and first class patriot thinking when he decided to break bad? Also, he knows Matrix better than anyone. Did he really think such a single-minded, moral crusader would agree to come out of retirement to become an overnight drug smuggler after all he’s been through? I mean, he refused to come out of retirement to do good, why approach him with such an offer? Hardly the credentials of a man who has achieved the rank of General.
Also, does Kirby have amnesia? The last time someone fucked with Matrix he took on an entire army single-handed. Did that moment at the end of Commando when Kirby asked Matrix if he’d left anything for them suddenly slip his mind? He left bodies, dozens of them — the beaten, blown-up, severely mutilated kind. If you were planning on this kind of international, narcotics-led skulduggery, would it not be wise to leave the likes of Matrix in hibernation? Would it not be better to fake your own death in a much less conspicuous and high-profile manner that won’t have John crawling out of the woodwork baying for bloody vengeance? I mean, who planned this whole fiasco? Some twists are so devilishly plotted that they leap out of nowhere to slap you in the face. Others are so blatant you never once consider them until they sucker punch you into the pits of derision. Kirby suddenly a gun-selling, drug-smuggling traitor responsible for leaving Jenny in a coma, and right under the nose of a human lie detector like Matrix? If such a ludicrous turn of events had to transpire, I’m glad they did in Commando II.
In spite of such a contrived and preposterous twist, Commando II actually taps into the real-life political landscape, and not just through a pro-Republican nod to Reagan’s war on drugs. Back in the late ’80s, former United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Olivier North would become the willing scapegoat for a political scandal that exposed the US government’s surreptitious involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, selling weapons to one side and funding the other in an attempt to manipulate the situation. Here, North is replaced by General Franklin Kirby, who is painted as a black sheep working against American democracy. A distortion of the facts that paints the US government as naive bystanders, but what else would you expect? Arnie was a hero by proxy, and as an Eastern European with a thick Austrian accent, a rebellious alternative would have crushed his political aspirations, the very same that would see him marry JFK relative Maria Shriver and star as the ‘good’ Terminator and generally accept more family-friendly roles at the turn of the ’90s. People have many theories as to why Commando II didn’t materialise, the most famous being Arnie’s financial demands, but I’d be willing to bet that Arnie’s reluctance was based on a decision to embrace more family-friendly roles during the early ’90s.
A determination to bring Kirby to justice sees Matrix hijack a cargo plane piloted by none other than Paco Lopez and parachute just shy of the Costa Rican Highlands where Pedrosa has half the National Guard on his payroll. From there, Matrix makes this way through an enslaved peasant village to Pedrosa’s cocaine plantation, which, luckily for him, is ‘bracketed on all sides by mountainous ridges and forests’. As with the first movie, the final act transpires on the grounds of a huge villa where a helpless hostage festers, pitting Matrix’s one-man army against dozens of corrupt soldiers, but how does it compare to the character’s original feat of destruction? Before we find out, let us find out how the hulking and easily detectable Matrix manages to broach Pedrosa’s impenetrable stronghold.
EXT – DIRT ROAD – DAY
The peasant wedding procession marches slowly up the main road, looking just as before — priest leading the way, musicians playing, etc. However, the more observant audience members might notice that the veiled bride now looks unusually large. In fact, she seems to have grown about a foot and a half.
The procession approaches a formidable roadblock of Pedrosa’s SOLDIERS. A truck-mounted Quad 50 (one of three from the massacre) is parked across the road.
The soldiers regard the villagers with amusement. An OFFICER steps into the road to block the procession, while his men form a loose ring around them. (NOTE: The following dialogue is delivered in subtitled Spanish.)
What are you doing here, priest? You know this road is forbidden.
A simple wedding. We mean no offence.
One soldier nudges another, indicates at the bride.
Now here’s a bride for you.
A fine woman, built like and ox. Perfect for working in the fields and bearing children.
They step up and try to cop a few feels.The hulking bride evades them, coy and skittish.
Please. We’ll turn back.
Not so fast.
He crosses to the bride, peering intently at the white veil. Is he suspicious? The villagers exchange nervous glances.
(grins at his men)
Not before we’ve all had a chance to kiss the blushing bride, eh amigos?
This brings a nasty round of laughter. The officer grabs the bride around her waist and pulls her roughly to him. He throws her veil back and —
CLOSEUP ON “BRIDE”
Matrix glares from beneath the veil, a stogie clenched in his teeth
Pucker up, asshole.
I’m sure you can imagine what happens next.
Not the most subtle point of entry in a scene that you imagine playing out like an episode of The A-Team, but subtlety was never John’s strong point, nor was tactical ability or general common sense. Despite being portrayed as the best in the business, Matrix bumbled his way through error of judgement after error of judgement during the original Commando, and if anything he seems to have grown more reckless, jeopardising the life of his daughter, AGAIN, hijacking helicopters he can’t fly and now dressing up as a near 7 foot bride, only to unmask himself and wreak bloody violence almost immediately. Perhaps his plan is to have the whole village slaughtered for the sake of a self-gratifying pun. If you ask me, he’s long overdue a punch in the mouth for his almost relentless negligence.
But this is a sequel, and unless the plan is to feature a game-changing twist that adds something fresh to the fold, the best course for an action picture is to give us more of the same, only bigger and badder: more stunts, a higher body count, and in the case of John Matrix, more dubious, life-threatening decisions of reckless abandon. Commando was all about the balls-to-the-wall final act, and de Souza doesn’t tread lightly for the sequel, a fact that the below extract will attest to:
EXT – FIELDS – THE BATTLE
Matrix rides the truck, laying a huge swath of destruction up the entire length of the valley. Attacking vehicles and jeeps are BLASTED into cartwheeling fragments. Barracks are instantly disassembled before our very eyes. Soldiers are cut down wholesale like wheat before a thresher…
The wrath of God has come to Pedrosa’s valley in the form of John Matrix.
INT – HUEY #1
as we swoop over the mounting devastation below. Kirby rivets his binoculars to the truck — and sees Matrix.
Son of a bitch!
Attack formation! Fire at will!
bank in, miniguns BLAZING AWAY.
TRACER BULLETS savagely chew up the length of the truck, obliterating the radiator in an explosion of steam and sending the hood spinning off like a Frisbee.
ducks as TRACERS pound his gunshield into new and interesting shapes, the heavy armour plate wilting like tin under a jack hammer.
sweep overhead and bank into a turn, coming around for more.
is bleeding from dozens of shrapnel cuts as he pops back into view and swings the Quad around.
wheels about and comes back at full throttle, flying dead-on, miniguns BLAZING.
OPENS FIRE and —
is literally taken apart in mid-air, shredded instantly into a flying scrap heap, throwing off fragments like a feverish lover throwing off clothes, rotors breaking up and whickering through the air like deadly boomerangs.
The flying carcass plows nose-first into the field and EXPLODES! A FIREBALL thrusts skyward.
INT – HUEY #1
banks wildly as the fireball buffets them. Shrapnel peppers the canopy, crazing the glass.
is little more than a carcass itself, hurtling through the rows of coca plants, steam geysering from the ruptured radiator, black smoke funnelling from the blasted engine. It’s a miracle (and largely a function of momentum) that the truck is still in motion.
HUEY #1 comes back around, FIRING ROCKETS. EXPLOSIONS stride across the field, chasing the truck.
Bull’s-eye! A rocket SLAMS into the truck cab, ripping it clean off the truck. The EXPLOSION spins the vehicle like a top and flips it onto its side in a burning heap.
comes in for a landing. Assault troops pour out, led by Kirby. They fan out, surrounding the QUAD wreckage.
Matrix is gone. Kirby looks around, scanning the surrounding fields.
He whips a walkie-talkie to his lips.
He’s gotten into the fields!
Commando II lacks the kind of mano-a-mano conflict provided by Vernon Wells’ camp icon, Bennett. The movie skips from one antagonist to the next and seems to set them all up as Matrix’s main hurdle, settling on former mentor Kirby as Pedrosa becomes more and more peripheral. Asides from the cold-blooded murder of a naive goon who failed to understand the importance of letting his boss win a jungle-bound training exercise, Pedrosa does little to justify his grandiose introduction at the beginning of the movie, but what he adds to the movie is a grey area involving personal conflict and split loyalties. Kirby wants Matrix dead but retains his fondness for him. The two are friends masquerading a enemies.
Through an expositional speech that rival’s James Bond at its most grandiose, Kirby explains his corrupt position as that of a patriot forced to protect his country through ill means — a refreshingly frank indictment of world politics. Predictably, it paints Ronald Reagan as a naive victim kept in the dark, and even mentions Oliver North and the Iran-Contra scandal by name. In reality, Reagan was all too aware. He also loosened laws on powder cocaine, which had become the recreational drug of choice for America’s affluent, while toughening laws on crack cocaine, a drug synonymous with poor minorities. Of course, none of that is confronted here. Instead, drugs are evil, democracy is in tact, and the only character who sees clearly is pegged at the crazed bad guy who exposes the corruption and hypocrisy that exists in all governments hellbent on personal glory. And yes, the dialogue is priceless.
Just see for yourself:
I hear you’ve added drug runner to your list of accomplishments.
I’m a soldier. I see what’s necessary, and I do it.
Necessary, yes! Those spineless turds in Congress almost gave the whole fucking show away! They can’t see that Nicaragua is an unacceptable loss! If it falls to the communists, all of Central America follows! We can’t give Ivan a foothold in this region, or we’ll live to see the day when Soviet tank divisions sweep up through Mexico and cross the Rio Grande into the United States.
No. I see with pristine clarity. This is where the balance of world power with be decided once and for all, right here in Central America. No price is too great. McCarren knew it. He was a true patriot, and he died for his country.
Just like you died for your country?
There was a senate investigation brewing. The country couldn’t afford another Iran-Contra affair, so I had to drop out of sight. Permanently. Can’t very well investigate a dead man, can they? If Ollie North had any brains or balls, he’d have done the same thing.
Quite the speech, much more relevant than Bennett’s post-electrocution tirade, which saw him succumb to Matrix’s reverse psychology 101. “I don’t need a knife… I don’t NEED no gun. I’m GONNA KILL YOU NOW!!!” In spite of his apparent misdeeds, Kirby isn’t portrayed as evil per se, more a necessary evil who still has a lot of affection for former underling, John, who he still considers a fellow patriot. The screenplay’s political stance is somewhat hypocritical, but it paints a far more accurate picture of the world than you might expect, far more than the original Commando. Comparatively, it’s a veritable textbook on the reality of world affairs, though I do stress the word Comparatively.
In spite of its worldly charms, the screenplay has more twists than Chubby Checker. First McCarren was exposed for corruption, then Lopez and Kirby showed their true colours as maniacal traitors, and if you think that was beyond the realms of plausibility, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Let’s pick up where we left off: Matrix has Pedrosa held at knife point as Kirby finishes his quasi-noble speech, one designed to distract John while former buddy Lopez gets the drop on him.
lunges into view behind Matrix, gun levelled.
Lopez FIRES! Matrix takes the round in the back — he arches and SCREAMS as a huge ragged hole erupts between his shoulder blades in a spray of blood!
Pedrosa scrambles to safety.
Matrix turns to Lopez, eyes swimming with pain and shock and betrayal. He totters on his feet, a dying man refusing to go down. Lopez takes aim again.
I told you amigo. You got in way over your head. You should’a just let go.
Matrix whips the bowie knife up and charges at Lopez. BLAM! Matrix takes the round high in the chest. A geyser of blood.
Matrix bellows in pain and rage — and just keeps coming. Lopez FIRES TWICE MORE, blowing him off his feet. Matrix hits the ground.
A breathless hush in the field. All we hear is the sound of the breeze whispering through the coca leaves.
Matrix is dead.
Soldiers begin rising from their positions.
KIRBY walks to Matrix’ corpse, gazing down with sadness. Pedrosa pushes him aside and hurls himself of the body, beating and pounding it with hysterical rage. He snatches up the bowie knife and is about to plunge it into Matrix when —
TIGHT ON PEDROSA
— a pistol enters frame and jams against his temple. Pedrosa looks up. Lopez stands over him, glowering with anger and ready to pull the trigger.
Back off, you piece of shit.
How dare you! I’ll have you shot!
He was a soldier. He was my friend. I won’t have him desecrated by dogs. NOW BACK OFF.
Pedrosa backs off. Lopez turns to Kirby.
Help me load his body onto the plane. I’ll dump him somewhere over the jungle.
Yes. Of course.
Lopez lowers his weapon and spits on the ground in contempt.
This is my last trip. And you owe me a hell of a bonus.
Wow! I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming. Matrix killed and beaten and loaded onto a plane for an anonymous burial while his daughter recovers from a coma in hospital. It sounds like an episode of Days of Our Lives, and more so with each passing scene…
EXT – C-130
Lopez is at the controls. Matrix’ blood-spattered corpse lies on the floor beside him. Lopez glances down at it. What do we read in his impassive face? Sadness? Regret?
Oh, man. You should’ve seen the looks on their faces when I pulled the trigger and blew you away. All that screaming and yelling, blood flying everywhere…
opens his eyes and gives Lopez a dour look.
Thanks a lot. I’ll never get this shit out of my hair.
Lopez starts laughing hysterically.
Oh man, it was priceless! I wish I could have taken a picture!
Groaning, Matrix sits up and yanks the automatic from Lopez’ holster to examine it.
Paint pistol? Where the hell did you get this?
Borrowed it from one of Pedrosa’s men
He didn’t mind?
He was dead.
Then I guess he didn’t mind.
Matrix plops into the co-pilot’s seat.
I really had the drop on you, didn’t I? C’mon, admit it! I nailed Mr. World Class Commando himself!
I heard you coming a mile away. And I saw you reflected in the knife.
And you LET me sneak up on you?
I knew you had something in mind.
(off Lopez’ look)
We’re both fathers. You wouldn’t make my Jenny an orphan any more than I’d make your boy an orphan. Us dads gotta stick together.
Yeah, well, you were in a pretty tight spot, so I figured I’d bail your ass out one last time.
I appreciate it. But there were a half dozen ways I could have done it on my own.
What did we learn from this scene? That Matrix should not be fucked with. Ever. Not only is he utterly invincible, he’s not shy about letting everyone know about it. In fact, he’s even something of an exhibitionist, because what’s the point in being exceptional at something if no one is there to see it? It’s all me! me! me! He’s not even gracious enough to applaud his comrade’s heroics after he saved his ass from certain death. Sure, Matrix saw Lopez coming, but what about the rest of Pedrosa’s army? All Matrix had was a knife, and with soldiers aiming at him from all angles. Communicating the fact that he didn’t need his friend’s help, or anyone else’s, is of paramount importance to John, more than Lopez, Melinda, or even Jenny for that matter. Talk about insecure! No wonder he’s so muscly.
We also learned the extent of both Pedrosa and Kirby’s stupidity. To be fair to Pedrosa, he didn’t know any better. But Kirby? I know you’ve heard this before, but why on Earth did he contemplate getting Matrix — a person who knows him better than anyone; who taught him everything he knew until he inevitably learned more — involved with such a plan. If that wasn’t enough, failing to spot the difference between blood and paint, failing to notice any sign of life as he helped Lopez bundle his former student’s dead body onto a plane? I mean, come on!!! During their final confrontation, not only does Kirby wonder out loud how he could have fallen for such a trick, it turns out that he even taught it to Matrix in the first place. I rest my case.
Once in the plane, Matrix takes his most dubious and unnecessary risk, one that threatens the lives of not only him, but his pal Lopez and the hugely unfortunate Melinda, who would be wise to consider ending her relationship with him entirely. Cindy certainly did, and she didn’t go through half of what Matrix puts Melinda through in this one. Not only does he jeopardise her life throughout, he seems to thoroughly enjoy it. And what about poor Jenny left on her lonesome, wired up to a machine having just survived a coma? After the scene in the hospital we don’t see or hear from her, not a word or glimpse or even a news update concerning the critically ill daughter of America’s number one fugitive. In spite of her father’s seemingly noble intentions, you have to feel for the poor girl.
Other than its refusal to provide closure on its main sub-narrative, the movie ends in an exhilarating and distinctly macabre blaze of glory, and I mean that quite literally. Matrix’s astoundingly reckless plan is to empty the plane he and Lopez are flying of all fuel, circling Pedrosa’s base and dousing his product before setting it ablaze with a flare gun. As for the landing, there’s no runway to access so he simply flies headlong into gunfire, hoping that by some miracle he and his buddy can survive a plane crash and avoid incinerating Melinda to death.
Hey, stranger shit has happened.
Matrix’s first action is to take out Pedrosa, and if you think Bennett’s death was brutal, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We pick up as Matrix’s aircraft ominously approaches:
Soldiers in the fields are ripped off their feet and hurtled through the air as the world goes NUCLEAR WHITE —
LONG LENS – THE C-130
— and Pedrosa’s entire valley goes up in the BIGGEST EXPLOSION ever captured on film! The oncoming plane tilts wildly from side to side as a MILE-WIDE WALL OF FLAME rises up behind it, ERUPTING into the sky as if hell itself had punched up through the floor of the valley and launched itself toward God.
INT – VILLA
The picture windows IMPLODE! Pedrosa and Kirby are thrown back, instantly lacerated by a hurricane of flying glass!
THE – C-130
Is breaking up as it hits the driveway on a rush of superheated air, coming in for the hairiest landing you’ve ever seen. The landing gear shears off as the plane skips over a limousine and belly-flops onto the pavement, skidding toward the villa in a huge shower of sparks!
INT – VILLA
The C-130 ERUPTS through the picture windows into the house, plowing through the walls in a storm of hurtling debris and flying glass, wings tearing off and spinning away!
is SCREAMING and FIRING ON FULL AUTO — and is killed instantly in a head-on collision between man and plane.
Though I’m sure you won’t be to surprised to learn that this is merely a hors-d’œuvre.
Similar to Commando, Pedrosa, Commando II‘s version of Dan Hedeya’s exiled Latin American dictator, Arias, is essentially the main villain, but pales against the movie’s real villain, General Kirby, though the word Villain may be a little strong. As previously mentioned, there seems to be a distaste and respect that are in many ways indivisible. Matrix and Kirby have history, a near father/son relationship, but murder and nationalism seem to supersede all intimate human relationships. This is an action movie after all.
Once again, the final confrontation takes place in a mansion, though this time the macho bullshit and suggestive subtext are replaced by a politics-based sense of catharsis, one culminating in the most sobering and morbid of manners:
Matrix moves cautiously through the burning villa, shying from the flames and choking smoke, searching for Kirby.
KIRBY struggles to his feet amidst the flaming rubble. One side of his face is caved in, his eye blinking through a mangled mask of blood. His cheek is torn away, giving us a Sardonicus grin. His arm and shoulder are shattered and virtually useless.
But there’s still plenty of fight left in him. In fact, he’s like a wounded animal — more dangerous than ever. One-handed, he jams a fresh clip into an assault rifle and wrestles the weapon into a hip-fire position.
Kirby FIRES in the direction of Matrix’ voice.
dives and rolls as bullets chew into the flaming wall behind him. He comes up, squinting into the smoke and flames for any sign of movement.
stalk each other through the flaming ruins of the mansion, a deadly cat-and-mouse game between old friends, each trying to pinpoint the other by the sound of his voice.
Pretty neat trick, pretending you were dead!
I learned it from you.
That’s why I can’t believe I fell for it!
See John? You’re still learning from the master! You always were an apt pupil!
Kirby strafes the room with GUNFIRE.
You’re shooting blind, wasting ammo!
Both men keep circling, moving, stalking. Kirby coughs up blood, spits it out.
Tell me, John. How did we come to this? We’re both patriots, you and I. We laid our lives on the line all around the world for the country we both so desperately love. So how’d we wind up here, in this flaming shithole, fighting on opposite sides?
Because I believe in the words and you don’t.
The Constitution of the United States. I first read it when I was a boy back in East Germany, a handwritten, black-market copy. The words carried greater meaning for me than any I’d ever seen. They spoke to my heart! They’re pure and simple, noble and strong! The finest words I know! And you pissed on them!
Kirby rattles off and extended BURST, emptying the clip.
He tosses the useless assault rifle aside, draws his pistol, and laboriously jacks a round into the chamber.
A lot of good words are going to do us when the Soviets parade down Pennsylvania Avenue!
We’re supposed to be the good guys!
WE’RE SUPPOSED TO WIN!
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! He sprays three rounds into the smoke and flames.
Let the American people decide! Come back with me and stand trial!
Sure, I can see me now! Standing in front of a senate committee, wearing my medals on my chest like a trained monkey, raising my right hand and looking sincere for the TV cameras! Tell lies and half-truths, because the American people can’t handle reality!
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Three more rounds into the smoke and flames.
ANGLE ON MATRIX
listening to Kirby’s voice, trying to pinpoint his position and outflank him.
After my sentence in commuted, I’ll write a bestseller! Get on Oprah and Donahue! Maybe a few guest shots on Miami Vice!
CAMERA TRACKS WITH MATRIX as he stealthily maneuvers through the rubble. Kirby slowly comes into view as Matrix edges around a flaming timber.
Forget it, John! I’m not cut out for the dog and pony show! I’m not a clown, like North and Liddy! I’m a soldier! If I go out, I’ll go out on my feet…in a standup fight!
Matrix pivots into view, rifle aimed.
freezes, knowing he’s been outflanked. Matrix has the drop on him. Kirby turns slowly, pistol held loosely at his side.
You can’t beat me. Don’t even try.
I always liked shitty odds.
CLOSEUP – KIRBY
His features stretch out into a chilling grin. He drools a rope of blood from his ruined jaws. Softly:
You know what, John? I’m not at all sure I give a fuck anymore.
He abruptly raises the automatic, jams it into his own mouth, and pulls the trigger. His head EXPLODES, raining brains and blood all over the room.
lunges toward Kirby —
— and catches him as he falls. He lowers him gently to the floor and cradles his ruined body.
ANGLE WIDENS SLOWLY OUT as we
EXT – VILLA – DAY
ANGLE PULLS SLOWLY BACK. Lopez and Melinda are huddled in the driveway as the villa burns.
Matrix emerges from the flaming ruins of the house. He walks over to them and helps Melinda to her feet.
We go home.
ANGLE CONTINUES WIDENING, PULLING BACK INTO AN ARIAL SHOT as the three of them limp down the driveway.
Gonna be a long walk.
It’ll be worth it.
CAMERA FLOATS AWAY…until the entire valley is merely a scorched hole on the face of the planet…and out survivors are mere specks in the flaming landscape…and a pall of black smoke obscures the horizon…
So, there you have it, the end of the much fabled Commando II.
On the whole I was pretty impressed. Bennett was always going to be sorely missed, and because of his omission (they could have brought him back from the dead based on Commando II‘s other spurious revelations) the movie was unlikely to attain the same cult status as the original Commando, the pièce de résistance of big-budget action schlock. Asides from that it offered everything we have come to expect: overblown action, ludicrous twists and plot holes, and a bunch of vaguely recognisable stereotypes primed for the slaughter, not to mention a plethora of irresistible wisecracks. Overall, it stayed incredibly loyal to the original movie’s formula, and to its credit. This was never going to be an exercise in innovative sequel making. It just wasn’t called for. So bigger and louder is as much as we could have hoped for, and de Souza gives us a screenplay to savour.
As unlikely as his bad guy turn was, and as vacuous as he could sometimes be, Kirby also made for an interesting villain: a conflicted patriot forced into action at a time when the US government was mired in scandal and hypocrisy, echoing real-life events to a blatant degree that perhaps wouldn’t have made it to the screen in tact. As for the future, you have to feel for Jenny and hope that she and Melinda can escape Matrix and his reputation as both a harbinger and purveyor of death. He may offer the right promises, and the intention may be there to turn his back on a lifetime of deadly combat, but killing is in his blood. He thrives on it. And you just know the potential was there for a third instalment: Commando III: Jenny’s Revenge.
Click on the below link for the entire Commando II screenplay: