Not to be confused with the Schwarzenegger movie of the same name- this Bollywood movie is something very different. What happens when you combine American Ninja, Where Eagles Dare, Romancing the Stone, set the whole thing to the score of Star Wars, and add some truly terrible song and dance routines? You get Commando.
Commando is the story of a slightly chubby but highly patriotic guy named Chander. His father was killed taking a bullet for Indira Gandhi and now his mother is traumatized and crazy. To pay her hospital bills he takes a job working as a commando in an ammunition factory. I’m still unclear as to how you can be a commando working at an ammunition factory- his job function seemed more like security guard. I’ll move on because that’s the least of the problems with this movie.
Naturally there is an evil plot that only the heroic but slightly chubby commando can foil. Some of the people working at the ammunition factory are in league with terrorists and are secretly selling off weapons and ammunition. The main villain Marcelloni (played by Amrish Puri, the villain from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) has to be seen to be believed. His googly eyes, golden hair, jaundiced pallor and penchant for wearing gold threaded majorette jackets are creepy and bizarre- much like his scenery-chewing performance. And he has ninjas working for him.
Our first glimpse of ninjas is a ninja training sequence. They are training for things like running and flipping off trampolines- like you would do in combat if you were a ninja- set to Star Wars music! Some of them are dressed in white, and some are dressed in black. Their fearless ninja leader is dressed in a plum colored silk ninja outfit, presumably because he’s such a badass that no one dares question his fashion choices. He has the highly original name “Ninja”.
The Star Wars music never gets old. There may be more Star Wars music in Commando than the average Star Wars movie. Escaping in beat up bus? Star Wars music! Fighting ninjas? Star Wars music! Not content to steal music from Star Wars, they also ripped off music from Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores.
Chander quickly foils one attempt to steal some guns and ammo and rescues the ammunition factory’s daughter, Asha. He dispatches some of the attackers with implements such as thrown tire irons and screwdrivers, and then deflects the ninja’s arrows with a shovel. Impressive! He and Asha flee into the wilderness and into some scenes straight from Romancing the Stone. After finding their way to town, they use the art of song and dance to persuade a crazy guy to give them a ride in his totally insane antique car, which shoots boxing gloves, oils slicks, and has a parachute, among other things. Did I mention it can fly? This entire chase scene is also a musical number. It’s probably the least horrible musical sequence in the movie, but only because you’re being distracted by how jaw-droppingly stupid it is for a car to be doing things like firing boxing gloves.
Returning to ripping off American Ninja, Chander’s fellow soldiers are annoyed with him for foiling the robbery and getting some of them killed. He wins them over by beating one of them up with a garden hose, thus proving that he is the Michael Dudikoff of India. The villains frame Chander for selling weapons, which is pretty easy to do because he’s an idiot and leaves his truck full of weapons and ammunition unguarded while he goes off to check out a warehouse that is obviously full of ninjas.
After framing Chander, the bad guys kick off their plot to destroy society by selling drugs and collecting grenades, which is probably the best evil plan ever. They also kidnap Asha and announce that they have some sort of poorly described weapon. In the end Chander is the only man that can go in and save the day, and the girl. He and his sidekick climb into some scenes from Where Eagles Dare and assault the enemy base, much of which looks oddly like an old Star Trek set rather than a mountain.
The final twenty minutes of the film are purely hilarious action. Gondola kung fu battles, stolen bus chase scenes, people being shot down to patriotic speeches. As a jeep goes over a cliff, it is replaced with a tiny matchbox jeep that explodes. As the characters jump off a cliff, some action figures are tossed into a pool. Jeeps slow to a stop and pretend to dramatically crash into trees, even though it’s completely obvious that they did not. The Star Wars music plays non-stop as all this exciting action unfolds.
As awesomely horrible as all of this might sound, Commando has some serious problems that keep it from being among the best bad movies of all time. The musical numbers (barring the car chase scene, which was at least insane) are painfully long and dreadfully bad; if I hadn’t been reviewing the movie I would have skipped through them. I can’t believe I’m critiquing a dance number, but then again I can’t believe anyone in Bollywood actually did The Robot. The movie is also really, really long at around two hours and twenty minutes.
My final complaint is that the subtitles on the DVD stop working for the last half hour or so. They aren’t absolutely necessary; you’ll know exactly what’s going on without them. It’s still pretty shoddy that they aren’t complete.
Despite those issues, if you love bad action movies and want to try something completely off the wall Commando may be worth seeking out.