Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Arnold Project IV - Eating green berets for breakfast

I will never cease to start these things off with a Legolambs musical!

By the mid-80's, the massive success of The Terminator had made Arnold a huge movie star. His name began to appear in posters above the title. But Arnold was also smart enough to choose the right kind of roles to build up higher and higher. Arnold required to have a layer of irony in his starring vehicles – and thus he starred in some of the most ridiculously macho films ever made. Building Arnold's film career was thus a lot like bidy building. Nobody else could do it half as good as the Austrian Oak himself, it got more and more muscular over time, and the end result was even better than cumming. At least two of these three films are among the best action films ever made.

Commando (1985)
Director: Mark L. Lester

Commando is a high-brow socio-political look at issues in foreign affairs in the mid-80s Reagan era. The former Special Forces soldier, Colonel John Matrix (Arnie), has retired to live with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) in a far off location. Those days of ice cream and deer-feeding come to an abrupt end when John's old army buddy Major Kirby (James Olson) comes knocking on Matrix's door. He's warning that a lot of members of their old unit have been killed. Indeed something foul is aplay as Jenny gets kidnapped soon afterwards. But John doesn't have to look for the guilty party soon, as he reveals himself. His antagonist is no other than Bennett (Vernon Wells), a psychotic (and chubby) Australian John had kicked out from his old unit, and presumed dead afterwards.

Bennett's team attempts to blackmail Matrix into killing a South American head of state. Thus a right-wing dictator could overthrow the country. But all this is bullshit to Matrix and he only cares about the safe return of his daughter. So, he escapes and starts picking off soldiers from Bennett's unit one by one. During his journey, he meets the fair young Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong), who recluclantly agrees to aid Matrix in his quest for vengeance.

The sad facts about America aiding para-military coups and revolutions with weapons is heavily criticized within the movie. The corruption of governmental abuse of their rights has spread to within the system: you can't even trust your own band of brothers. The only way to survive is to think outside the box and to rely on one's nietzschean ├╝bermensch abilities. When pushed close enough to the edge, every one may find these abilities within him- (or her-) self. It of course helps if you're Arnold at his most kick-assisest form.

Nah, I'm just pulling your chain. Commando is actually an endlessly rewatchable parade of one-liners, over-the-top kills and the most inequal pairing of main villain and hero in muscular Arnold in a tank top vs. a fat Vernon Wells in a chain mail. Plus the film features Arnold chopping a man's arm off and beating him with it. And at least two of Matrix's enemies die from being impaled on ridiculously phallic objects. In the words of Cindy: "I don't believe this macho bullshit!"


John Matrix: Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
Sully: That's right, Matrix! You did!
Matrix: I lied.

Raw Deal (1986)
Director: John Irvin

According to the film's co-screenwriter Sergio Donati, Raw Deal a kind of western. I can't really see it in it any more than in any other 80's action film. But then again, they do usually feature loners and outsiders taking on a whole system seething with criminals and other scum. The outsider protagonist comes and goes to and from the picture out of nowhere. I also seem to remember that Commando actually ended with Arnold flying a small plane into the sunset. So it's not far off. Arnold is surely the John Wayne of the 80's – quick-witted, a little violent, a man of few words, but with a strong sense of right and wrong.

In this Arnold plays Mark Kaminsky, a former FBI agent now in witness protection. When the vengeful FBI operator Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) offers Kamisky an undercover operation inflirtating the mob, he wholeheartedly agrees thanks to being bored out of his mind from his life with his wife. So the first thing he does is drive a bulldozer through a casino wall. This surely gets the mobsters' attention and Arnold is soon rolling with the big cats.

As you can see, nothing much makes sense in the film, but it does have Arnold fighting the entire mafia. However, compared to the two other gems dealt with in this post, Raw Deal moves way too slow. Much time is spent, for instance in the would-be romance between Kaminsky and Kathryn Harrod's Monique, but nothing really comes out of it. It's strange that the film forgets Arnold's wife as easily as Kaminsky himself. I'm sure Arnold wouldn't act so sleazily to his love in real life. In fact, Kamisnky acts unusually assholish for Arnold throughout the film, and his end move after finishing the main bad guy is unforgettable. There may be way too few memorable one-liners, butthe film is still quite watchable, thanks in large part to a major shootout to the tunes of Rolling Stones in a car pound lot/gravel pit.


Mark Kaminsky: You're under arrest.
Thug: For what? 
Mark Kaminsky: Impersonating a human being! 

Predator (1987)
Director: John McTiernan

Are you noticing a pattern in these posters as well or is it just me?

What a lot of people forget about Predator is that it's not merely an Arnold vehicle. No, it's an action ensemble piece, The Expendables of it's time. And multiple times tougher than anything Sylvester Stallone ever cooked up. So tough was the film that Jean-Claude Van Damme dropped out from playing The Predator, because he probably realized he's no match for the protagonists even with camoflague gear on. We have Carl Weathers as a commado-turned pencil-pushing sleazy bureaucrat. We have Bill Duke as super threatening constant shaver. We have Sonny Landham as the Native American silent who during the course of the film learns to laugh and cry. We have Hollywood's best action film writer Shane Black as the team's jokester, a pussy whose girlfriend also has a huge pussy. We have Jesse fuckin' Ventura as a goddamn sexual tyrannosaur! If you don't like this film, I don't like you.

So the film is actually a pretty forward Vietnam allegory. A bunch of Commandos get hired for one last job to rescue hostages held by guerrillas in South American jungle. The way these guys work is to knock on door and then blow everyone moving away. The simple boyish glee they get from massacring a lot of people should be enough of a warning that the tables are about to get turned. An invisible predator is also lurking in the jungle, using his high-tech gear to take our the commandos one by one. He is The Predator, an extra-terrestial who hunts people for sport. He's one ugly motherfucker. Can Arnold's quick-witted Dutch get to the chopper in time, and match this foe? Of course he can, but The Predator is a kind of a tough opponent. And a sour loser to boot.

Curses! Foiled again!

Like The Thing with loads more action, a lot of the dynamic of the film comes from the men bickering amongst themselves on how they're going to survive. There's a schism between pencil-necked girly men and muscle-on-top-of-muscles burly men from the first scene which sees Arnold and Carl Weathers twisting their arms. The fact that the camera zooms on their biceps also gives you an idea of how serious the film takes its macho bullshit. The weapons budget also allows for hilariously long shoot-outs.

It is also a film that was hated by the corrupt former finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen, so there's also that going for it.


Dutch: What's the matter? The CIA got you pushing too many pencils? Huh? Had enough?

So that's that. I wish I could stick around, but I ain't got time to bleed. I already let Sully go, so Hasta La Vista, babies.

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