Commander (1988)


Let’s discuss the subject of coincidental similarities between movies. There were a couple of zombie movies from 1980 that used the same trick – of an apparently empty, but infected, boat just drifting into New York harbour, but I think we have a far more unusual one here, after reviewing “The Commander” yesterday. Let’s see what it has in common with the subject of today’s review:


  • Same name (okay, there’s no “the” in this one)
  • Released in the same year
  • Directed by an Italian using an English pseudonym
  • Made at least partly in the Philippines
  • An actor (Mike Monty)
  • A mud fight
  • Boxes full of guns replaced with boxes full of rocks
  • A cobra attacks someone
  • Vietnam stock footage
  • Exploding helicopters


That’s a decent list, although oddly enough, the two movies aren’t all that similar in any other ways. “The Commander” was a European thriller that just happened to have some of its action take place in the Far East; “Commander” is a proper sleazy Filipino war movie, full of death, not exactly heavy on plot, but very heavy on people shooting other people.


Part of that sleaziness is a medium-to-heavy indifference to ripping off the plots of other movies, so – as I’m sure you’ve already worked out from looking at the cover above – what we have here is a “Rambo” ripoff. “Rambo”, released in 1985, provided a very simple template for low-budget moviemakers to exploit – the lone white hero, teaming up with a handful of good Asians, slaughters hundreds and hundreds of bad Asians. Both feature traumatised Vietnam veterans, but while Rambo was in prison at the beginning of “Rambo”, here, our hero (referred to only as “Commander” for 90% of proceedings. I had to look up that the character was called “Roger Craig”) just stayed in Vietnam after the end of the war with 12 of his buddies, because they hated the Vietcong that much. Since then, he’s been rescuing Vietnamese people from prisons and blowing up as much Army ordnance as he can; as well as murdering with a great deal of impunity. He’s the hero of the locals, most of whom are of course completely unable to defend themselves and rely on the brave white outsider to help; and he has a pregnant girlfriend, Cho Lin. Guess if she survives or not?


ISCFC FAVOURITE THING – the wooden guard tower! We’ve mentioned it before, and you know when you see a wooden guard tower, one of two things is going to happen. Either a guy is going to get shot and fall out of it, or it’s going to blow up (or both). There’s a 0% chance of some low budget movie bothering to build one just to put in the background, so get ready for fun whenever you see one!


So, the plot is completely and utterly irrelevant. Commander wants to go back to the USA with his girlfriend and their soon-to-be baby; so he calls his old Commanding Officer, who comes to town to help smooth the path back to the US. While he’s in town, he helps Commander kill a bunch of Vietcong and take a load of their explosives; they retaliate by killing the entire village where Cho Lin is living and kidnapping her, including loads of children. It takes a strong movie to show a villain so delighted about murdering kids, and this is apparently a strong movie. Anyway. He takes the stolen stuff back to exchange it for her, but she’s already dead, so he goes absolutely hog-wild on these Vietcong assholes and kills hundreds of them, using a truly jaw-dropping amount of high-explosive devices.


The final battle is just full-on spectacle, with any pretence at plot ignored in favour of just a ton of stuff blowing up, then there’s a helicopter battle which is edited so confusingly you think the hero’s friend is trying to kill him, for no good reason; then that’s it. Any movie that finishes with a guy hanging off a rope ladder off a helicopter, firing a bazooka at another helicopter, is alright in my book. I mean, he could have just stayed sat where he was, but that wasn’t badass enough! At every possible opportunity, “Commander” just wants you to bludgeon you – for example, this video estimates that Commander kills 164 people during the course of proceedings.


While it’s a lot of fun, obviously, it’s not very good, and not just for the reasons already stated. Lead actor Craig Alan is an utter charisma vacuum, picked solely for his resemblance to Sylvester Stallone – he did a few films in the late 80s (including the amazingly named “Get The Terrorists”) then disappeared completely, mercifully for us. And it’s not like anyone else is that much better! Then there’s the matter of excessive accuracy. Every single grenade, rocket, bomb and mortar shell hits its target exactly, presumably because it’s easier and cheaper to do it that way, but when you see an already wounded guy, in the middle of the night, hurl a grenade and hit the exact dead centre of what he’s aiming for, even the least discerning action movie fan will be “come on lads, that’s a bit much”. But on the plus side, the blood-squib guy was working overtime on this one, which I liked.


Completely forgettable Rambo ripoff, only to be messed with if you’re in a generous mood.


Rating: thumbs in the middle


One thought on “Commander (1988)

  1. Pingback: Dead Man On Campus (1998) |

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